Since this summer, patrons of longtime neighborhood favorite Lite Bites (700 Manhattan Ave) have been wondering where the Caribbean dishes that filled its lunch counter are. Gone are the familiar aromas of Trinidadian curried chicken and homemade roti, replaced with a menu of “Authentic Spanish Food.” Most of the rest of Lite Bites remains the same, having retained the same staff and popular items like the the “Hashwich” on its menu. But it feels quieter without the friendly face of Shivani, who was almost always at the front, taking orders and manning the cash register with quick fast efficiency while exuding a warm inviting energy.
When pressed for more information, Elvis, the new person at the front who describes himself as a “proxy,” cautiously answered some of our questions, stressing that Shivani does not want to be contacted. He explained that she started training him to take over for her and gave everyone goodbye gifts to the staff before quietly leaving for Trinidad. He thought it was just a vacation at first but it seems like the change is permanent. Shivani told him that she should’ve retired 10 years ago.
Through the grapevine, Shivani relayed this message: one of her delivery guys owns Lite Bites now and to please still go support him. Her last day was July 31. When asked whether there is a chance for the Caribbean food to come back, Elvis said it isn’t likely because Shivani herself and her husband used to start cooking at 6AM to prepare for the day.
Despite its name, Lite Bites has been the go-to place for filling flavorful food, with portions often being enough for two meals. After a challenging past couple of years for the business, we hope Shivani is enjoying some much-deserved R&R.
Now keep on supporting small businesses and give the pollo guisado, pernil, rice and beans, and plantains at Lite Bites a try!