San Jose’s Japantown is home to some of the finest sushi, hot pot and noodle houses in the valley, as well as fabulous cultural events such as the Obon festival. The last thing one might expect to find flourishing in the neighborhood is one of the best new Caribbean and soul food joints in the Bay Area.

“My cousin and I decided to open up Carisoul as a gift for my Aunty Wendy,” says owner Omar Boyd. “This has been her dream for quite some time. Her love for cooking is clear to see once you taste any of her homemade meals.”

Despite being open less than three months, Carisoul has already assembled a devoted following with its amalgamated fusion of Caribbean, soul food and Southern barbecue. The menu is simple and features a small, curated selection of meats and sides that are easily shared. Boyd asked my cohort and me which items we wanted to try, and my reply was easy: “All of the them.”

Realizing I was serious, he proceeded to load up our plates with their jerk chicken, barbecue ribs and oxtails ($17.99/two meat plate and $14.99/one meat plate). Carisoul does have other meats (i.e., jerk pulled pork and beef tanga), but the selection varies on a daily basis. Each plate comes with two sides, so we opted for the Calypso Mac & Cheese, coconut rice, Trini green beans and garlic potatoes.

All of the sides were tasty, but the fluffy, sweet coconut rice and the macaroni and cheese especially stood out, the latter providing a baked-on crust that I adored.

As for the meats—where to begin?

From the spicy, tender jerk chicken to the smoky, fall-off-the-bone ribs, we couldn’t stop humming in delight. However, the real showstopper here is the enormous yet fork-tender oxtails, which were cooked in a heavenly beef gravy. It was a Caribbean Thanksgiving!

A caveat on the oxtails: there’s no avoiding getting a bit messy while eating them, but I make no apologies for grabbing and gnawing them caveman-style; it’s the best way to get every last delicious morsel off of the bones. I also recommend adding the gravy to the coconut rice; be prepared for nirvana.

It’s funny how quickly expectations can change. Japantown has long been a favorite destination for local foodies, but next time the chopsticks might need to wait.

Carisoul BBQ
655 N Sixth St, San Jose.