SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Originally from Jamaica– the owner of Erma’s Island has found a home in the heart of downtown Syracuse; right here inside of Salt City Market.
“When I came here, I was 19. So, it is a little over 20 years since i have been here. And as I said, I came on a work visa. So, it was a program that allows people from third-world countries to come and work. And the program was based in Syracuse. So, I came here and fell in love with it. And the program i came through was to work at McDonald’s,” Latoya Ricks said.
From working at McDonald’s to owning a restaurant, Latoya has cooked up a unique menu filled with unique dishes. Sunshine salad, jerk chicken and oxtail are a few fan favorites.
“Her brazed oxtail is very, very good. I love the beef patties. You always got to get a beef patty if you come here,” customer Evan Starling-Davis said. “It’s just good food, good vibes and really good service.”
Keith Hurts, another Erma’s Island customer laid out his favorites.
“I’ll give you my top two. My top one is oxtail. My second is the curry chicken. It’s amazing. And if I’m quick, the beef patties are also awesome, too.”
Jerk Chicken Rasta Pasta was created by a Jamaican chef in 1985, but the colorful dish has become more of a staple here in the U.S. over the last few years. At Erma’s, the Rasta Pasta has a twist.
“One of the things I’ve done recently was to add other protein to Rasta Pasta. Because initially, it was just jerk chicken that goes with the pasta. And now we offer it with salmon or oxtail so it’s kind of like you get the best of both worlds,” Ricks said.
The pasta is simple. Sautee broccoli and carrots and add heavy whipping cream, then some spices and homemade jerk sauce.
Latoya says she often thinks about her journey to opening her own business.
“Especially knowing that McDonald’s was the only kitchen that I’ve worked in. So, you know, it’s a different style but i’ve definitely come a long way,” Ricks said.
Erma’s Island was one of the original vendors when salt city market opened in January 2021. Latoya’s favorite part? Customer satisfaction.
”I’ve been here a little over two years now and just the smile and the joy that the food brings to the customers. So, I think that’s the best reward of being a business owner,” Ricks said.
No reservations are needed but some dishes are made to order. All you have to do is walk in and enjoy.
Erma’s island is open every day, except for Wednesday, from 11-9 p.m. On Sundays, she is open 11 to 5 p.m. and offers a special brunch menu.