Jamaica, the land of wood and water is synonymous with jerk. That spicy fragrant meat, slow cooked over aromatic pimento wood. You can find jerk everywhere in Jamaica and in every shape and form, from jerk spaghetti to a jerk maki roll – Jamaicans love their jerk. Jerk pork in Jamaica is sold by weight and chicken comes whole, half and quarter. You can also specific which bits of meat you prefer. Breast, legs, white meat,dark etc. Anyway, enough talking, if you’re in the capital and want to chow down on some authentic Jamaican jerk, here are the top jerk restaurants in Kingston:
1. Jojos Jerkpit
This Kingston jerk hot-spot is legendary, having been around for over twenty years, the jerk just keeps bringing people back. Hidden up a nondescript lane, just off busy Waterloo road, you’d be forgiven for missing it, or not finding it at all. Popular with locals and expats alike who flock here for the jerk chicken and pork and laid back ambiance. The owners used to live in Toronto. In homage to their time there there’s even jerk poutine on the menu! Anna, Jo-Jos owner told me the secret to jerk is getting that ever so dark, crispy, blackness to the outside of the meat- without burning. Leaving the inside succulent and juicy. If after a couple of Redstripes you’re convinced you and Bob Marley were separated at birth, there’s karaoke every Thursday night. Prepare to be entertained.
2. Sweetwood Jerk Joint
If you’ve ever walked around Emancipation Park, you’ll have no doubt felt your mouth salivating over the sweet smell of jerk emanating from Sweetwood just over the road. Each rack of pork is butterflied and cooked over wood for at least three hours. They do a mean jerk sausage with festival and Wednesdays you get a free Redstripe if you spend over $1000 (that’s Jamaican not USD).
3. Chelsea Jerk Centre
One of the founding fathers of Kingston jerk, Chelsea Jerk Centre has been feeding Kingstonian’s 1977. Originally, set up so locals could eat authentic jerk without having to drive over 100km to Portland’s Boston Jerk, it’s still a local institution. Located conveniently around the corner from Scotchie’s and only about a 5-10 minute walk from Knutsford blvd (and Sweetwood). Depending on how much jerk you can handle, you could potentially do a walking tour of the three. CJC also do an array of non jerk sides, Both their conch soup and fish stew will leave you wishing you had a big belly.
4. Scotchies Jerk Center
Scotches laid back ambiance and tropical vibes make it a popular place to eat some jerk or sip a rum at the Club Tropicana inspired bar. There are plenty of places to sit and you’ll unlikely ever have to arm wrestle for a table. There’s nearly always a soup of the day and fried breadfruit or yam available. If you’re ordering to take-out note that the evening queues from Thursday through to the weekend can get a little busy. If the thought of getting out of your Jamaica-onesie horrifies you, then fear not, you can now order online.
Finally, this list of the top jerk restaurants in Kingston wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the street jerk sellers of Kingston. My friend recently told me she remembers the jerk man (who is set up just up from Super Valu) on Hope road, from when she was a kid – some forty years ago. I’m not sure he has been at the same location for the whole time but he has certainly been cooking jerk for a long time. The numerous sellers outside Sovereign North (normally on a weekend) also make some tasty offerings as do the sellers on Barbican road (just down from Irie Hardware). Happy Jerking!