One of Macon’s best restaurants can be found in Ingleside Village. You may be thinking pizza, but instead think Jamaican.
In the previous home of Ingleside Village Pizza lives Tropical Flava, Macon’s premiere Caribbean restaurant. Formerly located on Houston Road, the restaurant has been operating at the 2396 Ingleside Ave location for a few years now.
When you enter the restaurant the first thing you notice is how clean and bright the dining room is: it is spotless, with white table linens and brightly-colored floral arrangements. The décor is tropical, of course, and often a band or DJ plays Caribbean or Soul-inspired hits that fit the mood of the menu.
Food is cooked to order, so your meal will take more time than most places, especially on a busy Friday night. It’s important to remember that this is not a quick service restaurant, it is a dining experience. I highly recommend starting with one of their fresh juices, like a mango-pineapple. The rich sweet and slightly tart fruitiness puts you in the mood for what is to come, and each of their tropical juices pairs nicely with the flavorful dishes on the menu.
With this visit, we started with the Jamaican beef patties. These beef pastries are of limited quantity, and since they are served for lunch or as dinner appetizers, they go fast. The pastries sell for $2.50 a piece, which is a pretty good deal. If you want a more authentic presentation, try ordering them with coco bread and eating them like a sandwich with some pepper sauce applied liberally, as they do on the islands.
For my main dish, I ordered the jerk chicken, which I order most times when I go to a Caribbean restaurant. I have gone to Tropical Flava for years, and I have never had a bad experience with their signature dish. This time was no exception. The meat is extremely well seasoned and not too hot, with a generous portion of jerk sauce that is nice to sop up with the side of beans and rice. If you want it with a little more spice, add some Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce, but be careful as it is quite spicy.
The entrée also comes with fried plantains and stir-fried vegetables with cabbage and peppers. Both are delicious, with the plantains being tender, sweet, and moist while the colorful cabbage has a slight crunch. The cabbage is a nice alternative to a salad.
My wife had the tropical shrimp which comes with the same sides. The shrimp were very large and succulent, with a buttery flavor with a hint of curry and a subtle fruitiness. This is definitely a dish for people who want a subdued level of spiciness.
While Tropical Flava is an excellent date night restaurant, children are clearly welcomed to dine as well. The menu has several options for children, including a lovely fish filet. The white-meat fish is very lightly flavored, with a crisp outer breading that isn’t thick or greasy. Children can have French fries with their meals, as well, although there are also child-sized portions of Caribbean favorites like jerk chicken with beans and rice.
One of the most flavorful options on the menu is the mango cheesecake. Although it is not always available, you should ask the wait staff if it is, and if so, try it before it’s sold out. The tangy mango sauce is the ultimate tropical accompaniment for the rich cheesecake, without either flavor overpowering the other.
Overall, the meal wasn’t cheap, but it is still a decent value considering the quality as well as quantity. Tropical Flava presents the dilemma of a lot of food that tastes so good, you don’t want to stop eating.
The wait staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and the atmosphere is a pleasant one for a slow, relaxing dinner.
Tropical Flava is one of the top restaurants in Macon. Over the last decade, their consistent quality and experience is a good reminder that there are a lot more reasons to go to Ingleside Village than just to grab some pizza.