Norma G’s Cuisine, a Caribbean restaurant, officially opened its doors to the public Tuesday. Once a food truck, it now has a permanent home at 14700 E. Jefferson Ave. in Detroit and is the first sit-down, full-service restaurant to open in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood in 30 years.
The restaurant, named after owner and chef Lester Gouvia’s mother, seats 91 people. The menu offers an elevated version of Norma G’s food-truck offerings in flavors and combinations that showcase an array of cultures that make up Caribbean cuisine, including Indian, African, Spanish, and French.
Dishes include coo-coo and callaloo (polenta, spinach, and okra with house seasoning), chicken pelau, jerk chicken, and curry goat. Oxtail and jerk chicken sliders as well as mac ‘n’ cheese and Trinidad-style potato salad are also offered. All entrees are served with fried plantains, and beers and specialty cocktails are also available.
“The food we serve is the food I grew up eating and the recipes I was taught to cook by my mother in Trinidad,” says Gouvia. “For me, Norma G’s is an opportunity for me to expand the Norma G’s brand to the next phase, while making an investment, a commitment, to the Jefferson-Chalmers community. I think Norma G’s is one of the first businesses in what I know is about to be a significant redevelopment of this area. More dining and entertainment and small-business development in the area will follow.”
The 2,500-square-foot eatery was renovated with the help of former tenant and current owner Jefferson East Inc., as well as an investment of nearly $500,000 from several sources and Gouvia. It features a high-top seating area, windows, and a retractable window that opens to a patio dining area.
The restaurant was designed by Hamilton Anderson Associates and features teal, yellow, and pink punches of color on the walls, as well as cushioned bar stools. Wood and metal chairs and tables mimic the exterior design. Parking is available behind the restaurant.
Gouvia also worked with TechTown Detroit’s SWOT City and Hatch Detroit to secure funding for Norma G’s from a variety of sources, including Motor City Match. He also received grants and loans with support from organizations such as Food Lab Detroit. Gouvia was a finalist in the 2015 Hatch Detroit Contest and is a graduate of TechTown’s Retail Boot Camp program.
“This has been a labor of love, as well as a real-life example of it takes a village,” says Gouvia. “There were countless supporters that made Norma G’s a reality.”
Norma G’s is open 4:30-10 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday and 4:30 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.