Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jerked Pork at Home (Part 1)

--Tailgatin' and how to make mofos start playa hatin' (Recipes)

My summer food project is to perfect the art of jerked pork like that found throughout the island of Jamaica. The jerked pork served at the stands in Boston Bay on the east coast of the island in Port Antonio is cooked the way the maroons did it over 400 years ago. The term jerk is said to come from the Spanish word charqui, a term for jerked or dried meat that translates to jerky in English. Its said that the Maroons, Jamaican slaves who escaped from the British invasion in 1655, favored the method of jerking because the spices used kept the meat well preserved and gave the food its unique flavor. Even though chicken is the most popular form of jerk, the original jerked meat of choice was wild hogs. The Maroons caught the pigs hunting and used the meat as fuel during their escape from the British. Due to the meat being jerked it lasted much longer and was used as a meal for multiple days.

Jerked Pork from Ossie's Smoke Shack (Negril, Jamaica)

Click here for more Jerked Pork pictures from around Negril

Its my goal to get as close to the real thing as possible like that found around Jamaica. It will never be as good due to the fact of a lack of pimento wood being available in the US and if you want to take it a step further to being as authentic as possible you also need fresh branches from the trees to hold the meat over the wood/fire. I started making jerked pork after my 2nd trip to Negril and have had some luck getting close to an authentic island taste. My first cut of meat in the experiment is going to be with what we used back in Madison, country style ribs with bones.

Bourbon Beach (Negril, Jamaica) jerk Sauce is the fire

One reason it is experiment time this summer is I have a bottle of homemade jerk sauce from Bourbon beach in Negril, Jamaica in my fridge and this stuff is fire in both heat and flavor. Meaning its amazing. Its not really a marinade but rather sauce to dip your pieces of pork in as you eat. The BBQ sauce of the island so to say. Special thanks to Tuens for bringing some of this back to me a couple weeks ago. I totally forgot to grab a few to bring home when I left in late March.

Ingredients for jerked pork (serve with rice and peas)

country style ribs with bones
1 bottle of jerk marinade/paste
charcoal (if using a Weber)
hickory wood chunks/chips
1 spice bottle of whole allspice berries

Step 1 (1 day ahead of cooking): Pat down the ribs with a bottled jerk paste such as Walkerswood, Grace or Eaton's. Give the meat a nice rub down making sure to get the paste spread out. Put in refrigerator and let marinate overnight.

Step 2: Prepare charcoal for the grill or if using a gas grill light both the left and right ends but not the middle and make sure you have a smoke box for the wood. When charcoal is ready spread it on the left and right sides for indirect cooking leaving the middle empty. Put a drip pan with water in the middle and layer the charcoal with wood. Put grill grate back on and place ribs in the middle and let cook for 3-5 hours or until meat start to pull away from bone. Every hour or so put a handful of allspice berries on each side of the fire to give it a nice scent to penetrate the meat.

Jerked BBQ ready for chopping

Step 3: When ribs are cooked bring inside and get your largest most heavy knife or a machete if you got one and start chopping. Bones and all chop the ribs into little square pieces like those seen below.

Notice the smoke ring?

Step 4: Put a layer of rice and peas on a plate and top it off with some pieces of chopped jerked pork. Serve with jerk sauce, hot sauce and or pickapeppa sauce. I topped mine off with some pepper rings to tone down the heat from the paste and sauce.

Perfect for a summer smoke session

Serve with ice cold Ting and or Red Stripe to cool down the heat

All in all it was damn close in flavor and texture but not as juicy as I would have liked it. It was a little dry. Maybe the country style ribs aren't fatty enough? I plan on trying it with rib tips next and I know they use a full pigs hip at Ossies Smoke Shack in Negril. Any suggestions and tips from any Jamaican readers or BBQ experts would be much appreciated. Respect mon. KingT.

Click HERE to see how part 2 turned out.

Where to get the Caribbean grocery goods in Chicago?

Good question and one answer is Danny's Old World Market on Broadway just off Foster.

located in a little strip mall on Broadway

Danny's carries a wide variety of African and Carib goods and is sure to have that regional cooking ingredient you couldn't find at Dominick's or Whole foods. On top of the wonderful spice/sauce and dried/canned/bottled ingredient selection they also have a butcher and wide range of fruit. Name a part of an animal and odds are they have it there. Its a good place to stock up on sauces and pastes for the pantry. I don't even eat ketchup with my fries but I love the jerked ketchup from Eaton's that they carry there. It goes great with home fries and breakfast potatoes.

Aisle of Jerk Paste and other Caribbean sauces

Danny's Old World Market
5129 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 728-2197

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Orange Garden: a trip back to 1953 for an egg roll

-Grubbing in Chicago
The Elusive Egg Roll (Part 1)

The egg roll is on every American-Chinese restaurants menu in the country. The problem is that at about every 9 out of 10 of these places they are just bland frozen logs that have no flavor at all. Most places don't make their own egg rolls anymore and that's a damn shame because a fresh fried homemade egg roll is one my favorite things to eat. As time has passed and I have grown older I have found myself exploring more authentic Chinese dishes and not just the American Cantonese stuff like sesame chicken, orange beef and of course, egg rolls. But like everything you grew up eating as a kid, every now and then you just have a craving that can only be beat with what you grew up on. In this case good old classic greasy 50's style American/Chinese.

old-school Chinese spot stuck in time on Irving Park rd.

Orange garden is a neighborhood favorite of the locals from the Lakeview area. Located on Irving Park just off Lincoln it is one of Chicago's best remaining examples of mid-century design. The place is straight out of 1950 with its amazing old school neon sign on the outside and old black leather booths and wooden tables/chairs with dim lighting upon entering. I have been told and read on the internet that Orange Garden is the longest operating Chinese restaurant out of the same location in Chicago. When locals who also grew up in the area need some nostalgic eating experience then Orange Garden is their place. Just like any other locals favorite it attracts people of all sorts. You'll see families, couples, high school kids and city workers enjoying a meal inside. The menu at the garden consists of the usual dishes found on a 1950's style American Chinese restaurant. But its that egg roll that's the star if the show and what keeps me coming back.

