Destination CaribbeanHere there be pirates.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Here there be pirates.
The former Berger Hardware building is now a tropical paradise, complete with ocean-side views, the beat of calypso music, spicy scents wafting through the air and pirates. The site at 525 Tower Ave., at one time a sushi bar and Mama Get’s Restaurant, has been transformed into Marlee’s Caribbean Restaurant. The new business, owned by Bob and Penny Gellatly, opens Monday, bringing a taste of the tropics to Superior’s North End.
“When it’s 20 below and the wind is coming off the lake, we want you to feel like you can walk in and just relax,” Bob Gellatly said. “You’re at the Caribbean, at least for half an hour.”
The new business mixes Cajun and Caribbean cuisine, letting diners choose between items like coconut shrimp, jambalaya, a real Cuban sandwich, Jamaican jerk chicken or Atlantic fish cooked in any style.
“You can have them blackened, we can jerk it, we can deep fry it or boil it if you want it, but there’ll be no walleye here,” Gellatly said. “You can get walleye anywhere.”
The restaurant is filling a niche – offering a unique menu filled with sweet, tangy, healthy dishes swirled in spices instead of the same old burger and fries.
“It’s different, but it’s a good product,” Gellatly said. “Different, not weird.”
And customer service is the top priority.
“Penny’s goal is to see repeat business,” Gellatly said.
“I’ll feel warm and fuzzy when I get you back the second or third time,” his wife said. “Then I know I’ve succeeded.”
And, the couple said, one meal should get customers hooked.
“I believe we have what it takes to bring them back,” Penny Gellatly said.
During a soft opening Tuesday night, diners raved about the Louisiana pork tenderloin. Another dish getting good reviews is Marlee’s pasta, Darin Weaver’s own recipe. The dish blends penne pasta with spicy Tasso ham, a creamy Cajun sauce, peas and parmesan cheese, ready to be topped with any meat, blackened or jerked.
“It has some of the really good comfort food flavors that make your tummy real warm,” said Weaver’s wife and co-chef, DeJonna.
Diners looking for gumbo, okra, curried lamb or Southern fried chicken and waffles can find what they seek at Marlee’s. Gumbo is a thick Southern soup that acts like a good shot of whiskey.
“When you eat it, it just goes down nice and smooth,” said Darin Weaver. “Then all of a sudden the warmth flows over.”
While island food is bursting with spices, that doesn’t mean diners will be reaching for their water glasses to put out the fire.
“It’s not ridiculously hot, peppery food, it’s a wonderful blend of spices,” Bob Gellatly said. The jerk dishes, for example, are swirled in 18 different spices, from cloves and cinnamon to soy and habanero. But their heat is cooled, their flavor enhanced by the addition of tropical salsa – a side dish that blends traditional peppers and onions with pineapple and mango.
“It works on your tongue like magic,” Penny Gellatly said. The food of the islands, a crossroads for so many different cultures, hits every area of your tongue.
“Sweet with heat in the background,” DeJonna Weaver said. “I love all of the flavor.”
And save room for dessert. DeJonna Weaver has created the restaurant’s signature dessert, the Marlee’s banana chimichanga.
She mixes bananas, cinnamon, chocolate, some toasted pecans and a little bit of love, rolls it just like a regular burrito and covers it with coconut rum sauce and whipped cream.
“It got rave reviews,” Bob Gellatly said.
The business employs 30 and puts a sturdy historic building back in use. Marlee’s is the second Superior enterprise for the Gellatlys. They purchased Off the Wagon bar, also in North End, last October.
What they call their workingman’s bar and the new restaurant were good opportunities that help bring new life to the area.
“I have not experienced any of the stigma of the North End of Superior,” Bob Gellatly said. It’s a good area, he said, and a great destination for diners.
The restaurant offers good food at a good price, with most entrees less than $20.
Children are welcome. Coloring books are ready for young artists. Boys can expect an eye-patch; girls get a flower lei. Alcohol will be served, but the Gellatlys stressed this is a restaurant that serves alcohol, not a bar with food. There are no TVs, no jukeboxes, just the island music to get your feet tapping.
“We want to create a destination,” Bob Gellatly said. At Marlee’s, it’s “irie” – the Jamaican word for “everything’s all right, mon.”