I cant do a better job of describing the warm comforting goat roti at Pennys than two previous posters and Jonathan Kaufmann in an East Bay Express review. I can only highly recommend the dish.
If you are not a fan of goat, there is also curry chicken, shrimp, vegetarian and jerk chicken roti. It was the perfect dish for this cold rainy day.
Expect food made to order at Pennys (with a bit of a wait). When I ordered the yellow squash pumpkin rice, Penny started from scratch with a Hubbard squash that was sitting on the counter. It is a nice fried rice type of dish. Also brought home an order of pelau, another rice dish. Heres a link and a recipe explaining pelau better than I can.
Im not much for rice dishes, and while they were pleasant enough, they didnt grab my attention like the roti.
The shrimp and callaloo was a green spicy soup made of taro leaves. Penny didnt have crab so she substituted the shrimp. Heres more on callaloo.
Also got the cow heel soup which was my second favorite dish. Theres a nice gelatinous piece of cow heel in a gravy-like spicy beef stew, almost a curry, with potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, celery, little pieces of this and that vegetable-wise. I really like that gummy tendon on the bone. It was more of the texture I was expecting in a recent Chinese tendon dish.
Other soups available are beef, corn and dahl. Penny also serves red snapper and possibly shark. There was no price next to the shark, so it might not always be available.
Snacks include aloo pie, fish cakes, phulari. Sides include rice & peas, flamingo rice, vegetable rice and macaroni pie. Skip the latter. It was ok, but not one of the shiny pennies in this restaurant.
The hot sauce is available by the jar for $6.
I liked both the ginger beer and sorrel. Penny just made the ginger beer and it was still warm. She said some people request it warm and it was very nice on a cold day.
Baked goods include coconut tart, butter drops, currant ball, banana bread and some sort of twist. Penny gave me a free baked good. I thought it was an allou pie so I wasnt paying attention to what it was. It turned out to be a sweet like a moist scone with raisins and some lovely orange peel.
Full breakfast is served all day. You can get breakfast with bake, which is some sort of fried biscuit that puffs up. More info on this website.
Penny also does catering and she said that those occasional jobs are what is currently keeping the restaurant running. She really is a nice woman with two great sons. When shes not busy cooking, if you like shell pull up a chair at the table and explain the food. She served the roti without forks and explained how to eat it and cautioned about the bones.
She is good about making sure you know what you are eating. When I ordered the cow heel soup she made sure it wouldnt be a surprise. Well, if you see something called cow heel, you gotta guess Anyway I told her my family was Polish and we used pigs feet in soup, so I wasnt sqeemish about this part of animals. She said that they also made soup from pigs feet in the Caribbean.
Kaufmann captures the spirit of the place when he says it is like walking into Pennys living room. There is that feeling of dropping into someones home for dinner. Her boys asked me to decide a dispute in their card game. They make you feel like part of the family.
The place isnt in the most upscale neighborhood, although it is pretty close to Ashby. Despite some extensive eating at mom and pops over the past year, when I walked in I decided to try the food before ordering some to take home. It is quite the casual place.
However, that first bite of roti won me over and I highly recommend Pennys for a good homemade meal like mom used to make if she was from the Carribean and a good cook.
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