At a Jamaican restaurant, the focus is on flavor, not frills. Yet New Yorkers don’t need to take a trip to the islands to experience the best spiced and slow-cooked West Indian food. From hole-in-the-wall joints to dressed-up surroundings, Jamaican restaurants throughout the boroughs are dishing up stewed, jerked and curried recipes reflecting this culinary heritage. Start your foodie New York staycations with some of the best dishes at these Jamaican restaurants.
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Best Jamaican restaurants
This Caribbean oasis brings liveliness and island flavors to two NYC locations. Its double frontage in Soho includes a diner featuring wall-hung album covers of Jamaican musicians; a private dining room graced with pictures and personal belongings of Jamaican-born singer Grace Jones; and an adjacent Jerk Shack and a juice bar with beverages by Melvin Major Jr. Its 7A East Village outpost has an extensive Rum Bar selection and menus extending from brunch, lunch and dinner to late-night eats, fitting in with the neighborhood’s nocturnal buzz.
The next time you’re near the Brooklyn Museum, keep your eye out for this small Caribbean nook that serves flavorful and well-sized portions. The slow-cooked menu is straight on with its jerk chicken, braised oxtail platters, crispy fried chicken, baked mac and cheese and calypso shrimp. You can visit the happening cooking quarters on the lower level or head up a steel staircase to find a seat in the low-ceiling dining room upstairs—or take yours to go.
Starting off as a sandwich shop, this restaurant’s chef and owner, Michael Jacober, was inspired by Crown Heights’ culinary ethnicity and switched his epicurean gear to create a Caribbean menu. The result: a cozy, aquamarine-colored eatery that’s all about Jamaican fare with brunch, lunch and an extensive island-sourced spirits menu. A wood-burning oven slow-cooks jerk chicken, pork and lobster, and entrees like whole fish and curry goat also get their due. As for drink choices, consider the rum-flavored Dark N’ Slushie or the Painkiller cocktail.
This upscale Queens establishment has created an elegant setting and various opportunities for serving Caribbean and Jamaican fare. The restaurant serves a chicken and seafood buffet on Thursday evenings and both a morning buffet and brunch on Sundays. It also offers a few vegetarian selections and gets good marks for its jerk chicken, curried goat, oxtail and escovitch chicken and snapper.
Around the corner from Yankee Stadium, this homey place in Concourse Village is a perfect—and reasonably priced—meal stop before or after a home game. Locals flock here, too, for its well-sized lunch and dinner portions. The decor is simple, with Formica tables and faux wood paneling, but your focus should be on filling up on stewed or curried chicken, oxtails, rotis and sides of mac and cheese or rice and peas.
This longtime East Bronx spot, one of the best bakeries, is known for its coco bread, a starchy Jamaican sweet treat. The assortment of patties, both meat and vegetarian, also get good marks from patrons, who faithfully line up to purchase right-out-of-the-oven baked goods.
This counter-service storefront in Flatbush gets crowded, but the long wait for skillfully cooked dishes like jerk chicken pays off. Once your order of fire-roasted bird with just the right amount of spicy sauce comes out, nothing else matters. Other well-noted dishes include the fried fish, oxtail stew and saltfish, along with sides of plantains, patties and mac and cheese.
This two-level Greenwich Village restaurant and lounge belonging to the Negril chain embraces not just Jamaican cuisine but dishes from other Caribbean destinations like Trinidad and Puerto Rico. Its upstairs dining room serves lunch, brunch, dinner and a selection of tropical drinks. The downstairs Rhum lounge has a clubby atmosphere with an in-house reggae DJ cranking out tunes to create an island setting.
This Queens venue has solid prices for lunch and dinner orders, with popular dishes of jerk chicken, fried chicken and oxtail paired with plantains and a choice of salad or steamed vegetables. The menu also extends to red snapper, kingfish, chicken and goat curries, and an assortment of sides, patties and pastries.