CLAREMONT — For a good Indian meal you may have to drive to Hanover, and for Thai food you may have to go to Keene or Lebanon, but here in Claremont diners can find something those towns don’t have: authentic Jamaican food.
The Sunshine Cookshop, owned by native Jamaican Errol Letman, got its start at the Claremont Farmers Market four years ago. For two years the restaurant was on Pleasant Street across from the frame shop, but this spring it moved closer to downtown, still on Pleasant Street but next to the Hundred Mile Market.
Letman has always loved cooking, he said. His parents and grandparents, male and female, love cooking, as does his brother.
“People seem to like my chicken,” he said.
He buys his supplies local as much as he can, buying from Liberal Beef and the Claremont Spice Shop. “Local people supported me when I started, so I try to support them,” said Letman. He also goes to Boston twice a month to get chicken at the market.
Having lived in Newport, he knows that’s the Sunshine town, but the name of his restaurant evokes the Caribbean for him. So does the bright interior and island décor, and often, the music.
“I don’t listen to reggae all the time,” he said, although that’s what was playing when the Eagle Times stopped by to chat.
As for the restaurant life, he stays busy. “You could do 24 hours a day if you feel like it,” he said, “but I try not to work too much.”
The menu includes Jamaican specialties: Jerk chicken, of course, as well as curry chicken, oxtail, curry goat, stew beef, fresh fish, and vegetables and rice. Rice and red beans come with the entrees; sides run from beef patties (the kind Jamaicans put in a dough pocket) to sweet potato pie to fried plantains, and prices are reasonable. Two people can fill up for less than $30. Beverages stay true to Jamaica: Red Stripe beer, wine and Harpoon IPA as well as several types of ginger beer and soda. On Tuesday Letman had an array of brownies and cookie bars out as well: chocolate chip, classic brownies, and dark chocolate brownies with coconut.