CLARKSVILLE – On Sundays Nadia Jones, her twin sister, brother, mother, father (and usually a handful of cousins, aunts and uncles) all sit down and have a real Trinidadian family meal.
“It’s kind of a relaxed atmosphere,” said Jones, 29. “Usually there is music, everyone is eating, getting their fill and enjoying each other’s company.”
This is how Jones wants his restaurant, Naila’s Caribbean Cuisine, to be. The restaurant is slated to open the week of September 12 at 1370 Veterans Parkway in Clarksville – the former Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen location.
Jones ‘mother and father are from Trinidad, an island off the northeast coast of Venezuela, but Jones’ restaurant will serve general Caribbean cuisine.
Jones’ mother, Naila Seow, whose restaurant is named after, will be the main chef.
Naila’s menu will contain vegetarian options, but many of its dishes are meat-based: chicken, beef, and pork seasoned with various herbs and spices. Naila will serve rice – a Trinidadian staple – with each entree, as well as sides, including lentil soup and aloo et chana, a combination of potatoes and chickpeas.
These are the dishes that Naila has been around all her life. She ate them as a child in Trinidad and learned how to prepare them herself when she moved to the United States.
She wanted to turn her passion into a business, but instead her husband, Danny, bought two Indi’s fast food restaurants and Naila got a job at WDRB-41. However, every year during her year-end exam, Naila wrote that her ultimate goal was to open her own restaurant.
After retiring with her husband, Naila saw in Jones her chance to make her dream come true.
Jones holds an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree from Sullivan University, one of which is in business administration. She is also the owner of Indi’s Fast Food restaurants which previously belonged to her father.
Jones turned away from her sister, Ashley Seow-Thomas, and covered the left side of her mouth with her hand when asked why she, among all of her family, is the owner of Naila’s Caribbean Cuisine .
“I’m the best for the job,” she said in a whisper meant to be heard.
“We know what she looks like,” she said.
Jones has done almost everything for the restaurant so far, Naila said. She got permits, painted the walls in bright colors, and set up a bar, sheltered by a Caribbean-themed thatched roof, though the restaurant currently only serves beer and wine.
Jones’ brother Neil Seow, sister, mother and father all helped out at the restaurant, planning the menu and helping with the construction. They will all work for the restaurant to some extent when it opens as well. Jones will hold open talks on Thursday, September 1 at the restaurant for waiters, cooks, dishwashers, hostesses and bartenders who want to join his family.
Naila chokes on her words when she talks about what she thinks about the opening of the restaurant.
She does it for the love of the food, she says.
“Of course I want to make money, but the first thing is for people to enjoy food,” she said. “Because it’s great food, and there isn’t one person we know who hasn’t liked or appreciated it.”
And when people eat Naila’s food at restaurants, she wants them to feel like they’re at home with their family eating and talking on a Sunday night.