Orange garden's egg roll is one of the best in Chicago

The housemade mustard will test your heat inhaling limits

The egg rolls are stuffed with both baby shrimp and little slices of pork and have a nice hint of peanut butter in them. One of the important factors for a good egg roll on my radar is the hot mustard. None of those packets with lame amounts of heat please, I want it hot. The fresh fried egg rolls are already better than almost anywhere else but when served with the made in house hot mustard it makes one of the best egg rolls in Chicagoland. Unfortunately the menu is hit and miss and as mentioned before it's very standard Americanized fare. The barbecue ribs and pretty much everything else that fried is pretty good but there is a reason that I usually just stick to a couple egg rolls and a small shrimp fried rice. Its not bad just not amazing. Except for those egg rolls. did I mention they were amazing? Stay tuned for a few other spots that offer real egg rolls.

the egg rolls are stuffed with the right combination of ingredients

Orange Garden
1942 W Irving Park Rd
Chicago, IL 60613
(773) 525-7479

Menupages Menu

Orange Garden on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 22, 2009

Late Nite Grease Eats From Mister J's

-The Sammy's of Chi

If you've ever spent the evening pissing the night away downtown then you might be familiar with the latest addition to "The Sammy's of Chi". Mister J's located on State St. just off Chicago ave. is a staple in people from all walks of life's diets. Maybe your a 3rd year law student at Loyola law school located just across the street? maybe you spend your Friday and Saturday nights waiting in line at some garbage club that ends in bar? (smart, sound, spy, schmuck etc...) maybe you've been drinking all night in the Viagra triangle with your mistress and don't want what your wife has waiting in the fridge back home in da burbs? maybe you've been begging for change all night by the McDonald's on State and Chicago and finally got enough for a cheap greasy meal for dinner and a rock for dessert but don't like the McChicken anymore...then you probably eat at Mister J's.

late nite eats in the downtown area

Mister J's is one of those places that's best visited at the end of your night. Everyone has a favorite on the menu such as the Chicago style dogs, burgers and gyros. The wall is filled with different combination value meals and I guess they've been doing it like that since the 70's. That would mean that they were on the combo meals before McDonald's and BK even thought about them. There's nothing fancy or even appealing about J's but the char grilled food is better than anything your going to find in the same price range in the area of the Magnificent Mile which is flooded with chains. Your not going to find friendly service or a spotless shiny dining area but you will find one hell of a char grilled chicken sandwich.

bang for buck late nite chicken sandwich

On those nights when I'm either near the downtown area or not feeling like Mexican, every now and then find myself in line with the rest at J's. The chicken sandwich is a piece of fresh (not frozen) breast meat that's been marinating in a lemon juice and is char grilled to perfection and served on French bread with your choice of Chicago style hot dog toppings. I will always go for a chicken sandwich with cheese on French with everything and it never disappoints. Not only is this place way better than the McDonald's down the street but its also cheaper. Huh go figure. On my last visit to J's I got another Chicago food favorite: the pizza puff. The history of the puff is a little sketchy but anyone who grew up in Chicago can tell you about the pizza puffs available at grease shacks around town. My loyal readers who have been asking "whens the puff report coming?" will be happy to know the puff report is coming soon. Mister J's fries up a nice puff, not any different than anywhere else since they all come from the same factory but a nice eat at 3a after a long night of Jameson. Mister J's is open 'til 2a Sun.-Thurs. and until 4a on Friday and Saturday. Be prepared for good drunk food and something weird to happen.

Chicago's less known fast food item: the pizza puff

story on the history of pizza puffs coming soon

objects in picture are tastier than they appear

Mister J's
822 N State St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 943-4679

Mister J's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

2 for 1 Hot Dog Special: Sam's & Sammy's

-In Chicago: Every Dog Has it's Day

In the land of the hot dog everyone has their favorite stand. Some people no matter where they live love a place like Gene & Jude's or Wieners Circle. Most people love the place they grew up near or lived by at some point in life. I didn't just give you a 2 for 1 dog special with Sam's and Sammy's because they shared the same name. Its because they are both excellent representations of neighborhood hot dog joints that have been serving several generations. Some things never change and it seems like the Chicago neighborhood hot dog stands that survive do that best.

Sammy's Red Hot's

a Cabrini staple

Sammy's has been around 30+ years and during the first thirty-three they were located at Clark and Division. Sammy's eventually moved to where it sits today three blocks west in the shadow of Cabrini Green. Sammy's does mostly a carry out business and with the invasion of the yuppies to the area now has delivery available. Sammy's is known for their Vienna beef hot dogs and Polish sausages served with some of the best fries in the city. I haven't been able to try anything else despite having gone here for over 15 years now. They also have burgers, beef, subs and a complete Chicago style chicken shack that offers over 15 combination's and also catfish, perch, jack salmon and shrimp. Hungry in the early morning? grab breakfast between 4a and 10a. If you need lotto scratch tickets and cigarettes, they got them too. Sammy's has been able to survive by offering great dogs and other great food options while keeping the prices low and the quality and consistency the same. Like Noreaga said on the track "We Ride" off R. Kelly's R. album "When I'm in Cabrini green you know I hit Sammy's" The same goes for me.

Some of the best fries around town are fresh cut and fried crisp

Sammy's dog and fries with a drink ($2.99)

Sam's Red Hots

Sam's is on the corner of Armitage/Milwaukee/Western and does strictly take-out. That's because its big enough to fit two ladies who have been there since I was a kid and the supplies needed to make you a hot dog, Polish, tamale, fries and pop and hand it to you thru a sliding window. The dilapadated little hot dog hut has been there forever. That's the whole menu above, you walk up and order thru the sliding window, its simple and open late and is a favorite of many in Chicago. Its old and some would say everything about it is dirty but those people just didnt grow up in Chicago.

