At Tropical Diner West in Katy, Jamaican couple shares food, culture across national borders

Tropical Diner West
Tropical Diner West's jerk chicken dish includes marinated grilled chicken topped with Jamaican jerk sauce, served with rice and plantains (small $7.99, large $9.99). (Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper)

Tropical Diner West's jerk chicken dish includes marinated grilled chicken topped with Jamaican jerk sauce, served with rice and plantains (small $7.99, large $9.99). (Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Tropical Diner West's ackee and saltfish dish includes ackee fruit with saltfish and side of cabbage. It is Jamaica’s national dish and can be eaten any time of the day ($12.99). (Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Tropical Diner West serves a side of fried plantains, which resemble bananas but have a firmer flesh, are full of starch and rarely eaten raw ($3). (Nola Z. Valente/Community Impact Newspaper)
Yvonne and Alroy Clarke lived in Canada most of their adult lives. They spent their free time hosting family and friends to enjoy home-cooked Jamaican meals, but the married couple said they wanted to earn a living while doing what they love. Yvonne and Alroy now own and run the only Jamaican restaurant in the Katy area.

“It’s not about the money,” Yvonne said. “We have to live, too, but my joy is when somebody comes in to enjoy a meal and says, ‘I love this food.’ It makes my day. The same meal we would put on the table for our family is what we present to our customers.”

Yvonne moved to Canada in her teenage years while her parents remained in the central part of Jamaica, but she carried her culture across borders.

In 2011, the Clarkes moved to Houston, and almost immediately opened their first eatery on South Gessner Drive and Bissonnet Street—an area where Jamaican food is prominent, she said.

When the couple discovered there was a market for a Jamaican eatery in Katy, they considered expanding their Houston location. Due to time constraints, they ultimately settled in Katy only.

There are few occasions when Yvonne is not cooking in her kitchen. The only time she eats out is while in her country island once or twice per year.

“I go to different restaurants to compare their food with mine,” Yvonne said. “I go to see if I am up to par with what I am tasting in Jamaica and what I am providing for the people in the Katy area.”

She said Jamaicans prefer takeout a lot more than Americans because their food has a lot of bones and people enjoy the flavor.

“[At home], Jamaicans enjoy sucking on their bones,” she said. “They can’t do this dining out.”

Alroy and Yvonne take care of almost everything in their business, including the cooking.

“I look forward to getting up and coming here,” Yvonne said. “I hope I can keep this restaurant going for years—that people will take over and continue this because I feel it is a part of my legacy.”

Tropical Diner West

3111 N. Fry Road, Katy


Hours: Mon. 12-8 p.m., Tue.-Thu. 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 12-6 p.m. •


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