Image: A full table.
Last Updated: December 2022
Current Status: Dine-in service. Take-out and delivery also available.
The details add up to an impressive whole at St. James. From the name, to the space, to the menu, to the beverage program, it appears as if each element was thought through, then pieced together to form a coherent, vibrant experience. It is named for the neighborhood in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and consistent with the port theme it uses Trinidadian food as a starting point to explore across the Caribbean.
Many dishes reflect East Indian roots, which are the focus at its older sibling Cane. But at St. James the culinary references are more inclusive. You may get Chinese-inspired steamed buns with a pork filling – and some kick, or more West African elements, or something that pulls from multiple places. The peppery, smokey wings fall off the bone and are one of the hit dishes out of the gate. Lori Gardner captured the joy, “The chicken wings are sublime. Jerk spices. A marinade of green sauce composed of thyme, green onion, garlic, parsley, pimentos, and cilantro. Time spent in a smoker. And to top it off, a cool tamarind mayo sauce for dipping. The meat falls off the bone, and I work hard to capture every morsel.” The oxtails are served with a rich, dark sauce. Callaloo, the leafy greens dish, showed up twice. First as a soup with pureed spinach, chilies, coconut milk, and topped with lump crab meat. Then it is used in a sauce over the vegetables blocks of corn masa in a dish called Coo Coo & Callaloo.
The piecing together also included talent. Owner Jeanine Prime moved the chefs from Cane over for the launch to ensure consistency. For desserts, she reached out to Winnette McIntosh Ambrose, owner The Sweet Lobby and Souk, and a fellow Trinidadian. McIntosh Ambrose added jazzed up French sweets like chocolate mousse with ginger, or banana foster profiteroles. For drinks, Prime brought in a veteran of Service Bar, Glendon Hartley. Rum is the primary base spirit, and the team has about 50 to work with. The bar is the physical centerpiece here with its green paneling that adds a hue to the white walls of the restaurant.
The care in putting it together means it is flexible to work on many levels. It is can be a sophisticated night out or a casual dinner at the bar. It can be a date-night destination or a welcoming neighborhood refuge. It is impressive and delightful.
Other Guidance: The festive mood invites you to dress up just a little. GF and vegetarian options abound with many vegetable-focused dishes. The restaurant is located at street level, though there are seats upstairs. The Post accessibility summary: No barriers at entrance; restrooms are ADA-compliant. Service fee included.
Washington Post: Tom approves.
Lori Gardner (Beenthereeatenthat.com) – She notes the power of a special restaurant: Been There, Eaten That turns twelve years old this month. I sometimes wonder why I’m still here, struggling to find time to write a blog about restaurants. I am one of the last ones standing when it comes to maintaining a personal blog to tell my stories. But then I think about restaurants like St. James, which has its own stories to tell. If this post can get some people through the door- and I hope it does- its a worthwhile effort. So get down to 14th Street, pull up a chair, and start winging it!