Small Business Survivors: Omar’s Kitchen and Rum Bar thrives despite COVID restrictions
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BY NELSON A. KING
Jamaican Omar Walters says his business, Omar’s Kitchen and Rum Bar, is a “nouveau Caribbean restaurant in the heart of the Lower East Side, where the food scene is blooming.”
Walters, who is also a chef and carries the name Chef Omar, said that he takes dishes of his native Jamaica and delivers them “with a New York twist.”
“Omar’s cuisine boosts in flavor, color and warmth,” the website says. “Let’s not forget about the design that will take you right back to your last vacation in the islands.
“And every time you feel nostalgic, you can just visit Omar’s and sip on a coconut daiquiri,” it adds.
WABC’s Lauren Glassberg, who recently visited the restaurant, wrote on Friday that “At Omar’s Kitchen and Rum Bar, on Clinton Street, in the Lower East Side, you’ll feel transported by both the setting and the food.”
“We were always so focused on the inside; the food, the dishes, the drinks, and, now, it’s more about how creative outside and then everything else follows,” Walters told her, stating that his restaurant had its best week ever just before New York City went on pause.
But, when the virus hit, he closed up shop, according to Glassberg.
Eventually, she said he returned to the kitchen to cook meals for first responders.
“My sister helped me do the decor for outside,” Glassberg quoted Walters as saying. “We started with four plants and, every day, we added another plant and another plant.
“The whole ambiance screams carnival and tropics, and it brings you to a really great space because you don’t even think there’s a pandemic going on when you sit around here,” a customer said.
Glassberg said the Jamaican and Caribbean-inspired food has been “a draw from the beginning.”
She said “there’s the Coco Bread Lamb Sliders served with ackee tartar sauce; the Escovitch Fish, a deep-fried whole branzino served with pickled vegetables; the Curry Oxtail made with coconut curry, butter beans and spinnas; the Hibiscus Glazed Lamb, a french cut lamb chop smothered in a hibiscus flower glaze; and Omar’s take on rasta pasta.”
“We do a handmade plantain gnocchi,” Walters said. “We just put a flare and spin on everything.”
Omar’s other business, a SoHo loft space for private dinners, hasn’t returned in full just yet, but his restaurant has “certainly rebounded,” Glassberg said.
“In March and April, it didn’t look promising where we were headed,” Walters said. “So, it’s good to actually see a full house. ‘We have a good problem,’ I tell people.”
Omar’s is open for dinner Thursday through Sunday. Sometimes, lunch is served during the week, as well.
For additional information, visit www.omarskitchennyc.com, or call 646-368-1392.
This story first appeared on our sister publication caribbeanlifenews.com.