151 West Sandford Boulevard Mount Vernon NY 10550 914.665.7689
DISCLAIMER: I look on with disdain when chefs post fluff in the third person to make themselves look important.
Now here I am guilty of doing the same shit 'cause they say people wanna know who you are. I Hope "they" have made me sound important enough for you to at least be curious as to why they still allow me in the kitchen.
Nigel Spence is quite clearly a chef who does not hide behind or rely solely on artfully presented plates of food. His arsenal is far more impressive than that.
One of the most important areas where Spence and his chefs excel is that they understand the fine line between innovation and authenticity. While they prepare foods in unexpectedly creative ways (think pairings and technique), the true flavors of his principal ingredients have not been sacrificed merely for originality sake.
It is a gift to be able to balance the two and this Spence does handily while redefining the vocabulary of Caribbean fare.
The original intention upon opening was simply to have a neighborhood bar with a limited menu of just amazingly seasoned Jerk Chicken, smoked over some “real” charcoal on our massive grill, and some super fresh Fried or Steamed Snapper - like we all used to eat on Sundays at the beach in Kingston, Jamaica where we grew up, sipping on potent cocktails.
It began that way, drinking the nights away while serving up a limited menu, but as word got out, the guests begged for more menu items and pleaded for full dinner service. We recognized that there was a void in the neighborhood for such a venue so we foolishly filled it, and now, 19 years later, we are almost sober and still up to our necks running a “real” restaurant (er, neighborhood joint)
We serve up classic Caribbean fare not so much with a twist, but rather just executed properly, simply, not overdone or over-embellished with just a hint of excitement. We cringe at terms like fusion. Just let the food be food. We have one definite vision, a commitment to a menu inspired by Jamaica, but without boundaries. Just good simple food and the freedom to pull from any cuisine and make it our own. We are proud to see so many other Caribbean kitchens following our lead by removing the shackles of strict adherence to conventional fare and allowing their creativity to guide menu development
OWNER & Executive Chef
Chef Spence, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus, was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
Opened in 2003, Ripe was Mr. Spence’s first entrepreneurial endeavor outside of a road side “jerk shack” that helped put him through school.
As part of the CIA’s intense and exclusive training program, Nigel interned at the Television Food Network. After graduating in 1997, Nigel was asked to stay on at the network which he did for approximately 3 years. TVFN afforded Nigel the opportunity to work with culinary luminaries such as Mario Batali, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse.
Chef Spence has appeared on Throwdown with Bobby Flay where he emerged the victor in a jerk cook off against the Food Network star, and later went up for battle with Bobby Flay yet again on Re-Match On The Grill, a one-hour TV Food Network special, filmed at the prestigious Biltmore Hotel and Resort in Miami.
He has also made special appearances on The Today Show on WNBC (NY), Tony's Table on WCBS (NY), Neighborhood Eats, on WABC (NY), and Martha Stewart's Living Today. He was also featured on the award winning in-flight program Island Stylee on Jamaica’s national airline, Air Jamaica.
Chef Spence made another appearance on TV Food Network in their latest competition series, Chopped. The show made its debut on the Food Network, where he was again pitted against three other Executive chefs in a grueling cooking competition.
Nigel's work at Ripe has also received positive reviews from and has been featured in various media outlets, including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Journal News, The Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaican Eats, Jamaican Magazine, Jamaicans.com, The Westchester Magazine, Hudson Valley News, the Westchester Tribune, Jamrock Magazine and Caribbean Life.
If a space can be described as sultry and seductive then Ripe Kitchen and Bar definitely qualifies. It is the house that restaurateur and executive chef Nigel Spence built on an industrialized expanse of street in Mt. Vernon, New York.
Ripe transports you to Jamaica – so much so – that you almost feel the caress of the trade winds, smell the fragrance of flowers in bloom and you fully expect to hear cicadas and raindrops on a zinc roof whenever it rains. (I assure you, you can’t … unless you’ve had one of the restaurant’s more potent libations).
The interior is lit almost exclusively by candlelight and there is no white tablecloth service to be had which is the way the boss wanted it; unpretentious, inclusive, intimate and the kind of place that makes you forget that Ripe boasts an address in an urban area, and that you actually have things to do and a home to go to afterwards. Simply, leaving is usually a hardship for patrons on most nights.
It is fair then, to say that Ripe is a candid reflection of the man himself.
In a time when almost everyone has a gimmick, Spence’s preference for shirts emblazoned with colorful depictions of flora and fauna (oftentimes both) that truly defy description, is a trademark. He honestly adores them. He keeps a low profile and likes to shun much of the attention that now comes his way after high profile appearances, but someone needs to tell him that the shirts are a dead giveaway.
Ripe delights in challenging traditional business methods and passionately believe that business can be fun. We enjoy a sense of being different, because unlike most businesses, we esteem Ripe as a continuous “work in progress” with a “purpose beyond profits”.
We continuously strive to present the Art, Literature, Music, and Food of our Caribbean culture in new and interesting ways.
Management is deeply committed to social responsibility, so at the drop of a hat, with drink specials flowing, we make friends and dancers of everyone - neighbors, dignitaries, tourists and staff members alike - into the wee, wee (did we say wee ?) hours of the morning.