Sams with a parking lot in back and walk up dogs on the left

I came across this quote from Yelp! "If you're looking for the true Chicago style dog you won't find it here. "Everything" at Sam's equals mustard, relish, onion and sport peppers. Tomato, pickle, celery salt and poppy seed buns aren't part of the equation. It's still a solid, boiled Vienna Beef hot dog..." Let me start by saying that Yelp! is about as useful a site for food as is for driving directions. Everything about the place is old school buddy and since you obviously aren't from the city let me break it down for you. While the Chicago Style dogs like you mention have gained more nation wide fame since their creation by Vienna Beef (debatable but I believe they created it), the original Chicago dog is what's served at Sam's. Hot dogs come with just mustard, onions, relish and peppers. The Polishes are good but they only offer chopped onions so I always get a dog. The fries are the old school 50's style crinkle cut, they are frozen but when cooked crisp get the job done. Sam's is great for what it is which is a quick drive up/walk up meal at a great value. Its hard to spend more than $6 on yourself at Sam's.

dog no relish from Sam's

Sammy's Red Hot's
238 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 266-7290

Sam's Red Hot's
2375 W. Armitage ave
Chicago, IL 60647

Sammy's Red Hots on Urbanspoon

Proud member of The Windy Citizen

Monday, May 18, 2009

Joe's Taylor St. Subs Shop

-Grubbing in Chicago
Where the locals eat.

Joe's is one of those little corner cafes that is a real part of its neighborhood. Located on Taylor just off Western its in a great old school area, the less visited strip of Taylor st, and has endless regulars and a diverse menu that really represents Chicago today. Joe's has all the Italian sandwiches one would expect including Italian beef, sausage, meatball, tuna, Italian cold cuts, chicken parm, eggplant parm, pepper and egg and other breakfast sandwiches like chorizo and egg, bacon, egg and cheese etc... and I'm probably forgetting a few, not to mention the daily specials like spaghetti and meatballs. Gone are the spots with character and characters like Joe. While Joe's has survived the change other places have not. The walls are aligned with pictures of the friendly Joe on vacation trips and at the ball games alongside photos of Al Capone and Walter Payton. I said this place was real Chicago. If your dining in you'll eat at a table layered with red and white squared vinyl cloths. Its old school but attracts people from all walks of life.

The corner of Taylor and Claremont

I imagine at some point when the neighborhood switched demographics they added a Mexican portion to their menu. You may not be expecting it but this little cafe puts out some really tasty flauta's, sope's, taco's and the rice and beans are stellar too. They make everything fresh on site including the salsa which is also nice. The whole menu is home cooked meals like your grandma would of made, whether she's Italian or Mexican. The kitchen has anywhere from 3 to 5 ladies in back doing their thing on any given day. I would really recommend the chicken noodle soup with fried fideo on a cold winter day. The spaghetti and meatballs is the same recipe they used when they first opened and a real treat when featured on the specials board. My go to meal at Joe's is the Mexican lunch plate combo which gets you 2 beef tacos & 2 chicken flautas with rice and beans. I'm a tacos de carne asada guy but the fresh fried hard shell beef tacos at Joe's are the best hard shell tacos your going to find in the city. Everything is made fresh including the chicken flautas which are great with sour cream and salsa on top. One of the best lunch stops in the city.

tamales are pretty good

fresh fried hard shell taco is closest thing to Tex-Mex in Chi

2 taco 2 flauta combo meal is a great lunch plate

Joe's is one of those little neighborhood corner spots that are becoming extinct and replaced with Starbucks in Chicago. They also do early morning breakfast like omelets and carry Filberts bottled pop, this place is real Chicago and I'm happy its not going anywhere. Check it out.

Joe's Taylor Street Subs Shop
2325 W Taylor St
Chicago, IL 60612
(312) 829-5980

Joe's Taylor Street Sub Shop on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 11, 2009

No Worries In Negril Mon

Grubbing across the Globe
-Jammin' in Jamaica

Finally the post come around. After spending three amazing weeks in Negril, Jamaica I was anything but happy to be back. Since I was a youngin' I always loved trips to the Caribbean and its by far my favorite location on the map. Its amazing how all these little islands that are so close in proximity are so different in food/culture. I first went to Negril on spring break back in 03 and this past trip was my 4th time to the island since then but my first with a camera.

The World famous 7-Mile Beach (Negril)

Jamaica gets a bad rap for being unsafe by some people. Its kind of joke to me when I hear people saying "we didn't leave our resort" I for one would never go to another country and hide in a little commercial real estate development. While some spots in Montego Bay can be dangerous at night and some (not all) neighborhoods in Kingston are downright dangerous, answer me this one question. Who the hell comes on vacation to Chicago and hangs out in the Austin and Lawndale neighborhoods? exactly. When people ask me my favorite vacation destination its a no brainer: Negril, Jamaica.

Just another sunset in Negril at the beach

What makes Negril so special? as the website explains so perfectly "The combination of dramatic rugged cliffs on the West End and miles of pristine white sand beach with crystal clear water can be found nowhere else on the island. Negril is dubbed the “Capital of Casual” as Negrilians carry out business and pleasure efficiently with the least amount of formality. The first visitors to Negril in large numbers were hippies and this helped to create its carefree atmosphere and now Negril is still the ideal place to meet and make friends with Jamaicans. Visitors to Negril feel little restriction and can relax completely on this piece of heaven on earth."

