Virgil's Jamaica
Raleigh NC
(919)539-4528

 
Restaurant Reviews

Voted...Finalist for Best Latin/Caribbean Restaurant 2015 in The Best of The Best by The Wake Forest Weekly!

Behind The Wheel: Virgil’s Jamaica

One of the great advantages of food trucks is that owners are on the truck daily. This brings a tight bond between the owner and their hungry patrons. Since many of us only get that small time between ordering and grabbing our food, I wanted to help bring us together. That’s when I got the idea, Behind The Wheel. Gets me back to telling the story and further enjoying – being around food trucks. This week I highlight Virgil’s Jamaica.

As all stories are unique, Virgil’s Jamaica is one that will keep your interest.  For one, some food truck operators want their story to lead to a successful restaurant building.  For Virgil’s, that story has already been written. It has been over two years since Virgil’s Jamaica South Raleigh location has been closed. But for the last two years and a half, Virgil Wilson and his wife, Taffee, have enjoying rolling with the food truck.

Virgils Jamaican-1

How did you get into the restaurant business?

Before Virgil and Taffee got into the restaurant business, they were part of the “corporate rat race” as Virgil put it. Both he and his wife traveled the country striving to hit sales goals and competing against each other (they were in the same industry with different companies).

Both Virgil and Taffee had a reputation of preparing delicious food. This led to Fernando Rainford, owner of Jamaica Jamaica in Durham, offering a large amount of capital to build a restaurant. After considering it and finding a prime location off Glenwood Avenue, Virgil and Taffee quit their jobs to focus on building the restaurant.   During the restaurant’s construction, Rainford unexpectedly was rushed to hospital and later passed away. Both unemployed and with only part of the funding needed, Virgil and Taffee had to suspend the dream of owning a restaurant.

While the Rainford family was devastated by their sudden loss and both Virgil and Taffee were now unemployed, Virgil and Taffee began work at Jamaica Jamaica in Durham. They briefly worked there under new ownership as they concurrently looked for a new location that fit their original investment.   Virgil found himself discovering South Raleigh and the location for his restaurant down on Garner Road.  While the location was not ideal, the landlord made  concessions to help Virgil be successful.  Soon, Virgil’s Jamaica started its take out service restaurant.

Virgils Jamaica - Jerk Chicken

How did you get into the food truck business?

Virgil’s restaurant was fairly successful, as it had a reputation of great food. However, it also had a perception of being unsafe. Virgil joked that “he was one of the few chefs equipped with a 45 on the hip.” While his kind heart kept him cooking and providing to the neighborhood, his customer’s feedback of, “I’ll be back, but next time I need to bring my husband” was not something he wanted to hear.

Then the popularity of food trucks started to rise. With that, divine intervention came into to help guide Virgil and Taffee to their next venture. A trailer at their church came available. The trailer used for church functions and the summer bible camp could serve as a mobile take-out restaurant. With that idea, Virgil’s Jamaica began operating out of both the restaurant and the trailer.

It was at a Caribbean festival that Virgil realized the food truck’s success. Virgil’s was the only restaurant serving at the festival and had a constant service line. At the end of the day that one event brought in a lot of profit for the business. Though as that month went by, the restaurant nibbled away the profits made at the successful event.

Not wanting to give up on the restaurant, Virgil’s did consider a white tablecloth Jamaican restaurant. Though his higher end regulars were probably not enough to sustain that business.  Virgil then came to conclusion that six years would be enough for the South Raleigh restaurant.  Gone were the opportunities where a councilman and drug dealer would bump into each other and not know who they really were.  Virgil’s wasn’t the only casualty, by Virgil’s estimation five failed within the same period.  Only small takeouts have prevailed.

Early in the food truck’s life, Virgil’s parked in Downtown Raleigh on near Dawson and Davie. Though he wanted to serve office parks, as many food trucks had frequent traffic there. It wasn’t long before other food truck owners lent a hand to help.

“One nation. Many People.” – Jamaica’s National Motto

What have you liked about the food truck business?

Virgil has has been amazed the support from the food truck community.  In the corporate rat race, don’t expect help from your competitors. When he opened Virgil’s restaurant, he mentioned Backyard Bistro’s chef, Joe Lumbrazo was a frequent visitor. On the food truck side, Virgil could list  when food trucks extended their hand to help him.

  • Red Eye BBQ allowed Virgil to use their generator at Apex Peak Fest (for the whole event) one year. Baton Rouge Cuisine and Gussy’s have done this at other events.
  • Chick-N-Que saw windows for a trailer at Lowe’s and called Virgil’s to inform them.
  • Traveled to Mebane for Tanger Outlets food truck rodeo and forgot their rice cooker. Ray Chow from Hibachi Xpress allowed him to cook rice on their trailer.
  • Virgil’s needed a refrigerator. Captain Ponchos sold one and offered an installment plan for Virgil’s to repay them.

Virgil is a very friendly and humorous man. It’s no surprise there is a photo of him laughing with Ray Chow in the News & Observer. His favorite time working a rodeo, “from 9-11 is my favorite time. For that time, it gives me the opportunity to talk and laugh with other owners. At the start of the rodeo, it’s go time.”

Virgil's Jamaican Food Truck's popular Beef Patty and CoCo Bread

Virgil’s Jamaica: Beef Patty and CoCo Bread

What is your culinary background?

Virgil’s background goes back two generations to his grandfather and father, where they were both chefs in the military. When he joined the military as a medic and later as an officer, he only cooked once while on duty. It was during a time in Panama when he cooked for Mother’s Day for the group.

Virgil’s culinary background led Virgil’s Jamaica to have a higher quality versus sourcing some Caribbean items from vendors. Taffee baking skills can be evidence in the fresh coco bread, patties, and dessert specialties. During his restaurant days, Virgil also branched out into sauces sold in retail markets.

Virgil receiving his Father's Day gifts before the noon kickoff.

Last year, I happen to stop by Virgil’s when he received a Father’s Day gift.

What are some of the biggest rewards from running a food truck?

Getting to know and the support from all the food trucks has been something Virgil has appreciated. He also has spent more time with his family, which includes five kids with three in grade school. The flexibility of a food truck schedule has allowed them to see their kid’s softball games. Though the biggest benefit is spending time with his wife. Though, working with her has made it hard to surprise for gift exchanges during special occasions.  But, he doesn’t seem to mind. Before working together, friends warned them of the troubles of disagreement.  But they had faith their love would endure the challenges of a business. While Virgil does enjoy working his Taffe, he does miss the voicemails from his wife on the road. “There was just something about getting a voicemail while waiting at the airport.”

Wake Forest-1

This weekend is pretty big. What can you say about the Wake Forest Rodeo?

Last year, Virgil wanted to organize an event in the area where he currently lives. Talking to nearby residents, he could tell they wanted to have a food truck event closer to Wake Forest. Wanting to meet those desires, he began working with Wake Forest to find a way to have the event.

During the planning stages, Virgil searched for a prime location in Wake Forest to organize it. The owner at Over The Falls Shopping Center, Doug Pearce, approached Virgil about using the center for the event. With a location secured, the next part was getting food trucks involved.

This is where Virgil was slightly nervous. Earlier, he organized an event in Fort Bragg that fell through. Would owners count on Virgil for this event to take off? As in before, food truck operators had no problems helping Virgil organize this event.

 

Did the first Wake Forest Rodeo take off?  This evidence that I think it did.

This Sunday (March 29th), Virgil mentioned the Wake Forest Rodeo will collect money for Wake Forest officer David Cohen. His wife suddenly passed away after the family (the officer, wife, and two boys) moved from Asheville to be closer to family. Since it was in between jobs, the officer’s benefits have no fully kicked in. Officers will be around the food truck rodeo collecting for the family’s unexpected loss.



