I will try to remain calm as I describe Fire & Spice and I promise to limit my use of superlatives and exclamation marks; but it’s not easy. This food is exciting — in concept as well as flavor. Take, for instance, the BLT. Instead of ordinary bacon, it is made with thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon that fairly vibrates with jerk-seasoning zest; mayonnaise is jalapeno-spiked; toast is double-thick Texas style. Oh, and did I mention that the amount of bacon is enough for two or three sandwiches? A couple of times while chomping through it, I actually had the insane thought there might be too much bacon. (A thought easily dismissed)
Jerk seasoning is a star player all over the menu. Jerk chicken is abundantly juicy, tender, and gentle — all qualities that are stunningly counterbalanced by a sharp fusillade of peppery spices. Likewise, jerk pork has that velvety-sweet quality of smoke-cooked meat, but a veil of jerk seasoning makes it a mouthful of reveille.
Much of the menu is sandwiches. Big ones: Cubans, Reubens, subs, roast beef, and French dip, plus such interesting creations as Korean BBQ cheese steak and Greek lamb cheese steak. The classic Philly cheese steak is, according to the friend with whom I shared it, “the best cheese steak on this or any other planet.” Moist, booming-flavored shaved beef — a tender joy to chew with its few crisp edges — is piled into a long torpedo loaf with your choice of cheese (but no Whiz) and options of grilled sweet onions, mushrooms, or peppers. I would stack it up against Philadelphia’s best.
Even if you’re eating a sandwich, I suggest you skip chips and focus on the side dishes that come with hot-meal plates. I can’t remember collard greens so scrumptious: big, weighty leaves that are tender but not mushy glow with vegetable sweetness. Silk-textured baked beans are laced with pork and radiate smoke savor. Fried plantains are sweet but not candy-sweet, their sugar content balanced by the sharp citrusy twist of fruit that is not quite fully ripe. Rice, dotted with beans, is flavored with coconut. I was so intrigued by macaroni salad with its crunchy bits of pepper and pickle and some other vibrant but elusive flavor that I asked the chef to tell me what was in it. He grinned, silently, the implication being that if he told me, he’d have to kill me.
A modest storefront just off Broad River Road, Fire & Spice is an earnest, eager-to-please, mom & pop operation. (Mom = Lynette DeMusis; Pop = her husband and chef, Michael George.) It’s as casual as any neighborhood deli. Place your order and pay at the counter where the day’s specialties are posted, then find a seat to which your food is brought. Nothing on the menu costs over $10.
Do note that the bill of fare changes daily, and that the jerk bacon BLT is, so far, only an occasional specialty. Also note that Fire & Spice is open only from 11-3, and only Tuesday through Friday.