I couldn't of said it any better as the website goes onto explain. "
Aside from the seemingly endless stunning beach and the azure waters off the West End, Negril has many great restaurants and an active night life. There are many interesting tours offered to places outside of Negril, so there is no shortage of things to do. Negril offers a wide variety of places to stay to match any budget. From high end All Inclusives, to hip boutique hotels to small affordable rooms and cottages. Most visitors to Negril return time and time again and it’s no surprise. Nowhere on Earth has that combination of world famous sunsets, great Jamaican hospitality and that special Negril vibe...." Its no doubt a once you go, you know feeling when you make it to Negril, Jamaica.

The drive from the beach to the cliffs

Here is a list of reasons, in no particular order, of why Jamaica is my favorite vacation destination. If you have any other questions or concerns let me know in an email. I have no problem setting up anyone who wants to be, should they make it to Negril.

Reason 1: The Beauty

The drive from Montego bay to Negril is a beauty and Jamaica's landscape is the only of its type with mountains in the middle and beaches surrounding the country making it one of the most beautiful places on the map. Every coastline is a different scene and in the middle you have mountains.

Once you hit Negril you can immediately feel the vibe. With the music playing and groups of people walking up and down the beach everyone is smiling and looking good. You know when you've arrived. The water is crystal clear and the drinks are plenty. Do what you do, Negril is one of the few places that fits both the people that travel to party and the people that travel to relax and do nothing.

Negril's 7-mile beach is always looking good

Jamaica is big with US, Canadian and European tourists...especially Italians and English

Every little things gonna be alright now

end of the beach with the cliffs in the background

Taking a ride thru a local community is one of my favorite things to do on vaca

Negril is flooded with beauty

Orange Hill is one fun little neighborhood

View from my buddy's house

The Dolphin house owned by a German doctor is quite a sight

Looks like the roosters moving in on her

away form the hustle and bustle of the beach are many places to become one with yourself

While the cliffs have a great view the sunsets are just as spectacular on the beach

Tell me this isn't postcard material

After you spend a few weeks you kind of just forget how great they are

The walkway to the beach at night from Bar B Barn

Reason 2: The people & culture

Jamaica is an amazing place to meet people and every time I go to Negril I meet people from every facet of life from the rude boys to the elite of Kingston on vacation in their favorite destination in the country and everyone in between. Not only will you meet some wonderful locals from the island but the people that vacation in Negril know whats up and everything its about so you will meet wonderful groups of people from all over the world. On this particular trip I met some real characters from a bike gang in Duluth, MN, some real players from NYC, our man Patrick from Negril now living in Palatine, IL, restaurateurs from Naples Italy, a couple from Lawrence, KN, spring breakers from Tokyo, railroad conductors from Winnipeg Canada on their yearly vacation to Negril, Jamaicans from Evanston, IL there for the winter, spring breakers from University of Indiana and Wisconsin and a group of 18 people from California in their 50's and 60s with some couples and some singles who were making their 15th trip to Negril and not one of them had missed one trip. Its too hard to explain in words and sometimes pictures do a better job. The locals are amazing people and everyone I met insisted I come over to their place and meet their family's and everytime I went and did it we had a great time.

World Class Hospitality available for all.

I've been to Jamaica four times now and only stayed in two different places and don't plan on staying anywhere new anytime soon. It will always be one of these two places for me. If your planning a vacation to Negril then think very hard about staying at the Bar B Barn if you like to have a good time and great, great service. As I tell friends who are booking vacations its the Bar B Barn or bust if your looking for the best bang for your buck. Why the Bar B? well for starters it has the best bar on the beach during the daytime. Not only are you going to get the best most fresh mixed drinks but your going to meet some great people be it locals or other tourists on vacation. They have chairs for the beach and a zoned off swimming section for guests and patrons of the bar/restaurant. If that's not enough they also have two of the better restaurants on the beach on their property. Read on for more about the restaurants and why the Bar B Barn is so popular with repeat visitors and Jamaican vacationers. So I would recommend the Bar B Barn for groups of single guys and girls and couples who want an affordable place to stay on the beach that still has great service and an amazing location.

It gets no better than this: Bar B Barn is a great location with everything you need.

Unless of course your doing it real big in which I highly recommend staying at the Moondance Villas which I was lucky enough to do one trip. Its a Chicago owned property and they put alot of work into not just the service of their guests but into the community. They just opened a new property in the cliffs that is top notch as far as everything goes. So now you can choose where you like to stay, beach or cliffs, and get the same world class service at both properties. If your going on a honeymoon or a vacation with the family or doing a bachelor party that has no limits to it then stay at the Moondance Villas or Cliffs and let them take very good care of all your needs. When you stay at Moondance its total relaxation and there are no worries on life. Everyting is good mon.

Make sure to say whats up to Sarge, Nedrick and Christina for me

One thing your going to never forget when you go to Negril is the hospitality of all. The people of Negril make sure you want to come back. One thing to always remember is that they live off tourism so your going to get lots of people asking you if you want to do or need a wide variety of things. Beach activities include but are not limited too waverunners, glassbottom boat rides, deep sea fishing expeditions (ask around for Tom) and then there are many day trips to take to places like the falls, Appleton rum estate, the ganja fields, Bob Marley mausoleum and a bunch of other fun things. If you don't want or need anything just tell them "I'm good but thanks for letting me know" Its that easy so don't be worried or agitated. Your in the Caribbean...relax.

If you ever see these two selling their grandmas homemade pastry's along the beach it would be wise to flag them down and get one of each to keep in your room as snacks. The donuts and coconut pies were my favorite but everyone has there own favorite and they sell out quick.

Usain Bolt and the men and women Jamaican sprinters, along with Michael Phelps, were the stars of the Beijing summer games.

That's what's up! You know you love that Patrick. Respect Mon!

The way of life on the island

Another day in JA

The kids in Jamaica are always as happy as can be when walking home from school and you'll see all of them doing it. You just don't see that in Chicago anymore. Little Jamaican kids love meeting people and are so vibrant and social that their energy is contagious. I'm convinced the children of the island are the happiest little kids on earth.

