A Taste of the Caribbean in Hickory Hill

The smell of spices fills the air at the new Caribbean Flayvahz restaurant in Hickory Hill. 

"My dad is from a small island called Saint Kitts. I fell in love with my Caribbean side," said co-owner Carla Faulkner. "I've been cooking since I was 7, and cooking Caribbean food since I was 10. It's so vibrant and colorful. It's something I wanted to share with others."

Faulkner owns the business with her husband, Louis. It officially opened on January 25.

Business hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. until 8 p.m. The restaurant is located at 3650 Ridgeway Road.

It's still very much a startup with just one employee — a talented chef named Robert Coleman — but it's already developing a loyal following from customers across the Memphis metro area, including Arkansas and Mississippi.

“They really love the food. A lot of people come in and try the food for the first time. It's allowing them to go to a place without flying,” said Carla Faulkner.

Faulkner said the differences between traditional soul food, which is readily available throughout Memphis, and Caribbean food is the spices.

“Caribbean food is cooked with a lot of spices, a lot of flavor and a lot of color," she said.

Curried goat is served with rice, steamed cabbage and plantains at Caribbean Flayvahz located in Hickory Hill. (Caribbean Flayvahz) She said the oxtail and honey jerk shrimp are favorites of many customers. 

“It gives you that spice and sweetness with a little kick,” said Faulker.

The menu also includes curried goat, codfish cakes, coco bread, steamed fish and other staple Caribbean dishes. They also carry specialty drinks like Reggae Medley, Sorrel Ginger, pineapple soda and ginger beer. 

The Faulkners have been most surprised to see Memphis' Caribbean and West Indian communities frequenting the restaurant. They get a lot of customers who hail from Guyana, Trinidad and other island nations.

“We're like, 'Wow! We never seen you around Memphis before!'” said Faulkner.

Seasoning the flayvahz

Louis Faulkner is a native Memphian from the Orange Mound area while Carla Faulkner moved to Memphis from New York. They've talking about opening a restaurant since they first met.

Soon after opening Caribbean Flayvahz, the couple hired Coleman as their chef.

“It's been a game changer ever since because I've been learning more about Caribbean foods and what to look for and what it tastes like,” said Coleman.

Coleman has been cooking for more than 10 years. He said cooking at the restaurant is more like home cooking than most restaurant production.

“You put love into it,” he said.

“He is a huge part of our foundation," Faulkner said of Coleman. "Later on, we plan on putting him in charge of our other locations because he's been with us pretty much since the beginning."

The other locations don't exist yet, but they are in the Faulkners' future plans. 

"Right now we're just growing. We want to make sure that by the time we branch out and have other locations, they're running smoothly,” said Faulkner.

“We would like to have some vendor events to benefit the community, maybe in healthcare,” added Louis Faulkner. “My background is social services, so I would like to definitely provide some things that the community may need.”

The couple, both of whom are graduates of LeMoyne-Owen College, searched the city to find a location to host the restaurant. Louis Faulkner is a former resident of Hickory Hill and was familiar with the area. 

“God led us to this place,” he said. “I used to live in this area. The value has decreased a little over time, but it's a vibrant area. It's a high traffic area. So if you have something good or great to offer, people will come.”
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Read more articles by A. J. Dugger III.

A.J. Dugger III is an award-winning journalist and native Memphian who joined High Ground as lead writer for its signature series, On the Ground, in August 2019. Previously, he wrote for numerous publications in West Tennessee and authored two books, “Southern Terror” and “The Dealers: Then and Now.” He has also appeared as a guest expert on the true-crime series, “For My Man.” For more information, visit ajdugger.net. (Photo by April Stilwell)