Island Cuisine brings Youtuber’s Caribbean cooking to Dickinson

Jamaican food is well-known for its heated flavors. Anyone who’s tried Jamaican Jerk Spice can vouch for this — the combination of ingredients used is usually a mixture of sweet allspices, thyme, and hot chiles, to name a few.

While the idea of Jerk itself is well-known, there aren’t too many restaurants across the country that specialize in Jamaican food, especially not out in North Dakota. Dickinson, however, now has its own piece of the islands with Island Cuisine — an independently-owned restaurant specializing in Caribbean delights.

The restaurant is another turn in the cooking career of Island Cuisine’s owner and head chef Lamise Oyugi, whose journey with food began when she was young and has continued all throughout her life.

“I started cooking when I was ten years old,” said Oyugi. “It’s always been in me. With most people from the Caribbean, you have no choice but to learn to cook sometimes. I moved to Fargo when I was ten with Hatian parents, so they installed it in me, I guess. When you’re younger, you complain when your parents make you do things. But now, as an adult, I appreciate it.”

Oyugi originally started sharing her cooking with the world via two Youtube channels — one in English and one in Creole — to teach viewers how to make nutritious and delicious food, especially dishes originating from Africa and the Caribbean islands. This led to her recipes gaining a worldwide audience, with plenty of people learning more about dishes from around the world while learning to make filling and fiery meals.

While her channels were successful on their own (with her English channel alone boasting over 100,000 subscribers, and her most popular video being viewed over 800,000 times), her viewers not only aimed to cook their own versions of her dishes but to taste the originals as well. There was such a clamor for Oyugi’s cooking that she eventually took the next logical step — opening a restaurant of her own in North Dakota.

Island Cuisine officially opened for business on February 9, and since then, has served up Caribbean cooking to the people of Dickinson. The restaurant specializes in the same dishes that made Oyugi well-known to begin with — namely, homemade Haitian and Jamaican dishes ranging from the more commonly known (Jerk Chicken, Haitian rice, and plantains) to traditional fares unusual in our rural state, like curried goat and oxtail stew. Here are a few highlights from the menu:

Of course, running a Youtube cooking channel and an actual restaurant are two different things. According to Oyugi, though, she’s been able to take care of the transition rather well.

“There have been challenges, but for the most part, it’s been easy to deal with our daily challenges because we’re a small restaurant. Cooking is cooking, but it’s a little different now. While I was used to doing cooking videos on the channel, here, it’s much bigger quantities of food. It’s a challenge, but nothing I can’t handle.”

Not only has Oyugi been happy with the results of her new restaurant, but her customers also seem to be, too — at least, if the positive responses are any indication.

“I’m absolutely enjoying it, and the customers are too,” Oyugi recalls. “I haven’t met one single person who walked through that door who hadn’t said that the food was beyond amazing. It’s been nothing but positive reviews, both in-store, and from Doordash.”

“There’s a lot of restaurants here, but we’re different,” says Oyugi. “We make everything from scratch. We bring a different flavor from what the local people here are used to, so it’s one of those restaurants where you have to try it to know just how delicious it is.”

Island Cuisine is open from Tuesday through Saturday for both lunch (11 a.m. – 2 p.m.) and dinner hours (4-8 p.m.). For more information on the menu, hours, and more, visit Island Cuisine’s Facebook Page or call 701-483-9918.

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