Tebo’s Carribean Cuisine Offers the Flavors of Jamaica

BOARDMAN, Ohio –  It took a while, but Gaeton and Michael Thompson finally have a restaurant of their own.

The brothers, who are natives of Jamaica, opened Tebo’s Caribbean Cuisine in July. It’s where they cook and serve the spicy comfort food of the island where they were born.

The aroma of the island fills the room. Guests can see and select their offerings from a steam table to create a combo platter. The proteins include oxtail, the house specialty; jerk chicken, the best seller; plus curry chicken, stew chicken, and jerk pork. Sides include cabbage, jerk macaroni and cheese, fried plantains, meat pies, rice and beans, white rice and other vegetables.

The humble but cheerful eatery at 4150 Market St. is a reflection of Jamaica. Reggae music plays in the background of the colorful room, which includes a wall-size mural of a tropical scene. 

Guests stream in for takeout during the busy lunch hour. There are also a few tables for those who prefer to dine in, and a high-top dining rail with stools runs the length of the front window. 

At Tebo’s Caribbean Cuisine, brothers Gaeton and Michael Thompson serve food inspired from their Jamaican home.

The name Tebo, by the way, is what Gaeton went by in Jamaica. “Everyone has a nickname there,” he said. “If you talked to anyone other than my friends and family [and asked for Gaeton], they would not know who you meant.” He said his grandfather gave him the name.

The brothers, who speak with the unmistakable accent of Jamaica, came to the United States 30 years ago, when their mother moved to Cleveland. They learned how to cook from their mother, and they landed their earliest jobs in restaurants while in high school in Ohio.

“My first job was at James Tavern in Cleveland,” Gaeton said. Michael started as a dishwasher at another restaurant there.

The brothers continued to work in the restaurant industry and learned the ins and outs. Gaeton, who moved to Boardman 20 years ago, said he always wanted his own restaurant but “never had the courage” until now. The reaction from the public has been very positive. “It’s been a blessing,” he said.

Tebo’s is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (closed Sunday). In addition to the Thompson brothers, it employs 13.

Michael still lives in Cleveland but drives to Boardman to work at the restaurant.

Cooking Jamaican-style can be time consuming, as it involves marinating meats and braising them for up to five hours. Keeping up with demand requires a daily preparation routine to ensure everything is ready for the next morning.

“In the islands, we cook differently than we do in America and we blend the two [methods],” Gaeton said.

To acquire the herbs, spices, habanero peppers, plaintains and other Jamaican necessities they need, the brothers work with several purveyors. 

Opening a restaurant in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic poses extra difficulties, and the Thompson brothers have had to deal with them. Still, they’ve risen to the challenge.

“Someone once told me if you can open a restaurant and maintain it through this situation, there is nowhere to go but up,” Michael said.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.