Ripe will compromise on almost anything but not our core ideology (rum, fun, done), our shabby chic aesthetics or our sense of curiosity.
CURRENTLY NO RESERVATIONS-
WE GLADLY ACCEPT WALK-INS ONLY
AT THIS TIME
Have a drink
at the bar
oh my gosh, the bar was on fire last night for Taco Wednesday.
What a beautiful evening it turned out to be after such a crappy day!
We partied like it was a mid-summer Friday night!
Thanks "Indian" for jumping in and tearing up the beats wid your old skool selections, you had us all feeling like we were at a "rebel salute" concert in Jamaica! Buyaka! Buyaka!..Bup Bup Bup..Nuff corn a fire!
And to that student from my alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America with the impromptu interview request. I lied to you. I actually do eat crappy food especially after a night of drinking, and i have the utmost respect for the Dirty Water New York Hot Dog...and I eat Ravioli's from the can at 7-11 when i'm real drunk, and the Chinese guy behind the counter always gets pissed at me cause i never tell him the truth about how many donuts i really ate when i get to the register to pay. I didn't want to burst your bubble since you thought i was such an awesome chef, and too many people were listening. My word of caution: Culinary school teaches you how to run a kitchen, not how to make money.......And back in the day when i just opened the restaurant, I occasionally ate the nasty ham and cheese sandwich from the Deli down the street from the restaurant cause he was my landlord and whenever i was late with the rent i ate it in front of him and made all kinds of oohs and aaahs sounds and pretended it tasted really good so him glad bag would buss and give me a couple more days to pay
that super drunk dude with the Red Stripe, no I did NOT invent Taco's, someone else beat me to it, and no, the bamboo trees were not imported from Jamaica nor will they bear bananas. Most bananas I know of come from the banana store.
to my Fish Guy Mike, no I was not trying to get you drunk to get a better price on the lobsters.. and I did not take your advice about the tables in the backyard. Unlike your fish, your decorative ideas stink!
Thanks Keisha for getting me way too drunk and making me sing off key at your birthday table while your other dude friend belted out a cappella happy birthday song with his opera voice and made me sound like Archie Bunker's wife Edith.
Thanks Corey and Junior for bringing me a taste of your excellently seasoned Trenton, (dat be pork, for the uninitiated) it was "wicked" good, and for picking up where Indian left off with the music when his wife called about his curfew violation. Its amazing that Roger turns out to be your in-law. See what communal tables can reveal??!!!
to those slightly obnoxious buzz killing folks on Caribbean time, PLEASE remember, the Whako Taco Happy Hour Wednesday is over at 8pm sharp, not 9:17 when you stroll in half drunk from someone else's happy hour in Manhattan because you didn't like their food! Stay there with your lame asss "Manhattan" friends and suffer the consequences, or get to Ripe on time for the full Taco Wednesday experience! and BTW...a fish Taco has fish in it and is NOT vegan, because fish is a meat protein. If you choose to adopt the vegan lifestyle then at least know what it means!...and the rib-eye tacos do not have Ribs in it, and you spit a lot when you talk, that's why i had to walk away, but i didn't want to say that in front of your friends
to the British chick that whispered in my ears what you had on your mind ...ooooh boy....my knickers are still trembling. I'm not even sure I really understood what you were sayin' cause you were slurring a little bit, but the accent made me wanna do it anyways.Maybe you will come back one day so I can match a name to those thoughts...I hope you didn't think I was a wuss because I told you that I say a little prayer for my lobsters before I murder them.
ripe kitchen & bar
151 west sandford boulevard
Mount vernon ny 10550
tuesday to SATURDAY 4pm-11pm
CLOSED Sunday & MONDAYS
Ripe has no sign out front. You CAN get lost! Its a corner building that looks like no-one's home. It is a brown building with orange highlights and a high brown fence around the corner.
Ripe is located on Sandford Boulevard at the corner of 11th Avenue in Mount Vernon. It is EXACTLY 1.1 miles West of the Target/Best Buy mall, and 7 blocks East of Baychester Avenue in the Bronx.
***FYI***Sandford Boulevard changes to "Pitman Avenue" when crossing the Bronx border, and 11th Avenue changes to "Mundy Lane".
There is street parking up until 2am. If you got caught up in the bar scene, tell him or her that you gotta move the car before trying to seal the deal
Do not leave your car overnight on Sandford boulevard. It will be ticketed.
Take the #2 subway line to the second to last stop in the Bronx which is called Nereid Avenue/238th Street. Then take the BX 16 bus toward Mundy Lane & Sandford Boulevard. (ask the bus driver where to get off, most of them eat here)
The restaurant is 1 block east of this stop.
Take the # 5 subway line to the last stop in the Bronx which is Dyre avenue. Take a gypsy cab (don't even know if they still have those) or UBER- to the restaurant. The cab cost is around $7 dollars.
Take the Metro North train from Grand Central to Mount Vernon West. This stop is 25 minutes from Grand Central. Take a cab from the train station to the restaurant. The cab averages about $8 dollars.
The restaurant is close to the Bronx River Parkway, Hutchinson River Parkway, New England Thruway (95), and the Interstate 87 (Major Deegan Expressway)