Singh of Roti

Harry Singh’s brings Trinidad to Eat Street

The world, or at least our small corner of it, might be a different place if Harry Singh were a probation officer. It could have been that way.

Singh arrived in Minnesota from his native Trinidad and Tobago in 1970 to attend the University of St. Thomas, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. It took a few years, but he eventually realized he just wasn’t meant to spend his life working with juvenile offenders.

Singh was meant to cook.

He started early. Singh was only 9 years old when his mother taught him her recipes and put him to work feeding the family, which included Singh’s five brothers and two sisters.

The first thing he made was roti, the chewy flatbread with roots in India. It arrived in the Caribbean, along with Indian spices and curries, when the British brought Indians of Singh’s grandparents’ generation to Trinidad and Tobago as indentured servants.

He was precocious in the kitchen. Singh said his father watched him work one day, just to prove to himself that his son really could cook like that.

It wasn’t until 1983, when Singh told his wife he didn’t want to be a probation officer anymore and he planned to open a restaurant, that Minneapolitans got to taste his cooking.

That was a different time. Midwesterners weren’t used to the exotic spices in Singh’s food, but they caught on quickly.

“The only thing they were skeptical of was the hot sauce — then and now the hottest thing,” Singh said.

Singh’s West Indian curries are different from the thick, saucy dishes served in most Indian restaurants. They are drier, and each note in the mélange of spices is more pronounced.

They are delicious on top of a roti. Each roti is cooked fresh to order on the heavy metal plate on top of one burner on Singh’s stove.

Singh does it all in his restaurant. He cooks, with the help of his son. He’ll take your order if you eat in. He answers the phone. He brings you your bag of takeout — maybe a roti and some jerk chicken wings with some of that famous hot sauce.

Now is a good time to visit Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant on Eat Street. Singh is rolling out some new menu items with recession-friendly prices.

A restaurant owner with compassion. There’s a bit of the old social worker in him yet.

Reach Dylan Thomas at [email protected]

Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant
2653 Nicollet Ave. S.