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Friday, September 17, 2010

Menlo Park Week: Coconuts & Back-A-Yard

Today I’m cheating a little. The restaurant I’m going to write about is actually in Palo Alto. But the owners have a second, more casual location in Menlo Park and it’s the same chef. So, it counts. 😉

Okay, so I love Back A Yard in East Menlo Park. I think it might be my favorite take-out spot in town. Nate and I can split one jerk chicken dinner and be left with full bellies and tingly, happy taste buds. Their jerk sauce is perfection. Perfect texture, flavor, heat…I can’t get enough. Back A Yard has been serving Menlo Park for about 6 years. Two years ago they opened a second restaurant called Coconuts in Palo Alto, with the same wonderful Caribbean vibe and eats.

I knew I had to write about Back A Yard for Menlo Park week. When I emailed the chef, he offered to serve us dinner at Coconuts, which of course we took him up on! I already knew the chef’s wife Annetta from my frequent visits to Back A Yard, and it was a delight to finally meet Chef Robert. We also met the other Coconuts chef Emmanuel, who took very good care of us throughout the evening.

First off, we had a Jamaican soda called Ting. It rocked. My pictures of it did not rock. So, please just close your eyes and imagine what a Jamaican grapefruit soda in a pretty glass looks and tastes like. Pretty good, right?

On to the food.

Corn Festivals. They’re kind of like donuts. But maybe better. Not so sweet, but sweet enough. I can pop ’em like candy. Seriously. It’s a good thing I only eat them every once in a while. You can also get the festivals at Back A Yard.

Curried Garbanzo Avocado Guacamole, with Crispy Plantain Tostones. Coconuts makes their tasty guacamole with smashed up garbanzo beans (kind of similar to the dip recipe from last week…interesting, eh?). And those tostones? LOVE them.

Pork bites. I love these tender little pork bites. Maybe because you get that bowl of jerk sauce. And we all know how I feel about the jerk sauce.

Curried shrimp. This was my dinner. It might be my favorite thing on the menu. Tons of perfectly cooked veggies. Delicious shrimp. The curry sauce is wonderful. Oh, and the little cup of mango salsa complements the entire dish so nicely.

Jerk Chicken and Curried Goat. This was Nate’s dinner. There’s that yummy jerk chicken I told you about. And the curried goat is quite good – very tender with, once again, a great sauce. These people know their sauces. You can’t see it, but this dish comes with rice and beans, which you can get at both restaurants. I love me some rice and beans, and these are no exception.

Tender Braised Oxtail. That’s right, OXtail. This meat is wicked tender. It’s also quite fatty, but seriously tasty. This is very traditional and we had to give it a try – glad we did.

By this point in the meal we were STUFFED and we had enough leftovers for a whole other dinner the next night! But we had to try at least one dessert. In the name of the blog, right? Ah, the sacrifices I make.

The chef recommended we go with the Sweet Potato Pudding. I told you Chef Emmanuel took care of us that night. I can’t tell you how happy I was we tried this pudding. I’m terrible at describing food…let’s see, it was warm, the sauce was yummy…see, terrible. Please just know this was good stuff.

Can you see why we love these restaurants? And I should mention that I credit Back A Yard with my new found ability to eat super spicy food. Before Back A Yard, I was a wimp. But that jerk is too good to pass up. And now, my heat tolerance is high. Bring it on.

Thank you to the owners and chefs for a fabulous meal!


  1. 1

    good are killing me with those photos. My trip to Foster City is becoming more like a trip to Menlo Park with a business meeting in Foster City.

  2. 2
    Jane Maynard

    love it, alecia! ha! 🙂

  3. 3
    Michelle G.

    Backayard is our favorite place for takeout! We also get the jerk chicken. . .and it comes with the most amazing rice! Oh, the corn festivals! I better have dinner there tonight because just thinking about it makes me hungry!

  4. 4
    Erika B.

    We love Back-A-Yard! We also always get jerk chicken with an extra side of fried plantains.

  5. 5

    You and Nate are so busted — How could you not take me with you?! Did you forget who tipped you off to Back A Yard? I still love you but I am pouting all the way to Coconuts, right now!

  6. 6

    Killing. Me.

  7. 7

    Isn’t this brave Nate’s second bout with goats?

  8. 8

    You are too cruel to post so many of my favorite things from a restaurant that I may go to once in my life. Really, you had me at the first image with COCONUT on the sign. Plantains, garbanzo beans in guacamole, sweet potatoes. Come on!!!! I only wish this place was a few minutes down the road from me. You’ve inspired me to create a “Places to Visit Someday” list.

  9. 9
    Tammy Blais

    Wow! Those pictures made my mouth water!

  10. 10

    Oooh…I LOVE Coconuts. We were visiting Palo Alto and went there with some friends. It was seriously so good. I’ve tried to the goat too and it was really, really tasty. I only wish there was a Coconuts where I live!

  11. 11

    Thanks for this great suggestion!!! My boyfriend and I tried Coconuts on Saturday night and fell in love with the jerk chicken and coconut breaded shrimp – we will definitely be going back – there are so many more things we’d like to try!

  12. 12
    Jane Maynard

    I’m so glad you tried it and enjoyed it – yea!!!

  13. 13

    I cannot believe I saw this post after leaving Palo Alto! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Definitely going to try to hook a trip back even if it’s only just to try this jerk chicken & those tostones which look heavenly!

  14. Jane, we are THRILLED that you love Jamaican food! Your pics are gorgeous too. As Jamaicans living as expats in Dubai, we have had to make our kitchen ‘taste like home’ to ease homesickness. Plus we get many requests for Jamaican recipes! Thank you for making my day with this post. Can I offer you a Jamaican rum cocktail to “wash it all dung” (wash it down)?

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