Photo by Jamie Alexander
Jamaican Yard Vibes opened on Parrish Avenue as Owensboro’s only Caribbean restaurant. Owned and operated by Dwayne Whyte and his wife Shanetha, the restaurant offers traditional Jamaican dishes with no shortage of flavor.
The carry-out establishment truly personifies Jamaican culture, despite being sandwiched between the U-Haul storage facility and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet on Parrish Avenue. Jamaican Yard Vibes and Whyte transport customers to the island through scratch-made dishes, a native Jamaican accent, and a “ya mon” mentality.
“It’s a pleasure,” Whyte said. “I love seeing people enjoying the food; it brings pleasure to my heart. It feels so good for my wife, family, and myself to put all this together. It makes me happy.”
The opening process presented some challenges, delaying the grand opening by a few months, but Whyte said he’s ecstatic to bring his home-style cooking to Owensboro. Whyte previously sold plate lunches online but can’t wait to try his hand in an industrial-sized kitchen.
“It was a little challenging at first, especially getting the system for the kitchen,” he said. “We finally put everything together. It took a while, but it feels so exciting. We have all this space in the kitchen, no one is bumping into each other, and everyone can roll.”
New kitchen or not, Whyte is committed to grilling one of his staple items, the jerk chicken, on his custom BBQ grill, rain, snow, or shine. Other signature items include jerk pork, curry goat and mutton, stewed chicken, beef patties, Rasta pasta, and much more.
“The food is delicious,” Whyte said. “Everyone tends to think that everything is spicy, but it’s not. Some are spicy, and some are not. We have something for everyone.”
Dwayne and Shanetha married in 2019, and opening a restaurant was one of the last things on their mind. But they offered cuisine at their wedding that highlighted Whyte’s Jamaican heritage, and the dishes were an instant hit, triggering several community members to suggest they open a restaurant.
“When we got married, we had some food at the wedding that was well-received,” Dwayne Whyte said. “People were going crazy and kept asking when we were going to open a restaurant. That inspired us.”
After more encouragement from the community, the couple began operating out of their house, offering several catering options. Fast forward less than three years, and the two managed to tackle the many obstacles posed by the pandemic and secured their own space.
Whyte said he quickly developed a passion for cooking for others when they began selling the plates out of their house. He said he’d formed many relationships through his culinary efforts, and the receptive smiles propelled him to enter into it as a career.
“We’re excited,” Whyte said. “When you can cook for people, and they enjoy your food, that makes you happy. We just want people to keep coming back.”
The establishment is coated in green, black, and yellow to pay homage to the Jamaican colors. Bob Marley is clearly on display and Jamaican sodas stock the fridge, but make no mistake, the authenticity revolves around Whyte. He pours his heart and soul into every dish, clearly having fun doing it.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. To see the full menu or for more information, visit the Jamaican Yard Vibes Facebook page.