Who wasn't happy when the school day was over?

The kids love getting their picture taken

The adult males like to watch cricket and play dominoes all day

Music is everywhere

Negril is the place for people that party like the Pirates did

Always something going on in the Cliffs

Little bars and shacks to eat on the road are everywhere on the island...make sure to stop in one for a cold beer and food and help out the locals. A little help from you can go a long way for them.

Red Stripe is the most well known Jamaican beer

They also have Red Stripe Light on the island...its as refreshing as water

The men's drink of choice is warm Guinness or overproof rum. The ladies at the clubs like Guinness mixed with Red Bull which is actually not bad.

The music in Jamaica...

No country puts out more music (US and Great Britain included) than Jamaica and Negril is where you have to go to see it. The music is a fusion of rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul, hip hop with influences from Africa and Trinidad & Tobago all mixed into a few different styles. Obviously Bob marley is one of the most well known artists of all time and reggae is one of the worlds most recognizable styles of music. Reggae fusion is whats popular now such as ragga with deejays mixing reggae with dancehall/hip hop and many other types of music both native and foreign to the island.

All the artists stay at the bar b barn since the days when Peter Tosh used to be a regular and I met a couple big time and a few up and coming stars in the dancehall and reggae world. Negril is the live music capitol of Jamaica and during the spring months the best of the best come out. I went to over 15 live shows and the "Marley Magic" with Stephen Marley, Damien "JR gong" Marley, Ziggy Marley, Julian Marley and a few others along with Capleton and some amazing lady vocals in the background was an absolute stunner. Best show I ever been too by far

The stage at Bourbon Beach (on 7 mile beach) has a musician on it 5 nights a week (December thru March) and the concerts go late so if you don't like noise its best to stay in the cliffs.

The man that started the trend

Signs announcing live shows are all over Negril

Most pupils of famous musicians are everything but talented but the kids of Bob Marley are musically gifted on another level. Please believe me when I say the rest of the shows didn't disappoint either. We saw amazing concerts from Sizzla, Beenie Man, Blak Ryno, Vybz Kartel, Jim Laden and a slew of others. There is literally a live show every night on the beach or in the cliffs and some are huge and some are small size wise, some are for all the people and some you shouldn't go to unless you know what your getting into...I knew.

Capleton (L) Damian Marley (M) and Stephen Marley (R)

This was as live of a show as I have ever been to and I been to some good ones.

We went to a very intimate Sizzla show with maybe 350-350 locals at a pool of a hotel on the cliffs and this was the best small concert I have ever been too. On our way to the show we stopped along the road to answer the questions of a few local rude boys who wanted to know if we were headed to the concert. They gave us some cold red stripe we listened to some 2pac and we were on our way to an amazing night. When I say it was intimate I mean that in every way this concert was bumping and if you don't get the drift of this then move on to the next part of this article because your too old. Otherwise baby...bend ova.

"Were Jamming" from Bob Marley.... Mavado, music is a huge part of Jamaica's culture "ANYWAY!"

Lets just say if your on vaca with your girlfriend you don't want to be attending live music night at Alfred's. If your with a group of friends then get on over there. Just be ready for whats coming.

Every night there's a show in Negril during March

The World Famous Jungle Nightclub

If there's a better club in the world on Thursday nights (ladies night) in March than the Jungle, then let me know...and I'll let you know your wrong.

Hey gyal, Mi will bruk yuh back when yuh come inna mi rompin shop

Once you know "Livin like Soprano king, bada bing bada bing" "bend ova, bend ova"

Reason 3: The Food (Did you see that coming?)

The food of the country is just another reason its a must visit in my book especially for the BBQ men like myself. In a country that takes its arts so serious you better believe that food plays a huge role in the culture of the island. Here are some of the islands signature must eat dishes found around Negril.

All along the beach and cliffs are spots to choose from and none seem to disappoint...just don't go to Burger King

Seafood is super fresh on the island. A fisherman tries to sell his fresh caught pompano fish to the restaurants.

Jamaican National Dishes: Jerk

The men do the grilling in JA and at night the choice of food is Jerk chicken

The art of cooking/BBQing jerk is native to the island and like most Caribbean islands, Jamaican foods are derivative of many different settlement cultures, including British, Dutch, French, Spanish, East Indian, West African, Portuguese, and Chinese. The origins of jerk pork can be traced back to the pre-slavery days of the Cormantee hunters of West Africa through the Maroons, who were Jamaican slaves that escaped from the British during the invasion of 1655. Jerking the pig with the common ingredients of jerk sauce that include allspice, scotch bonnet peppers, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, scallions, thyme and many other secret ingredients. Every family has a secret sauce.

Home of the best jerk sauce in Negril

One of the few spots in Negril to get real jerk (Its becoming harder to find everywhere on the island) is at Bourbon Beach along 7 mile beach located next to Bar B Barn. As you can see below the real setup for jerked pork/chicken is not those popular garbage can carts. The carts do however still do a damn fine job. Over at bourbon beach they do it the way they do it at Boston Bay. Its smokey, its spicy and its oh so good.

The Jerk Pit at Bourbon Beach is great for lunch or dinner

As you can see they layer pimento branches above charcoal and then place the chicken on the branches and then use a piece of wood to press the chickens.

When Bourbon Beach is on they are on fire. The have the best jerk sauce I have ever tasted. It is super spicy but still full of incredible island flavor. Its the best sauce I have ever had in any form. They will bottle it up for you to take home if you give them a little notice. I always do.

There are 100s of vendors along the beach and cliffs that sell their chicken late into the night.

Everyone has their favorite

Jerk chicken is the meal of choice at night

Best in the West had some of the best cooked chicken...

...but the sauce was ketchup. Which we don't do in Chicago.

