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How an unassuming roti shop in Marietta became a home for local residents and celebrities alike
Tassa Caribbean Restaurant fosters community through authentic, casual Caribbean-American food.
By Phoebe Quinton
285 South Contributor Phoebe Quinton grew up eating at Tassa. It was one of the few places she could go to that offered Caribbean food that tasted like her meals at home. For this feature, she spoke with Tassa's owner Radhika Edoo to understand just how the restaurant came to be, and why it's so special for such a diverse range of people (including Samuel L. Jackson!)
With its wide front porch, white wood walls and sloping roof, Tassa’s Roti Shop looks more like a house than a restaurant. It doesn’t fight for attention in the bustling city of Atlanta, but instead sits quietly in Marietta just off I-75. The entrance is through the back door, creating a familiar and intimate atmosphere. The inside walls are lined with dozens of photographs of celebrity visitors ranging from Samuel L. Jackson to Viola Davis.
“West Indian people, you know, we’re eating breakfast and talking about lunch,” said Tassa’s owner Radhika Edoo.
Tassa didn’t start out as a spot for celebrities. Edoo’s love of food began when she was a child, watching her mother cook for their big family. “When you have ten children you don’t teach anybody. You cook, and they look,” she added, “And if they want to eat, they’ll learn to cook.”
As she got older she began to sell her cooking in Trinidad, taking orders at home and dropping them off for customers. She graduated to catering for weddings and festivals, but it wasn’t her full-time job. She worked for Petrotrin, a Trinidadian oil company, and later opened her own kindergarten school.
After moving to Atlanta in 1996, Edoo got her chance to open a restaurant. She visited for the first time to see the Olympics and moved with her family later that year. “America wasn’t a plan,” said Edoo. She moved because the warm weather and the celebratory air of the Olympics reminded her of Trinidad. Afterwards, she realized the Caribbean food in Atlanta restaurants didn’t capture the food she ate at home.
“It was not like I remembered. It was American-Caribbean; it wasn’t Caribbean-American. It had become more American,” Edoo said.
To ensure Tassa served Caribbean-American food, Edoo hired a small staff of Jamaicans and Trinidadians, most of which are family. The restaurant operates like a household, with everybody assuming a variety of responsibilities. Everybody cooks; everybody washes the dishes; everybody answers the phone.
Edoo built her customer base from the ground up by chatting with Caribbeans in Dekalb County, around Decatur. “I would work a full week. Then, Friday evening I would go to a party in Decatur to sell Tassa.”
Dekalb County had the largest number of English speaking Caribbeans in Atlanta in 2000, just before Edoo founded Tassa in 2006 in Cobb County, where the population was smaller.
As one of only a few Caribbean restaurants in the area at the time, Tassa piqued the curiosity of Carole Mitchell-Leon, a Trinidadian-American actress in Atlanta. According to Edoo, the two women quickly became friends, and Leon introduced the restaurant to her husband Kenny Leon, an American Broadway and TV director.
When Leon hosted parties for actors filming movies, he brought them to Tassa the next day. “On their way to the airport, this would be where they stop to eat,” said Edoo.
Word spread of the fresh roti and all you can eat buffet. Eventually, Edoo found Chilli from TLC, former Miss Universe Wendy Fitzwilliam, and former Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed wandering through her back door.
While the conversation brought people in, it was the food that kept them coming back. Customer favorites are the roti, which is made fresh everyday, and doubles, a Trinidadian staple. Edoo also recommends tasting the callaloo and coconut-boiled yucca, two lesser known dishes.
All of these options are displayed in a seasonal all you can eat buffet (staff make the plates for customers to avoid pandemic health concerns.) With the homey decor and family of staff, it’s easy to feel comfortable getting seconds.
“I wanted a place where people say, ‘This is like grandma’s,’” she said. “At grandma’s house you don’t have to stop eating, you can go back as many times as you want.”