Taste of the Caribbean

An unexpected island paradise you'll never want to leave at Chef Deon’s kitchen.

Many people think the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization is an exclusive club just for veterans. But little do they know that this Oak Bluffs branch is paired with a Caribbean paradise for all to experience. From the moment you walk through the doors of the “restaurant” side of the VFW you embark on a voyage to the Caribbean Islands. From the eye-catching ambience, to the aromatic smell coming from Chef Deon’s kitchen, your senses are sure to run wild.

Shortly after my return to Martha’s Vineyard from Jamaica for my 30th birthday, I needed to find a place on the Vineyard that could successfully transcend me back to Jamaica in spirit.

My father’s side of the family is Jamaican, although he moved to the states as a preteen, so as I was growing up he could only share with me what he remembered. However, I was still immersed in the culture in other ways throughout my upbringing, from my childhood babysitter, to my Caribbean friends and their families. As a young adult, I took it upon myself to learn about the rich legacy and heritage of my Jamaican roots more in depth, and still celebrate my culture to this day in many ways. I have always been deeply grateful to be surrounded by many Jamaican residents here on Martha’s Vineyard, to learn from and celebrate our heritage with. Chef Deon, otherwise known as the “Three Island Chef,” by way of Jamaica, Anguilla B.W.I, and Martha’s Vineyard, has masterfully combined his own traditional Jamaican roots with gourmet American cuisine by creating a diverse menu that has something for everyone’s taste buds.

Eager to finally try Chef Deon’s Kitchen, I treated my mother to a nice evening out in Oak Bluffs, and we had a blast visiting the VFW for the first time together for dinner. The phenomenon of having too many options to choose from is a pleasant dilemma to have, as it left my mother and I sure we’d have to go back as many times as it took to eventually try every item on the menu. The kitchen had an assortment of popular appetizers such as chicken wings with a variety of flavors, Jamaican beef patties, dumplings, and jalapeno poppers, to name a few. They also had some eye-catching soups available such as local conch chowder and zesty Island kale soup, which I’ve been told are packed with flavor. Entrees available included everything from cheeseburgers to orange spiced roast duck and everything in between.

When the chef heard we were having a hard time choosing what to get, he came out to greet us and share his wisdom on some of the most popular items on the menu. After his analysis we ended up choosing not two, but four, entrees from the menu, excited to have leftovers to bring home! It is not every day you get to meet the chef of a restaurant personally, but that is one of the reasons dining on Martha’s Vineyard is so special, it’s an experience you’ll never forget. That being said, Chef Deon is absolutely one of the chefs you must go meet.

The delicious dishes that we tried were the Jerk Chicken, Barbeque Ribs, Blackened Salmon, and Sesame Grilled Shrimp. The fragrant fiery hot jerk chicken, with the perfect crispy skin, was served with rice and peas, broccoli, and plantain, and had the authentic Jamaican tastes I was looking for. The barbecue ribs were falling off the bone, and slathered in a sauce that was so flavorful my mom hardly wanted to share. The ribs were served with collard greens and a creamy thick homemade mac and cheese. The sweet-yet-tangy sesame grilled shrimp was served with a wild rice that was unlike any other, and served with broccoli as the vegetable with the dish. Lastly, although the salmon was blackened, the light spice was combated with the sweetness of the roasted beet blanc sauce, and was served with mashed potatoes and the trending crunchy broccoli that had been served with many of the other dishes.

If you are in the mood for a cocktail, they have a fully stocked bar on the “bar” side of the VFW that’ll give you the best service you’ve had in a while. I was served by one of the Vineyard’s best bartenders, Angelina Topalieva, who was the icing on the cake for my VFW experience. The “bar” side even has a DJ or live music some nights of the week, with musical genres for everyone. However, I would be remiss to not mention the welcoming spirits and good fellowship by each and every veteran I met while in the building.

Chef Deon’s Kitchen at the VFW, 14 Towanticut St., Oak Bluffs. 508-627-0330. Visit chefdeon.com.