The Breadfruit: Jamaican Food in the Art District
When Dwayne Allen wanted to share a piece of home with others, that desire would translate into a business. As it turned out, it would be on the front lines of a revitalization of a section of downtown Phoenix.
Allen has a deep affection for the cuisine of his native Jamaica. And while he often recreated those foods here in the Valley, it was something he did only for himself and friends. But as situations and circumstance evolved, the former IT professional decided to exchange the world of technology for fine dining and opened The Breadfruit in 2008 with partner Danielle Leoni, who also serves as the head chef.
Opening the doors at their location on Pierce Street downtown would place them directly in an area that at the time was experiencing transition. More popularly known as “Roosevelt Row,” this section of town is located in the Evans Churchill District of Phoenix. Comprising an area that stretches from Mc Dowell Road to the north, Fillmore Street to the south, 7th Street to the east and Central Avenue to the west, the area has a history as an arts district know for the galleries that are situated here. The area also sits squarely in the center of First Friday when art exhibitions and alternative space open simultaneously for that one night. Allen even refers to The Breadfruit as his take on Jamaican food in the arts district.
For many, opening a business of any kind involves risk, maybe some doubts, and not infrequently fear. The history of restaurants in any city is filled with successes and misses. It is a volatile business that can see even great establishments vanish. However, Allen and company came armed with information, preparation and a clear idea of what they wanted. They also had the tenacity to stick with it. The result is a business that has lasted and continues to do well with crowded weekends and advice for patrons to make reservations in advance.
“We whisk you away to different world,” says Allen. That becomes obvious the moment you step inside the place, or for that matter down the street. Situated on the corner of a beige building augmented by white trim and blue awnings, the area has a crisp pristine feel. Even with downtown landmarks and buildings so near, the environment has a certain cosmopolitan vibe that is not to dissimilar from the intimate feel of streets designed to be experienced on foot in cities like San Francisco or New York .
While the Valley, particularly South Mountain, has Caribbean offerings, where The Breadfruit differentiates itself is in creating a contemporary atmosphere while providing a very high end dining experience. This is not a place to simply eat and leave quickly. It is a place intended to be leisurely savored. “We expect our guests to stay a while” Allen says.
Indeed there are many compelling reasons to stay.
The focus here is on flavor and freshness. One of the principle elements of Jamaican cuisine, or for that matter any culinary creation, is using the best ingredients. This is a point not lost on anyone here. There is an emphasis on seafood, including scallops and mussels among other offerings and to facilitate this, they have a fishmonger who helps to ensure that quality is maintained
With some ingredients flown in, whenever possible, local sources are sought and developed. Lamb, which is also part of Caribbean cuisine is also available, but not just any lamb. West African Lamb, prized for its flavor, is on the menu and it is raised in of all places, Willcox, Arizona. .
Yet another reason to stay longer at the Breadfruit would be Rum. For aficionados, there is much to celebrate here. Carrying Rum from The Appleton Estate, a sugar estate and distillery that has been handcrafting rums since 1749. Located in Jamaica’s sugarcane belt, they have the honor of being the oldest of its kind on the Island. Its 30-Year Reserve, of which only 770 bottles were released in 2009, are highly prized. Fortunately, the Breadfruit has three of them. Another great selection is English Harbour 1981, which was distilled that year, bottled in 2006 and aged in used whisky and bourbon barrels. The Breadfruit has the distinction of being the only place that has this Rum in all of Arizona.
To facilitate an appreciation for both Rum and matching cigars, The Rum bar features a covered patio area where you can relax, unwind and smoke while indulging in the rarified experience of inhaling a great cigar and tasting one of the more flavorful libations of the Islands.
Should you not be familiar with Rum, Allen offers rum tastings that provide not only the opportunity to sample different selections, but also an in-depth history that adds yet another layer of understanding to this signature drink. The tastings have become so popular that they book rapidly, often months in advance.
Arriving with new development in downtown bring with it diversity and greater choice. However, it may take some searching. Minus a great deal of advertising, the news about The Breadfruit has spread. But like many things of value in the Valley, they are not always apparent quickly. “The folks that find us, have to seek us out,” says Allen. But that could be changing quickly. “Phoenix has always had a sophisticated scene. It has become more visible,” he said, adding, “If you are looking for something, you can find it.”
108 E. Pierce Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004
Hours Dinner: Mon-Thurs 5 pm to 10 pm, Fri & Sat til 11 pm