The popular 3-Dives Jerk stand located up in the cliffs

Jamaican National Dishes: Jerked Pork

Jerked pork just might be my deathrow meal. I was first introduced to this special dish by our driver from the Moondance villas a few years back. The first thing that came to my mind was "wow this is the best tasting BBQ dish I have consumed" the second thing that I thought was "I should kick myself in the ass 20 times for missing jerked pork on my inaugural visit. I felt it was my duty to do a review of popular jerked pork stands in Negril and elsewhere. Anthony Bourdain really screwed up when he didn't try any jerked pork on the Jamaican episode. Yo Tony! if your reading why don't you let me be your Jamaican tour guide next time instead of some spelunking cave diving bat turd boys. You screwed up Jamaica bad with that garbage episode. The only bad episode you have ever made in fact. Lucky for the people they have me.

Scotchies has a reputation for some of the best jerked pork and chicken in Jamaica. They have a location in Ochos Rios and Montego Bay. This was my first meal on the island and it was a good one.

Jerked pork from Scotchies in Montego Bay

Scotchies had some damn good pork and the sauce was some of the best I had anywhere but there wasn't enough bones in it and it was a little more like pulled pork than chopped rib tips. Still this is where I would stop on my way to Negril from Montego Bay. Just ask your driver, he'll know where it is.

Stop #2 on the trip was only 45 minutes after our stop at Scotchies. Bigga's (pictured above) jerk stand in Green island (en route to Negril) is famous for its jerked chicken and pork.

Jerked pork from Bigga's in Green Island

Bigga's pork was very tasty but boneless and thus not my style. My buddy thought it was excellent and he knows his food too so I wouldn't hesitate from trying it. We didn't try the chicken.

Jerked pork from Bourbon Beach

Jerked pork from Bourbon beach was also good but not the best. It was also boneless and made differently than their chicken is which didn't make sense to me since they smoke the bird so perfectly. The sauce is the same fire that they use on the chicken. So hot and so good.

Jerked pork from Ragabones

Ragabones aka The Red Dragon seems to be the most popular spot amongst tourists, locals and relocated people for jerked pork. Located in the middle of town its a spot most locals and cab drivers know of and can get you too. It was good but not the best on my search. I had planned to take the 7 hour trip with a local friend of mine to Boston Bay (the birthplace of jerk) but just couldn't leave Negril when we had planned due to some fun stuff going on around town. Negril will do that to you. I changed my flight twice and almost extended it a third time.

The undisputed champ of Jerked Pork in Negril is Ossies smoke shack. This is a place that I have been going to since my 2nd trip and I always fiend for it at least 40 times a year. Here is my favorite piece of pig on the globe.

Ossies is on 7 mile beach opposite side of the beach. Its a cant miss in my book.

The menu at Ossies

many funny signs like this one at Ossies can be found at all the restaurants

Jerked Pork from Ossie's

Think rib tips that are jerked to perfection smoked with the pimento and a hot sauce made with tomatillos to top it off makes this one of the best meals anywhere. Ossie and his wife knows whats up. Amen to them.

close up of perfection

Jamaica has so many national dishes but people might not realize there's so much more than jerk. Hopefully I can help spread the word of just how good the cuisine of Jamaica is. Its not all about jerked chicken and red stripe.

Jamaican National Dishes: Ackee & Saltfish and Curried Chicken

Since the 1700's people from the island of Newfoundland brought dried and salted cod to the Jamaicans in order to trade for rum. So now saltcod is one of the main ingredients in ackee. Ackee was a fruit brought to Jamaica on a slave ship from West Africa in the 1700's. The people of the island often consider it to be a meat kind that can be served with staple or carbohydrate. A lot of people prepare ackee because of its taste, while many also make it a part of their meals because it grows on a tree, which means that it is costless. Majority of Jamaica's population enjoys the taste of ackee and a meal prepared with ackee is highly regarded as cheap, yet delicious.

Ackee is poisonous until it has opened up

Ready to eat ackee

One of the best food stops on the trip was when a friend who we met down there who is from Jamaica and has a house there and in Palatine, IL brought us too his place in Orange Hill for the day.

This little unassuming roadside shack produced two of the best meals on the whole trip and we ate like champs.

Typically eaten for breakfast ackee & saltfish is a great combo of flavors and tastes very much like eggs.

The curried chicken with yams, dumplings and hot bread was better than any dish you'll see in Gourmet magazine or on Top Chef. Jamaicans know how to cook. Most people from the island enjoy cooking and you can really tell in the taste and preparations of the dishes from the roadside shacks all the way to the five star expensive places.

Jamaican National Dishes: Patties

The beef patty is a pastry that contains various spices and usually cooked with beef but it not limited to that. The shell is a flaky texture that is yellow due to the adding of egg yolk and or curry powder and turmeric. Its a very common street food and is usually bought on the go and consumed while heading to work. Its probably the most common lunch eaten by locals and along with s cold ting its all you need and you can get away spending 2 dollars for lunch. You can find patties almost anywhere that serves food and along the road and beach you will find vendors hawking their homemade goods.

The McDonalds of the island...except this place is awesome

Juici patties is Jamaica's preferred fast food outlet. "The Juici Patties chain of restaurants grew out of the efforts of a sixteen year old youth from rural Jamaica to provide self- employment. Jukie Chin started at the age of sixteen years to make Jamaican beef patties in his mother's kitchen and sold them in the family's small grocery store. Two and a half decades later, this enterprise has grown to be the Juici Patties many have come to know and love." Thru Jukie's efforts Juici patty has grown into a full blown franchise providing jobs to the people and giving a great deal back to the community." You wont see Taco Bell doing things like this. Juici patties is loved by all on the island. It is my hope to get a Juici Patties into Chicago near Evanston in the near future. Stay tuned.

Juici patties is located right in the middle of town in Negril.

