By Morgan Bryce
Authentic Jamaican cuisine has made its way to Opelika in the form of Homegirls’ Jamaican Grill, which is slated to hold its grand opening July 15 at 11 a.m. at USA Town Center.
Owned and operated by Opelika native Tanisha Stephens and cook Erica Smith, the restaurant replaces The Boar’s Breath, which closed last month. The duo have been friends for more than 20 years and been working together off and on since 2017, when Homegirls started as a pre-order, home-cooked meal service that only served food on Fridays.
After the space became available, Stephens said she and Smith decided to follow through with their vision of making Homegirls’ into an actual restaurant.
“The day we made the announcement, we went from 400 Facebook likes to nearly 900. I think people are really excited for something different,” Stephens said. “There are some great Jamaican restaurants (in our area), but we thought that Opelika really needed because there are so many different cultures and people here, along with the ids who come to attend school at Auburn. There is a little bit of everything in our area when it comes to food, and we want to be a part of that.”
Smith, originally from Montego Bay, used to run her own Jamaican restaurant in Decatur, Georgia. She said she plans to bring her knowledge and love of the cuisine to Opelika, which will include menu items like curry chicken, goat and oxtail. Breakfast will remain traditional American with eggs and grits, and there will be foods like hamburgers and hotdogs for children or picky eaters.
“Back home, my mom would start preparing for a Sunday meal on Friday, getting the seasoning ready, doing the chopping … that was a tradition, that’s what we’re used to. With items like the curry chicken, we usually allow two or three days to marinate before we put it on the grill, and that’s just the Jamaican way to ensure it has flavor,” Smith said.
In addition to the food, there will be Jamaican-influenced decor, drinks, music and photographs to give patrons a better feel and understanding of the country’s culture.
The duo said they are looking to form partnerships with other makers and restaurateurs and sell some of their products at Homegirls.
Stephens added that Matt Poirier of The Hound and Sneak and Dawdle is mentoring them and lending them advice as they navigate through the opening process.
During their first week in business, Stephens said they plan to open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day during the first week and later open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Along with broadened operating hours will be an expanded menu based on customer demand, Smith added.
For more information, call 334-444-2849 or like and follow their Facebook page “Homegirls’ Jamaican Grill.” A website is expected to launch soon. Homegirls’ will occupy Suite 220 of USA Town Center, which is located at 1220 Fox Run Ave.