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Jamaican restaurant opens near Columbia’s Benedict, Allen (803) 771-8308April 3, 2014 

Norris Ellis Jr. and Norris Ellis Sr. opened Island Grill on Harden Street across from Benedict College and Allen University last week. The elder Ellis is a native of Jamaica and also owns another Jamiacan restaurant on Two Notch Road.

THE STATE — Kristy Rupon

— The Ellis family is bringing a Jamaican flair to downtown Columbia.

Norris Ellis Jr. opened Island Grill last week at 1601 Harden St., serving up old family recipes made by his family members, natives of Jamaica.

“My grandma is the head chef,” said Ellis, 25, who moved recently from New York to join his father, Norris Ellis Sr., in Columbia. The elder Ellis opened Taste of Jamaica along Two Notch Road four years ago. He said he is happy to welcome his son into the business with a second restaurant.

Island Grill is at the corner of Taylor and Harden streets, across from Benedict College and Allen University. For the restaurant, the family refurbished the former Empire Grill at College Corner, which closed last year.

The younger Ellis said he hopes to be able to offer up affordable, nutritious, home-cooked food to cater to both the college crowd and the Columbia community as an alternative to the ubiquitous fast food in the area.

“We feel like we can offer a little more of a homey kind of environment,” he said.

The restaurant serves breakfast starting at 8 a.m., ranging from an egg-and-cheese sandwich to a traditional island breakfast, featuring Callaloo and Ackee and Salt fish. Prices range from $2 to $8.

Lunch and dinner entrees run from about $7.50 to $13, and include items such as oxtails, curry goat, jerky chicken and escovitch fish.

The restaurant also puts a focus on healthy drinks, offering sorrel, carrot juice, Irish moss and fresh-made juiced fruit drinks.

“We’re trying to bring as much healthy food as we can,” Norris Ellis Jr. said.

The family plans a grand opening later this month and, eventually, will add to the restaurant’s atmosphere by hosting events, including talent nights and poetry readings.

“Columbia is moving in a positive direction” with more diverse offerings, the younger Ellis said, adding his new restaurant wants to be a part of that with its “good food and good vibes.”

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