Heaven on Earth: Negril, Jamaica (PICS)
I'm back folks. After spending three weeks in Jamaica its back to reality and I got some food posts to go with it. I just read a great little report on St. Kitts by BR who also loves the Caribbean like me. However my favorite island in the West Indies is bar none...Jamaica. Its amazing how all these little islands that are so close in proximity are so diffeent in food/culture. I first went to Negril on spring break back in 03 and this past trip was my 4th to the island since then but first with a camera.
Jamaica gets a bad rap for being unsafe by some people and 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 Trenchtown and Old Kingston (neighborhoods in Kingston) are downright dangerous, answer me this one question. Who the hell comes on vacation in Chicago and hangs out in the Austin and Lawndale neighborhoods? exactly. Negril, Jamaica is my favorite place on earth and it has a whole lot to do with the people that live there. The only way your going to feel unsafe is if you mess with a tourist. The people of Negril know just how important the visitors are and as I have seen on every trip if you mess with a tourist and do something unruly to them then your going to get your ass beat and the cops will haul you to jail after the locals beat your face in. Now onto the reasons why Jamaica is my favorite island vacation destination and Negril my favorite place on the island. 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 mention above its the bar b barn or bust unless your doing it real big ($$$$) in which I highly recommend staying at the Moondance villas which I was lucky enough to do one spring break. Its a Chicago owned property and they put alot of work into the community. They just opened a new property in the cliffs that is top notch as far as everything goes. 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 and beaches making it one of the most beautiful countries on the map. Every coastline is a different scene and in the middle you have mountains.
Jamaica is big with US, Canadian and Italian tourists
View from the bar at the Bar B Barn Hotel on 7 mile beach at sunset
walk to the beach
Negril has two totally different atmospheres in the cliffs and the beach and I love both. Negril starts out as 7-mile beach and extends all the way to the West End which is the cliffs. This is the drive along the way.
Orange Hill outside Negril is an amazing little community that I would like to have a spot in one day 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 everything 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 and you will meet wonderful groups of people from all over. On this particular trip I met some real characters from a bike gang in Duluth, MN, restaurateurs from Naples Italy, Lawrence, KN, spring breakers from Tokyo, railroad conductors from Winnipeg Canada, 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 13th 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. I dont think of myslef as a tourist anymore when Im over there because its basically my 2nd home and I will spend winters there sometime soon.
Jamaica is filled with little roadside bars/shacks...a favorite of mine
If you ever see these two selling their grandmas homemade pastrys 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.
The King and most popular person amongst the people
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" and a few others along with Capleton was a stunner but the rest of the shows didn't disappoint either. We saw amazing concerts from Sizzla, Beenie Man, Ziggy Marley, 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.
Signs announcing shows are all over Negril
The stage at Bourbon Beach (on 7mile 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.
No country puts out more music (US and Great Britain included) than Jamaica and Negril is where you have to go to see it. 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 and they couldn't of been nicer people wanting to show me their country. I even went to Kingston and saw the real Kingston with a well known deejay and it was very interesting to say the least. and I'll have a food report from there later on.
Usain Bolt and the men and women Jamaican sprinters were the stars of the Beijing summer games along with Michael Phelp's.
The kids are always as happy as can be when walking home from school and you'll see all of them doing it. You just dont see that in Chicago anymore.
Little Jamaican kids love meeting people and are so vibrant and social that their energy is contagious. The kids are the happiest kids on earth.
every night at the popular cliff hangout "Mi Yard"
No worries mon
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 and like the Jamaica tourist council slogan says "once you go, you know" 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 obviously very fresh and a must eat while down there. here a fisherman displays his catch for the day as he try's to sell it to the restaurants along the beach. I believe he said this was pompano fish.
Whole fried snapper (head underneath) done escovitch style (vinegar and peppers) from a popular locals lunch spot called Juicy J's (right by the bank in the center of town) What a meal for under $7 US.
The Jerk (anything)
The men do the grilling and every Jamaican has a recipe for Jerked chicken and a family sauce they claim to be the best.
The only place in Negril to get real jerk (Its becoming harder to find everywhere on the island) is at Bourbon Beach
The real setup for jerked pork/chicken is not those popular garbage can carts. The carts do however still do a damn fine job.
There are 100s and 100s of vendors along the beach and cliffs that sell their chicken late into the night.
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.
Jerked chicken from Bourbon Beach with their best on the island Jerk sauce is most likely the best jerk chicken in Negril
Jerked Pork is my favorite meal on earth and if I had a choice for my last meal on earth this would be it...hell wouldn't be so hot after eating some of this spicy pigness.
