Last September, Frederick native Devona Austin urged her family to move forward with a lifelong dream of opening a restaurant. Her Jamaican-born parents often served hundreds of people at barbecues pre-pandemic, and Austin has experience in the startup space from her work in the cannabis industry.
Thus, Irie Eats was born. The takeout and delivery Jamaican restaurant is currently operating out of the Cutting Board on East 2nd Street, a shared commercial kitchen.
Austin felt the shared-use space would allow her family to learn and prove their business concept without committing to a lease, renovations and utility payments.
“We’d like to be in a food truck pretty soon,” Austin said. “And that’s the next plan, but for now the shared space allows us to learn to grow, and so that’s why we’re there.”
Irie Eats is a true family business. The recipes come from Devona’s parents, Stanley and Charmaine Austin. Her siblings Tyler and Arijana work in the restaurant, and her sister Alexia, who currently lives in California, runs the social media accounts.
Stanley Austin said the menu is currently scaled down so the family can focus on perfecting recipes and processes. While he’s been cooking food such as oxtail, jerk chicken, curry goat and Jamaican beef patties for years, making them in a commercial kitchen with different orders coming in at once is a new experience.
“There’s definitely some learning happening,” he said.
He admits the first few days were rough, but he was committed to remedy any customer who did not enjoy their meal. Now that Irie Eats has been open for about seven weeks, the Austin family feels like they’re on better footing. They’ve also been receiving good feedback from the community and positive reviews online.
“It’s fast-paced. I think every day the staff is trying to be better than the day before,” Devona said. “I think there’s still a lot of room for growth, but as long as we are trying to be better and consistent, one day at a time, that’s all it’s going to take.”
In addition to the meat entrees, Irie Eats also serves a vegetarian curry dish and sides such as white rice and cabbage. They also sell popular Jamaican drinks, including the fruit-flavored soda Ting and D&G soft drinks. Orders can be placed online, and delivery is available in certain neighborhoods. Stanley Austin said he’s working on getting tables and umbrellas for outdoor seating.
The name of the restaurant comes from the Jamaican Patois and Rastafarian English word “irie,” which means “feel good.”
“Food makes up so much of your life, and so you want it to have that irie, cool vibes, and that’s what we’re going for,” Stanley Austin said.
While the restaurant is still new, Devona Austin hopes to one day expand the business to other locations or venues like the aforementioned food truck. The potential for growth excites her.
“We’ve always been a family that connects in the kitchen, and both of my grandmothers were bakers or cooks or things like that and have experience with their own shops, so it was just very natural for this to be something that we did,” she said. “And I think when we finally did it, it was like, why didn’t we do this years ago?”
Open for Business is an occasional feature highlighting new businesses around Frederick County. Contact Erika Riley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley