Tuesday, July 13, 2021 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Proviso Township’s newest Jamaican restaurant opened in Maywood about a month ago. Lickle Jamaican, located at 620 S 5th Ave. in the village, is the brainchild of Tusain Collins, 28, and his fiancé, Courtney Ellison.
Collins and Ellison, high school sweethearts who met while both were attending Proviso East High School in Maywood, said opening the restaurant in the place they call home has been a dream years in the making.
“He’s been working in the restaurant since he came here from Jamaica,” Ellison said. “Once I saw that he had the skill and that people would reach out to him like, ‘You need to work for me, you need to run my grill and help me start up a restaurant,’ I was like, ‘Baby, you can do this yourself.’”
Collins said he came to America in 2008. Shortly afterward, he started working in uncle’s Jamaican restaurant, Jerk Villa, in Chicago. Another uncle owns Tropical Times Caribbean, which was in Maywood for years before moving to 22 W. Lake St. in Northlake in 2018.
Tusain Collins and his fiancé, Courtney Ellison, outside of their Maywood restaurant, which they opened roughly a month ago. | File
“I would work part-time at Tropical Time after track and football practice, and after games on Fridays and Saturdays,” Collins said.
He said he quit his job in October, amid the pandemic, and started cooking out of his home, where he built a strong, steady clientele.
“People who knew me from those restaurants would pull up and get some food from me,” he said.
Collins and Ellison live on 9th and Madison in Maywood, near a laundromat. As people washed their clothes, they would smell the rich, smoky aroma coming from Collins’ grills.
“I would give them samples and they would spread the word,” he said, adding that, ironically enough, the COVID-19 pandemic was a boon to his business. As brick-and-mortar restaurants closed, people would migrate to his home cooking.
With the financial backing of his older brother, Shane Collins, Tusain was able to pay for rent, equipment and the process of building out the storefront, which used to be the home of Magallanes Tacos before the restaurant closed early last year.
“I’m grateful for my older brother,” Tusain said. “He’s the power man behind this. We’re just trying to make a better living for ourselves and our family.”
Tusain said his restaurant features all of the usual staples of traditional Jamaican cuisine — from ox tails to jerk chicken. But his menu also caters to a younger crowd of Americans, including the friends and family he’s made while here in America.
A crowd of patrons gathers inside of Lickle Jamaican in Maywood last week. | File
That newer sensibility is reflected in dishes like jerk Alfredo pasta and jerk pizza. Tusain said he even offers vegan options.
Ellison, who was born and raised in Maywood, said “it feels good” seeing people she grew up with support her and her fiancé’s store.
The support goes both ways. Collins said he gets a lot of his products from Kingston Market Caribbean and African Groceries, the store that opened at 1401 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood in 2019.
The couple, who have two children and one on the way, said they hope to leave their mark on the village they love. It’s all part of their vision, they said.
“This is something that was manifest, because we spoke this into existence,” Ellison said. “We would talk about this like it was going to happen. We said, ‘It’s going to be in Maywood and it’s going to happen for us.’ We knew already. It’s still a shock, though.”
“We’re still soaking everything in,” Tusain said.
Lickle Jamaica is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and on Sunday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Monday.