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.
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.
This is where my camera starts getting screwed up. Despite the fact that I have all the pictures I took in my folder. Some of the pictures are different pictures once I open them up. I can see the original photo that its supposed to be when its small but when you click the photo its a totally different photo then the one its supposed to be. I dont know why this is but I lost alot of good pictures b/c of it. I can still see the original photo but once opened its a totally different one.
Ragabones aka The red Dragon seems to be the most popular spot amongst tourists, locals and relocated people for jerked pork. 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. Anthony Bourdain really screwed up when he didnt try any jerked pork on the Jamaican episode.
jerked pork from Bigga's in Green Island (en route to Negril) Hes the man at the can in the first picture in the food section up top of this post. This was very tasty but boneless and thus not my style.
Jerked pork from Bourbon beach was also good but not the best. It was also boneless and made differently than their chicken is. The sauce is the same fire that they use on the chicken. So hot and so good.
menu at Ossies
many funny signs like this at all the restaurants (Ossies)
as I stated in a post made a few years ago...Ossies (on the beach) is the best jerked pork in Negril and my favorite meal on earth. 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 and this is a must stop in Negril.
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. It was the most tender meat bones and all included with 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.
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 isnt 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 (son of the owners and brother to Angela, the GM) has left the island to run a hotel in Dominica and I was sad to hear that but happy to hear he and his family are doing very well.
Angela's is where almost all of the Italian tourists eat everyday. 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 people. 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
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.
The bar at the bar b barn (best in the carib) has every drink on the walls surrounding it. Dont 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.
a typical Jamaican lunch at the Bar B Barn Bar (1 beef patty, 1 Bob Marley and 1 Red Stripe)
fish n chips for lunch from the Bar B Barn Restaurant
Garlic butter jerked lobster for dinner
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 at the Blue Cave castle in the cliffs one night and you will feel alright.
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.
Spicy calypso shrimp
Chicken lavish up in the cliffs is a legendary restaurant that specializes in a great amount of chicken dishes. Aside from Jamaicans there is a good amount of Chinese and Indian locals and the flavors from these countries can be found in the islands cuisine.
You cant find sweet and sour chicken this good in Chicago
The fried chicken wanted to give Harold a run for his money it was so tasty. the fries were better than most US spots and this place does not disappoint no matter what you order.
The Push cart is my go to spot to take the all the natural beauty's that inhabit the island too. Its located right next to the more expensive and world famous Rockhouse up in the cliffs. Its owned by the same people and the food is very good and the price is affordable compared to the Rockhouse and you get the same view at sunset. I do love the Rockhouse and my man Randy that tends bar there will take care of you, tell him you know me and all will be good.
Jamaican hot pepper shrimp is another famous dish...
...as are oxtails braised in Red Stripe from (both from The Push Cart) I had this four different times on my last trip. Delicious.
23/7 is a sports bar owned by a New Yorker who was a trade and said F*ck it, Im 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.
amazing fried jerked wings
Great burger and homemade fries...sometimes you just need some bar food when your gone that long.
NY style slices available very late
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 brought us too his place in Orange Hill for the day.
This little shack produced two of the best meals on the whole trip and we ate like champs
ackee (a fruit) and saltfish is another one of Jamaica's claims to fame in the food world. Typically eaten for breakfast its a great combo of flavors and tastes very much like eggs.
ackee is poisonous unless the berries inside of fallen out
ready to eat ackee
This curried chicken was one of the best meals I've had in years. Along with the yams, bread and dumplings it was the best breakfast I had and if I could have this for breakfast everyday I would eat it more often.
As you can imagine jamaica is flooded with amazing fruits you've never heard of. My favorite was the Nesberry fruit pictured here. It was like candy. 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 as we sat at the bar for days on end enjoying ourselves.
Just one type of the 100s of different mangos on the island
this little shop in the cliffs owned by a black American had some great gelato
The McDonalds of Jamaica except this place makes great pattys
one of Jamaica's many national dishes
The Patty man on the beach selling his pattys
Well that about does it as far as pictures that made it back. I have a bunch more that I will upload to a web album and post the link back on here. If you ever are heading to the island for the first time or the first time in ages just shoot me a message or email and I can tell you anything and everything you need to know. Respect mon. Check my little food site
for a full report (nothing left out) and more pictures later this month. Titus.
near the end of the beach and the cliffs in the back