Cafe Trinidad in Bronzeville a favorite of Broadway star Heather Headley

Sunday, July 20, 2014

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Heather Headley has won Grammys and Tonys for her work on Broadway, most recently playing the role of Whitney Houston in "The Bodyguard" on London's West End.

Back home in Chicago, she often longs for the food from her native Trinidad, so she regularly makes the hour-long drive to Cafe Trinidad in Bronzeville, where we started our meal with some fried snacks.

"This is kuma, it's a fried dough with sugar-glazed fried dough," Headley said. "My life is becoming better, and of course we have plantains."

"So roti is what?" I asked.

"It's literally just a wrap, our flour, but it's filled with peas, as you can see, split peas, right?" Headley said.

Embedded within the roti is some curried goat and curried chicken - signs of the Indian influence on the island. On the side: rice and peas as well as calalloo.

"It really is everything we have indigenous to the island: crab, okra, this plant that we call dasheen bush, coconut milk; you can have it in soup form or you can have it over white rice," she said.

But then Headley gets positively giddy when the doubles arrive.

"Inside of it is curried garbanzo beans with a pepper and a dill, this is kind of like a cucumber/pepper/dill that they have in there and the thing is like amazing. I will order 4,000 of these things before I go home," she said. "It's really authentic, and so close to Trinidad, it's one of the first restaurants I found in Chicago, in America that I remember just coming up to, and I remember biting into it and being, 'Oh, I'm home.'"

I had to ask Headley how many doubles she has had in one sitting - what is her record?

"It's like five. Five or six, but don't tell the world," she said.

I won't tell anyone, I said, but I'm going to go for the record today.

Be sure to call ahead to make sure they have kuma and doubles available. Also, ask if they have any sorrel, a tropical drink made from hibiscus flowers.

Cafe Trinidad

700 E. 47th St.


To find out where to hear/see Heather Headley: