Meet Me at Whalley’s Corner – Part 4: Di Reggae Cafe
In this installment of the continuing series about the community in City Central, take a step into the tropics. Located in the heart of Surrey, right at historic Whalley’s Corner, Di Reggae Café is a hidden gem in the bustle of the city. Open the door to the Caribbean right in your back yard and meet Richie Hussett of Di Reggae Café.
Richie, who was born in Jamaica, has had an entrepreneurial spirit for as long as he can remember. As a young man, he dreamed of owning a business, one that would both serve people and bring them together. A passion for cooking and a deep love for family fostered his desire to open a restaurant where people from all walks of life could feel at home. His dream became a reality when, in 2011, he opened the doors of Di Reggae Café (originally known as Binghis) in Whalley Corners in the heart of Surrey City Centre.
His unique menu of Caribbean dishes has provided Surrey’s Jamaican and island community a place where they can savour food from back home. As well, he has created a space where all people can come in to experience the flavours of “the islands”. Di Reggae has grown into much more than an eatery — it is a place where family and friends can enjoy great food and live entertainment — or, as Richie says, “Di Reggae Café embraces the roots, culture and ethnicity of our Jamaican background, our delicious Caribbean cuisine and remembrances of good ol’ Jamaican times.”
A look around at the colourful furniture, grass umbrellas and bright posters brings a feeling of easy, laid back days on a tropical island. As we chat, Richie points out the most popular items on the menu — Oxtail – a dish of tender pieces of meat simmered with potatoes, carrots and sweet peppers, Curry Goat – a mild West Indian curry, and of course, the traditional Jerk Chicken for that distinctive Jamaican spiciness. “Our Seafood Fridays are a big hit with our customers.” Richie says, “We serve the authentic Jamaican dish, Ackee and Saltfish. The ackee (the national fruit of Jamaica) is simmered in a pan with boneless salted cod bits, onions and sweet peppers and served with a choice of rice & peas or “cooked food” (Boiled green banana, Jamaican yellow yam and dumpling)” Of course,” he says, smiling “we also have Chicken Fingers and Fries, because all kids love them!”
Di Reggae features a small stage for live bands and music from blues to jazz to reggae, and room for dancing. Richie comments, “A lot of our customers in the evenings are couples out for date night. And our open mic nights are a favourite with our regulars.”
Asked about the challenges he faces, Richie talks about the typical issues that businesses, especially restauranteurs see everyday. “Rising prices, competition and staffing problems are the kinds of difficulties we as business owners all come up against from time to time.” Richie says, “I’m the sort of person that is determined to make my own wayway — and I’ve seen some hard times for sure. But my faith helps me to keep going, and I have the support of my family and loved ones.” He admits that there have been times when he has worked at part time jobs to help when things got rough. “There have been stretches where I was working all day every day and most nights, too.” He says, “For me, it’s what I do — this place is my dream, I want it to succeed.”
Richie talks about the hurdles that come from operating in a densely populated area that is experiencing rapid growth. He credits the Whalley Community Improvement Association for promoting the area and spearheading many proactive initiatives. “The very first meeting of the association happened right here in this restaurant,” he says. “And because of this association, we have a greater police presence — officers regularly walk the beat, or ride through on their bikes or drive by in their patrol cars. We also have an increase in street maintenance including keeping the empty lots clear of tall grass and weeds. As a result, the community feels safer. The association is making a difference and that certainly helps.”
Richie enthusiastically shares some of his ideas and plans for Di Reggae. “I would like to bring in more bands and artists, maybe add in some motivational speakers. Right now, we are renovating the back of the restaurant to include an outdoor eating area. We anticipate that our patio will open sometime this year. Our extended food licence has been approved and we are busy developing the space.” He smiles as he adds, “Ultimately, I want Di Reggae to be a destination restaurant — the place you come to when you want some great Caribbean food and lively entertainment shared with friends and family.”
Di Reggae also offers take out meals, private parties and outside catering as well as their dine-in menu — and of course, great food, excellent customer service and a friendly, fun atmosphere. As it says on eatery’s website, “Di Reggae Café represents roots, culture, diversity, heart, home & family” where everything is always irie. Come join us for a cool island time and engage in a delightful ting!”
Visit Di Reggae’s website for more information.