The Big Mac/Whopper of Jamaica

Gimme some hot Juici love

a typical Jamaican lunch (1 beef patty, 1 Bob Marley and 1 Red Stripe)

The patty man serving his fresh homemade patties on the beach

Juicy J's

Located in the middle of town behind the Scotia bank I found Juicy J's thru one of my drivers. The drivers at Bar B Barn know their food and they were always happy to take me where the locals eat. Juicy J's has a typical Jamaican menu with an array of dishes available right away and a few that take 10-15 minutes to make because its made fresh on site. One of those dishes is the whole fried escovitch snapper. Escovitch is a style of cooking using vinegar, onions, scotch bonnett and spices brought to Jamaica by the Spanish Jews. In Jamaican grocery stores you can also find bottled escovitch sauce to make the preparation easier.

Grubbing in Jamaica: Where the locals eat

Jamaican National Dishes: Whole fried snapper served escovitch style

Whole fried snapper (head underneath) done escovitch style (vinegar and peppers) from Juicy J's. What a meal for under $7 US. Its easy to see why fish is a big part of Jamaica's diet. So fresh and so good when prepared this way with some red beans and rice and pasta salad to cool the palette.

Sweet Spice Restaurant

Grubbing in Jamaica: Where the locals eat

Every meal I ate fell under the "best thing you've eaten lately" category including this succulent curried goat from another locals favorite located near the Texaco called Sweet Spice. The drivers know where to eat and they wont steer you wrong. It was the most tender meat cooked with bones and all included in a rich curry sauce that works great with goat. I'm always happy to eat an animal that's cursed my team of a world series title and some people even offered to sacrifice one for us if we wanted to. In all seriousness though this was superb.

Jamaican National Dishes: Curried Goat

Perfectly cooked curried goat from Sweet Spice. Take that Billy boy.

Bar B Barn

My hotel (The Bar B barn) is run by the Thompson family. I love staying local as I said above and the Thompson family has a bunch of trained chefs and the restaurants on the property are both excellent. There isn't a better run hotel in town and its always better to stay with the locals. This is where you meet people who keep you coming back for life. Sharon, Hope, Tracee and Colin at the bar are the best at their jobs and the staff and family that runs this property is a huge reason I keep coming back to Jamaica. Norm aka The Godfather of Negril, son of the owners and brother to Angela, the GM, is the the man who made me love Jamaica when he took such good care of us on my first visit. Norm has left the island to run a hotel in Dominica and I was sad to hear this but happy to hear he and his family are doing very well.

Just another day at the Bar B Barn Bar

Whats up from Chicago to the entire family over at Bar B: Angela, Joel, Colin, Sharon, Hope, Tracee, Mr. Campbell, Ryan, Lauraine, Chef Leonard and everyone else. We'll be back.

Angela's is located atop the Bar B Barn

Angela's is where almost all of the Italian tourists eat everyday. Its not hard to see why as its run by the lovely Angela and the pastas are all superb (G.M of the Bar B) My buddy with us who lived in Rome explained they aren't very fond of trying other cultures foods but we still met some interesting Italians. The Italians loved partying with us Chicago boys. Never in a million years did I expect this place, which I have been to countless times while there, to have some the best cracker crisp and extra thin tavern style pizza I have ever consumed.

Tavern style pizza better than most places in Chicago's thin crust

Close up of a large Jerked sausage, pepperoni, Bari super hot giardinara (brought from home for the cooks there, they couldn't handle the heat) and green peppers. By week 2 we had them cutting the pizza in squares.

Norm is gone but his energy lives on. I miss that Jamaican box lunch.

The bar at the Bar B Barn (best in the carib) has every drink on the walls surrounding it. Don't see one you like? ask Sharon, Hope or Colin for one of their special drinks. Just be ready to crawl back to your place after a few of these.

Ill start with this

and then go to that

Pina Colada

Sharon Special

Hope Special

Colin Special

and end with a fresh squeezed rum punch

Located underneath Angela's is the Bar B Barn restaurant. You can dine inside but there's no need to do that when they have tables overlooking the ocean. The Bar Barn has great lunch items such as sandwiches and salads that you can sit and eat at the bar or one of the tables outside. For dinner they have a nice variety on the menu with the seafood being some of the best dishes. Fish and shellfish such as fresh lobster, wahoo and snapper are always on the menu. They also have daily specials like jerk chicken which is also very good.

fish n chips for lunch from the Bar B Barn Restaurant...

...Garlic butter jerked lobster for dinner

Sunset at the Bar B

Bar B Barn: Get at it.

Bar food at 23/7

23/7 is a sports bar owned by a New Yorker named John who said F*ck it, I'm moving to Negril. Its located right on the beach and has all the sports needs of Americans and Europeans and they serve really good food late into the night. Its open 24 hours a day. This is the spot to go if your craving some good old bar food. The New Yorkers will be happy to know that they moved a retired pizza lady from NYC out there to cook authentic NYC pizza available late into the night. This is the spot to go if you have a sporting event to watch. Get a nice ice cold beer or mixed drink and say whats up to Rasta man Leo, let him take care of you while you just sit back relax and watch your squad do work. Please note something shady went down here and it is no more.

Always something going on at 23/7

These fried jerked wings were on par with the best of the best from the US

Great burger and homemade fries...sometimes you just need some bar food when your gone that long.

NYC Style Pizza

Jamaican National Dishes: Ital food

Ital food is what the rastafaris eat and its strict vegetarian cuisine making Jamaica very friendly for Vegetarian travelers. I didn't make it to any Ital places this time around but I know that the people know how to make the food taste great because tons of non vegetarian eaters still eat at places like the Reggae man for lunch and dinner.

Popular Ital eatery on the beach

I gave you most of the good spots to eat at on the beach in this report. One advantage the cliffs clearly has over the beach is the food options. The cliffs are filled with so many places to try that come highly recommended that its going to take a few more trips to get to them all. I wasn't disappointed with any of my stops on this trip. Here are some of the places I made it to located in the cliffs.

