Jamaican Dwayne Whyte and his wife Shanetha own and operate Jamaican Yard Vibes, the only Caribbean restaurant in Owensboro, Kentucky. The carry-out restaurant is committed to giving Owensboro a true Jamaican culture experience with its menu of traditional and flavorful island dishes.
Whyte says he loves seeing people enjoying the food offered at Jamaican Yard Vibes, adding that it fills him with pleasure to know that something he, his wife, and his family have built together is so highly appreciated. “When you can cook for people, and they enjoy your food, that makes you happy, he said. “We just want people to keep coming back.”
Dwayne and Shanetha Whyte met in Jamaica where he was living and she was vacationing. He ultimately moved to Owensboro to be with her, and they married in June 2019. He says that it was love that brought him to Kentucky. To highlight Dwayne’s Jamaican heritage, the couple made Jamaican dishes for the wedding guests. The dishes were a big hit with everyone, and as a result, members of the community suggested that the newly married Whytes open a restaurant. He began cooking for his brothers and sisters when he was eight years old as a help to his mother, who worked outside their home. He generally made meals for eight or ten people at once and has been cooking all his life.
After continuing encouragement from their community, the Whytes started providing several catering options and offering Jamaican cuisine from their home. Their dream was to have a restaurant, but the COVID-19 pandemic put their plans on hold. Their food proved so popular, however, that people would line up in the street for their jerk chicken, jerk pork, curry goat, curry chicken, and oxtail soup. Now, they are the proud owners of a booming restaurant business on Owensboro’s west side, and they employ three people at the venue. Whyte acknowledged that there are few Jamaicans in Owensboro, but there are a number of people from other Caribbean islands who are very supportive of the restaurant.
The menu at Jamaican Yard Vibes features oxtail, jerk chicken, jerk pork, rice and beans, beef patties on cocoa bread, beef stew, steamed salad, and cabbage. The eatery also offers Whyte’s own take on mutton. Whyte notes that most people think that everything on the menu is spicy, but many dishes are not. “We have something for everyone,” he said.
Jamaican Yard Vibes is proudly decorated with the green, black, and yellow colors of the Jamaican flag to honor Whyte’s home island, and images of reggae icon Bob Marley are everywhere. The restaurant also stocks authentic Jamaican sodas, but diners know that the real authenticity comes from Whyte himself: he puts his heart and soul into everything he cooks, and he has fun doing it.