NEW BRITAIN - Karen Watts saw her childhood dream become reality Wednesday, the day her new restaurant, Kencarlou’s Jamaican Restaurant on West Main Street, opened, offering authentic island dishes.
Watts, a native of Jamaica, said she has always enjoyed cooking, but never did it to make a living. She was a high school and community college teacher in Jamaica before moving to the United States in 2010.
When she came here, she didn’t want to teach, so she became a certified nursing assistant and later obtained Licensed Practical Nurse certification.
However, Watts said, she was still yearning to become a cook.
Watts later met Carlos Ferguson, a chef, and the pair started to do catering. Their original idea was to offer Jamaican cuisine from a food truck.
But they later changed their minds. Ferguson bought a house in New Britain and the two did not want to have a Jamaican restaurant in Hartford because that city already has Jamaican food options.
Watts and Ferguson started to research the restaurants of New Britain and realized there was only one place that served their native food.
The two found an empty space in the heart of the city, at 50 W. Main St., and “the rest is history,” Watts said.
Based on the response they received from talking to members of the New Britain community, they said they knew that opening a Jamaican restaurant was the right thing to do.
Watts and Ferguson, who co-own the business, renovated the space to make it look like it does now.
“It was a whole lot of work,” Watts said.
They changed the floors, painted, insulated, installed new counters and purchased new equipment including a stove, a refrigerator, fryers, boilers and even sinks.
Wednesday was the soft opening of Kencarlou’s Jamaican Restaurant.
Among the items on the menu are beef patties, jerk chicken, vegan alternatives and breakfast dishes.
On Sundays, the restaurant offers a buffet-style brunch with a variety of Jamaican traditional foods.
“We are here and we are here to stay,” Watts said. “We are excited, we are happy, we know we made the right choice. We are not just here for our own financial gain, but also for the growth of New Britain.”
The owners have already hired two employees and plan on expanding staff as the restaurant grows.
Kencarlou’s Jamaican Restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays 9 a.m. to sunset and closed on Saturdays. It operates on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Karla Santos can be reached at 860-801-5079 or firstname.lastname@example.org.