Chef Teddy @ The Hideaway

Chef Teddy at the Hide-a-way restaurant is the former chef at Kuyaba. Hes a good friend of ours and this man can cook. Go see him for dinner one night and you will feel alright. His restaurant is at the Blue Cave castle in the cliffs. We stayed at the Blue Cave castle for the first 3 nights and it was nice. I hear the penthouse is where its at for a group of people. Everyone that looks into Negril dining options will see that the Kuyaba is one of the highest rated restaurants but little do they know the chef up and left and started his own spot. Those in the know always make it here a few times a trip for an amazing prepared meal. Ive loved conch since the days I was a kid and we went on family vacations to the Bahamas and Key West for the Easter holidays. These conch fritters will likely cause me to not like any other renditions of them ever again. They were the best piece of friend seafood I have had in a longtime. Along with amazing dinners, Teddy has the best breakfast in Negril. The banana cinnamon sugar rum pancakes will knock off your seat. If you want to get silly, have him add some ganja to the mix.

Another Jamaican/Carib dish these conch fritters were the best I have had

Spicy calypso shrimp

Teddy's kitchen style prepared jerk chicken

The best Lobster Thermidor in Negril

Push Cart/Rockhouse

The Rockhouse located on the cliffs is one of the most beautiful restaurants to dine at in the Caribbean. Aside from the world class chefs and menu at this New Jamaican cuisine style of cooking. There might not be a more romantic dinner spot around then a sunset dinner over some of Rockhouses amazing dishes. We never got a chance to eat at the Rockhouse but we had many a drink at sunset at the bar which also does perfectly executed drinks. Make sure to say whats up to Randy the bartender and let him take care of your thirst needs. Hell set you up with something super. Right next door to Rockhouse is the Push Cart, one of my favorite places to eat in Negril. Click here for more info on the food and hotel.

I make it here a few times a trip. Same view as Rockhouse at sunset and great food

Pushcart is located right next door to Rockhouse at Pirates Cave. A "Pushcart" is used for street vending and provides the inspiration for the new restaurant which is drawn from the street food of Jamaica and the Caribbean. Guests can indulge in "peppered shrimp" inspired by road side vending in Middle Quarters, St. Elizabeth where they rush your car with flavorful hot peppered shrimp in clear plastic bags; or try "fish with bammy" like that of vendors in Port Royal; and "homemade jerk sausage" made famous by Jamaica's 'jerk center' at Boston, Portland. The menu will also feature other traditional Jamaican home cooking favorites such as "curried goat", "oxtail", and an array of local desserts sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.

Jamaican National Dishes: Hot Pepper Shrimp & Braised Oxtails

One of the best parts of the food around the island is the many stalls you will see offering a variety of local specialties. One of the must do things on a trip to Negril is taking a ride thru the countryside and stopping at some of the more well known places for food and fun along the way. The road between Lacovia and the Black River leads thru the amazing picture perfect landmark known as Bamboo Avenue. This place is a foodies dream with stalls of fresh peanuts, drinks and all sorts of food and only 10 minutes down the road lies Middle Quarters, nicknamed "Pepper Shrimp Country", due to the many pepper shrimp vendors who display bright red shellfish in their colorful shells caught fresh that day from the black river. The shrimps are boiled whole in slated and peppered water. Do beware this is a hot dish. Make sure you have some the most refreshing soda in the world, Ting, next to you to cool down the heat. The Push Cart offered amazing versions of both hot pepper shrimp and oxtails braised in red stripe.

Jamaican hot pepper shrimp

Celebration time...Festival bread

Steamed fresh fish with veggies and red beans and rice

Simply amazing are the oxtails braised in Red Stripe

Chicken Lavish

Chicken lavish located up in the cliffs is a legendary restaurant that specializes in a great amount of chicken dishes. Aside from Jamaican settlers there is a good amount of Chinese and Indian locals and the flavors from these countries can be found in the islands cuisine.

One of Negril's most well known eating spots

The best sweet & sour chicken you will have...anywhere.

Fried chicken perfection

Better fries than most spots in the states

Canoe Bar & Grill

One of the best places to sit back relax, catch a contact and eat lunch. Get a beer and a fresh fried whole snapper for lunch and enjoy it on the beach just feet away from the water.

The menu at canoe is very, very reasonable and the food tastes magnificent

Owned by a black American who decided he had had enough of the 9-5 thing

The back bar at La Bella Italia is straight out of the movies...its perfect.

Fruits of the island

As you can imagine Jamaica is flooded with amazing fruits you've never heard of and cant find anywhere in a place like Chicago. My favorite was the Nesberry fruit pictured below. It was like candy but even better. The bartender at Bar B Barn, Sharon, was a real sweetie and made sure to bring us fruits she bought on her way to work and feed us water to stay hydrated as we sat at the bar for days on end enjoying ourselves.

Start every morning in Negril with some fresh squeezed juice

However if you drink coffee folks and I don't but I can still tell you that Jamaica has some of the best coffee on the planet. Blue Mountain Coffee is a classification of coffee grown in the Blue mountains of Jamaica. The best batches of this brew are noted for their mild flavor and lack of bitterness. Over the past 20 years the coffee has developed a reputation that has made it one of the most expensive and sought-after coffees in the world. In addition to its use for brewed coffee, the beans are the flavor base of Tia Maria liquor. Click here to learn more.

Click here for info on this exotic fruit

better than skittles, starburst and anything else in the candy aisle

Jamaica has over 100 types of different mango's

Picture yourself here next winter

Jamaica will be waiting...

Important Links
___________________ Message Board
Everyting Jamaican Message Board
Bar B Barn
Moondance Villas
Jamaica Tourist Board
Jungle Night Club
Bourbon Beach
Weather in Negril Right Now
Negril Calendar of Events

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