Day 45: Haiti
There are people in this world so passionate and with such a positive, infectious attitude that it carries over into everything they do. Tigeorge, the owner and operator of Tigeorge’s Chicken in Los Angeles, CA is one of those men. The moment you walk in the door you can feel it in the atmosphere. It’s not an intrusive feeling, but one that takes whatever your attitude happens to be and gently massages it into a better place. Brightly colored walls, pictures of the Haitian countryside and Tigeorge’s unmistakable smile and happiness all combine as part of the charm. What makes a man like him work so excitedly on a slow Saturday afternoon? Who knows? But when I show up with eight other dining companions, we’re very glad he does.
In one hand he brings out a bucket of raw coffee beans in a plastic barrel which were grown in his own backyard in Haiti, a place he returns every few months. In the other hand is a tray of coffee beans which have been roasted in a wood burning oven and smell satisfyingly like burnt popcorn. He tells us the story of a customer who liked his coffee so much that they went to Haiti together so the man could see where it came from. Then Tigeorge helps us order a wide range of food, but not without telling a story about each one. “You like goat?” he asks.
“Actually,” I say, “I’ve been eating a lot of goat lately, so…”
“At a Nigerian restaurant and…”
“It’s not like my goat. My goat is not dry or gamey like the other kinds you’ve had.”
I can’t argue with excitement. If he’s that serious about his goat, we’ve got to try it. He makes further suggestions while bringing out small containers of sauce which most people assume is made from garlic. “This is not garlic sauce,” he says, “it is onions, thyme, scotch bonnet, but no garlic. This is the sauce that everybody in Haiti has. You can probably find it on their bedside tables.” The sauce is absolutely delightful and does taste similar to garlic, but with a bright spiciness that spreads across your entire mouth and can’t be bothered to settle down in any individual location.
Plates with crispy, fried plantains and acra, a dumpling sized, fried globule of taro root and herring arrive at our table. The plantains are fried perfectly, but it’s the acra that really stands out here once drizzled with the spicy scotch bonnet sauce. Fried just slightly past golden, but filled with a substance that takes the best of its two ingredients and marries them in such a way that it is neither starchy nor overtly fishy, it takes only the best attributes of its two primary components. I wash it down with a sip of GirlfriendBites creamy iced coffee, which is a fun counterbalance to my vibrant glass of house made lemonade, and watch as a wide array of plates are promenaded before us.
Golden nuggets of crispy pork, tender, fried snapper, goat that lives up to its owner’s billing, sauteed conch meat (which the menu marks with a happy face, claiming that it is an aphrodisiac) and the undisputed champion of Tigeorge’s Chicken— the chicken. Crispy skinned, fire roasted half chickens served with a mellowing but slightly spicy slaw called pikliz, and the tender rice and beans which have been soaking happily in the escaped chicken juices (Causing folk hero Jason Bernstein to remark “Don’t sleep on these rice and beans.”). The breast meat is good, topped with the scotch bonnet condiment which goes with everything, but it is the absurdly tender and juicy dark meat, wrapped in crackling, herb flecked skin, that brings me to my knees and will call me back like a siren. This siren, however, will do me no harm. It will simply fill my heart and belly with joy, then send me home with my wallet still remarkably intact.
Tigeorge’s is a delightful place to meet a group of friends on a casual Saturday afternoon. Reaching across the table with a fork pointed forward, pouring lemonade from pitchers and passing plates, this somehow reminds me of a community that I’ve never actually seen before. It is a community I can only hope exists in Haiti and one I now feel the need to be a part of. Tigeorge talks so fondly of not only his returns to Haiti, but of the experiences of the people that join him. I only met the man today, but I want to see his country and I want him to be my guide. In the company of men like that, it feels like the world can be nothing but a good place. I’d like to see what that’s like, even if just for a few days, even if just on a Caribbean vacation, even if just in my imagination. I am positive that such a trip could not go any way but well.
309 N Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Food Breakdown: 8 non-alcoholic beverages, 4 half chicken island combos, 3 other entrees
Distance From My House: 10.3 miles