Wally B’s Jamaican Jerk spices up Regina’s Caribbean food scene
Pop in for lunch at Wally B’s new Jamaican restaurant Jerk in Regina, and you’re greeted by smooth reggae tunes, island decor and a pair of authentic lunch dishes — and often Wally B himself.
There’s a natural warmth to the owner, born Walleston Stephenson, and that translates into his offerings.
“I tell customers, ‘See those hands? They made the food you’re eating. That’s me on the plate. That menu up there? It’s all good. If it wasn’t 110% good , it wouldn’t make it on the menu. What are you eating? It’s made with love.'”
What he lovingly prepares are Jamaican staples: jerk chicken and pork, oxtail, goat curry, ackee and saltfish. You can also grab a Jamaican patty or fried bread for a quick bite.
The restaurant is small – it seats 25 people – but even that is authentically Jamaican.
“If you go to Jamaica, you’ll see a lot of roadside jerk chicken shacks with plastic tables and chairs for customers,” Stephenson said. “It’s a bit like that.”
Turning a passion into a business
Stephenson is from Clarendon, Jamaica. He immigrated to Canada in 2004, arriving in Scarborough, Ontario, before moving to Regina to work in 2007.
Stephenson’s mother taught him and his siblings how to cook.
“I was always at the kitchen door, looking inside and paying attention,” he said.
This passion for cooking developed while helping his cousin, Dave Hall, run a Caribbean buffet at the Orr Center.
Over the years friends asked him to make Jamaican food and many encouraged him to open a restaurant.
“I had to satisfy these people who kept asking me for my food,” he said.
He opened Wally B’s on 11th Avenue, just east of Winnipeg Street, in late June.
What is the jerk?
Jerk is a mixture of herbs and spices. According to food historians, the word “jerk” is the Spanish variant of the Peruvian term “charqui” which refers to the salted, dried meat we know today as “jerk”. Jerk is found throughout the Caribbean, with regional and individual adjustments to the recipe.
“I could use five spices in there; another person could use seven; another person could use nine,” Stephenson said.
It uses Walkerswood and Grace brands of jerk sauce, in addition to its own seasoning blend. Stephenson seasons the meat and marinates it overnight. It makes it spicy but not too spicy. For those who want to take it up a notch, there’s hot sauce on the tables, and he keeps Bertie’s Scorpion Pepper Sauce from Trinidad and Tobago hidden in the kitchen.
In Jamaica, jerk shacks grill chicken in 45-gallon oil drums converted into barbecue grills.
“Some use charcoal, and some use chili wood to give it a distinctive flavor,” Stephenson said. “I use an oven, but I add chili seeds, which I grind, to give it some of that flavor.”
A taste of the island
Most of Wally B’s customers are not Jamaican but have been there on vacation, Stephenson said. People came from Moose Jaw, Estevan and Yorkton to sample his cooking.
Stephenson said earning positive customer reviews made him feel “worthy” of the local food scene. He is proud to carry the Jamaican flag.
As you will see on the wall of his restaurant, he is also proud to carry the flag of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, some of whom are loyal customers. The receiving corps and coach Travis Moore come for a meal the night before every home game.
Wally B’s is only open for lunch from Tuesday to Saturday, as Stephenson divides his time between the restaurant and his full-time job at Brewers Distributor Limited. You can find daily specials on their Facebook page.