The Independent Weekly featured Virgil's Jamaica in it's 2012-2013 issue of EATS dining magazine. Visit their website at http://www.indyweek.com/.  Under Our Guides in the far right corner click the EATS Digital Edition link and read our review on page 35 or see below.


 

Global cuisines

By Greg Cox, Correspondent  

 

A few miles down the road in Raleigh, but halfway around the globe in culinary terms, Virgil's Jamaica (1813 Garner Road.; 539-4528) has opened in the old Skipper's Fish & Chicken spot. The restaurant, which offers takeout and catering only, serves up a sampling of owner/chef Virgil Wilson's native Caribbean island fare. The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, but according to Wilson's charming wife and partner, Taffee, the hours are subject to change.

The menu offers a modest but varied sampling of Virgil Wilson's native island fare, with entrees such as West Indian curry chicken, escovitch fish, jerk pork and oxtail stew served with rice and your choice of side (stir-fried cabbage, plantains or beans). A selection of sandwiches, served on buttered and toasted coco bread, is also offered. Time to break for lunch. I hear a jerk fish sandwich calling.

ggcox@bellsouth.net or http://blogs.newsobserver.com/epicurean/home 

http://www.newsobserver.com/105/story/1119299.html



Chef Virgil's bio from "An Evening With Master Chefs-Benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation"

Virgil Wilson – Virgil’s Jamaica

 Virgil Wilson has been exposed to great cooking and good food all his life. Born in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica and raised in Panama City, Panama Virgil learned to appreciate all the flavors the Caribbean has to offer. Virgil credits his grandfather and his father for his interest in culinary arts. His grandfather Eric, was a chef for Rodman Air Force base in the Canal Zone of Panama and his father Lloyd, was a restaurant chef there as well.

Although the idea of a career as a military officer brought Virgil to Norfolk State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology he never lost his desire to continue in the culinary industry. After several years of working as a manager in the corporate world Virgil’s culinary dreams came true when he and his wife, Taffee stepped out on faith and opened Virgil’s Jamaica Restaurant in 2008. With Caribbean dishes that are sure to please any taste bud Virgil’s menu offers a modest but varied sampling of Chef Virgil’s native island fare. Virgil’s homemade dishes and beverages have been featured in the News and Observer, The Independent Weekly and EATS magazine. First and foremost however, Virgil enjoys spending time with his family who are his pride and joy. His two oldest daughters are in college and the younger children will hopefully soon follow in their footsteps or maybe take over the reigns and one day carry on Virgil’s legacy.

http://www.cff.org/UploadedFiles/Chapters/carolinas/ChapterEvents/Meet%20the%20Chefs%20-%202013.pdf

Review by: Lexib.net 





 


BLACK BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT
                                                                                                
                                                                                          
LOCAL MAN GIVES THE TRIANGLE A CARIBBEAN FLAVOR by Crystal Myrick

(August 7) In just under two months, Virgil's Jamaica has revived Raleigh with delicious,
unfasten the belt buckle, get it while it's hot Caribbean dishes that is sure to please 
anyone with tastebuds.  

Under the management of husband-wife team, Virgil and Taffee Wilson, the take-out 
restaurant has served to hundreds of Wake county residents who were in search for an
always hot and freshly cooked meal on their lunch breaks or a full-course meal to be taken to their hungry and eager families.

The menu, which consists of salads, grilled sandwiches and traditional Jamaican dishes such as Ox-tail stew, West Indian Curried Chicken, Caribbean Shrimp and the classic all-time favorite Jerk Chicken, all at reasonable prices.

Virgil's Jamaica not only offers take-out orders but if you are in need of a caterer for an event, big or small, they also have you covered.

At Virgil's Jamaica, the food tantalizes the tongue and the excellent and attentive customer service leaves you coming back for more and I'm not jerking you around.

Virgil's Jamaica is located in downtown Raleigh at 1813 Garner Rd. and can be reached at (919) 539-4528 and for the menu and catering options, visit the offical website at www.virgilsjamaica1.com.

By LexiB

http://www.lexib.net/
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