Even from here, I can smell it.
The smoky fragrance of jerk fills the air and makes my stomach yearn for that distinctive taste of Jamaica. And since I live in Miami and I’m currently in Barbados, that yearning for “yard” food is real.
It’s about to be satisfied, however, at Jamaica 246.
A humble hole-in-the-wall in a strip mall on Bay Street in St. Michael, the two-year-old has found favor not just with expat Jamaicans but also with Bajans, particularly those who studied at the University of the West Indies’ Mona campus in Jamaica. One of a pair on “Bim” (the other is in Warrens), the eatery serves classic Jamaican comfort food. Today: ackee and saltfish; curried goat; steamed fish; oxtail; jerk chicken and jerk pork – the latter three the most popular items on the menu, which changes daily. Sides are exactly what every Jamaican hopes for: golden fingers of festival; fried dumplings; and triangles of bammy, fried to a crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Pick a protein, side and a starch (rice and peas, of course!) and for between BDS$20 and BDS$35 you’ve got Jamaica on a plate.
When I arrive at lunchtime the line at the takeout counter is a dozen deep, so I take a seat in the dining room for waitress service. With plastic place mats and lazily turning ceiling fans it’s quintessentially Caribbean; I could easily be in Kingston. And when the food comes, it certainly feels as if I am.
The jerk chicken – which the restaurant starts cooking at 5:30am each day in a metal drum that’s rolled into the car park to spread its aromas (and to avoid a smoke-filled kitchen) – tastes as good as anything I’ve had in Jamaica. It comes with a fiery, flavorful jerk sauce; a crisp vegetable slaw; and two perfect triangles of bammy. Accompanied by a glass of homemade sorrel, it is, simply put, a taste of heaven. And of home.
— Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon, CJ Travel Editor