Where is the best place to eat in Jamaica? Although this seems like an ordinary inquiry for any vacation in Jamaica, the fact is that on the island a culinary experience can be the answer to another question, that is, what to do in Jamaica? Jamaican food like Jamaican jerk chicken can be a way to experience the island with different senses.
Because of the many all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica, tourists tend not to go out for dining that much, having already paid for everything in their holiday packages. Despite the many resorts, there are actually a lot more independent restaurants serving up top-class Jamaican dishes than you would have expected. Aside from Jamaican food however, the small country actually has a large array of international cuisine on offer. You can grab sushi, dine on tapas, indulge in fine Mediterranean dishes, partake in Indian or French fare and feast on Italian right across the island.
Some can even offer the additional adventure of a twist on what you may have tried before, as the local chefs usually find a way to utilize Jamaican ingredients in new ways or simply offer a one of a kind dish on their menu that is a new take on the traditional meal. Dining at any of these restaurants reveals the wide array of quality food and authentic flavors that represent the side of Jamaica that you never knew existed. The food scene in Jamaica has exploded in the last ten years and it’s hard to narrow down a list, so we decided to simply offer up a variety of price points, cuisines and locations to give an idea of what’s available for a memorable meal. So, check out one or more of these fifteen restaurants you can visit on your next trip to Jamaica.
Usain Bolt's Tracks & Records – Kingston, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay (and London UK)
A massive, vibrant restaurant and sports bar in Kingston, along the themes of sports, Reggae and Dancehall music, and of course the Jamaican speedster himself (with the logo of his famous lightening pose), whose achievements are displayed on the large televisions, along with other historic sporting moments. It’s pretty hard to not find something on this menu to satisfy your needs. There are ample options for those wanting to try Jamaican cuisine but there are a ton of other choices for everyone. The flagship location in Kingston is actually a part of a complex with other restaurants offering some other great eateries in including Indian, Japanese, Chinese and a French style bistro along with one of the hottest bars on a Friday night and a coffee shop and outdoor bar. Other locations are also available in Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, with the latest spot being opened in London in the UK.
The Houseboat Grill - Montego Bay
The location may seem a bit unusual, a wooden, double-decker boathouse on the edge of a lagoon, but there is no doubting the quality that the Houseboat Grill produces. Menus are started with tropical inspired appetizers followed by sumptuous French-inspired entrees, or local lobster. Inside you can glance down into the glass enclosure which houses the lobster. You can choose to dine on the surrounding houseboat deck while looking out on to a protected body of water that is a part of the marine sanctuary. It’s also a cool way to hang with locals as many are known to frequent the restaurant or just stop by for a drink at the bar where there are countless top-shelf liquors.
Murphy's West End Restaurant - Negril
On the most westerly tip of Jamaica, close to the home of one of the island’s most famous beaches, lies Murphy’s West End Restaurant. It is a traveler’s paradise for amazing food and a great island vibe. Visitors indulge in homemade Jamaican food that is as great as any Jamaican grandma will make. Portions are very reasonable and filling and the seating area has hammocks hanging under the tapas-style roof, providing a perfect place to recover from the predictable food coma, with a glass of “the coldest Red Stripe Beer on the island” in hand. How will you know if it’s a good bet? Just ask any resident of the town itself.
Miss T's Kitchen - Ocho Rios
This laid-back restaurant is a surprise oasis right in the heart of the town of Ocho Rios. Once you turn in the gate you will find yourself in a cool, shady yard that magically blocks out any of the hustle and the bustle just outside the gate. It is truly like entering a bubble of calm and a great way to take a break from a hectic shopping excursion in the market. The open concept is colorful, yet calming with a sense of sitting down at a family member’s kitchen table, you’re that much at ease. Indulge in the restaurant’s honey-fried chicken, grilled lobster or curry goat. The kids menu is delicious and they even offer vegetarian dishes on their daily menus that never lack for flavor. Treat yourself and beat the Caribbean heat with ice-cold juices made fresh daily.
Scotchies - Montego Ba &, Ocho Rios
Your Jamaican trip is incomplete until you've had some authentic Jerk Chicken and the perfect place to get it is at Scotchies. At Scotchies, you may encounter a line about 20 people deep, but every minute of the wait is totally worth it. This is one of the best places in the Caribbean to get a literal taste of history, to go alongside your fiery Jamaican dish. The method they use to smoke the meat on logs of Jamaican allspice trees is originated from the tribal communities from about five centuries ago. Throughout the years the marinade has evolved to showcase the island’s love for flavors and spices. The one by Ocho Rios is located where the highway meets up with the main coastal road and is right beside Kaya, the much talked about spot with a tour of a medical marijuana facility and a coffee shop.
Pushcart - Negril
The restaurant is situated right next door to its sister restaurant the elegant Rockhouse Restaurant, which is a culinary dream date all on its own. Pushcart however is a little more laid back and more family friendly at a lower price point with more traditional Jamaican fare with a great kids menu and an equally stunning view of the famed Negril sunsets on the cliffs. It is on the West End heading away from Negril’s town center before reaching the infamous Rick’s Café and the colorful signage is hard to miss. The Instagram worthy setting isn’t just about the sunset, as the walls are adorned with the same signage and music memorabilia. Traditional Jamaican folk, reggae, ska and mento is usually played by a live band in the background and the bar is a great spot to just grab a drink and hang. For a beachside vibe, head over to their other sister restaurant, Miss Lily’s (with franchises in Manhattan and Dubai) which offers spectacular Jamaican food on the famous seven mile stretch of white sand beaches. We promise the sunset is pretty spectacular there too.
The Summerhouse - Kingston
The Summerhouse opened its doors in 2018 on the grounds of Liguanea Club in New Kingston. The seating on the verandah complimented by the views of the grounds and the details of the plating and presentation are evocative of more genteel times while still allowing for the relaxed setting visitors seek from the tropics. With a beautifully designed indoor bar with rich wood detailing, it provides the perfect night cap spot and gathering place for after work in the heart of the corporate district in an airy building that immediately creates a relaxing atmosphere.
The patio seating with a view of the sea is only one of the appealing things about this spot on the south coast. The Luna Sea Inn is a hidden gem that locals are often torn about keeping it to themselves or sharing their love of the scenic spot close to the stunning Bluefields Bay Beach. The food here is definitely worth stopping over for though even if you’re just on your way to somewhere else on the island.
At The Almond Tree, you dine in a cliff side ambience high above the Caribbean Sea in Ocho Rios. The restaurant’s namesake almond tree grows through the ceiling of the gingerbread-style bar, which itself is innovative because of its swinging chairs on ropes. The menu is international and Jamaican so you can expect kingfish in coconut before your pumpkin soup or lobster thermidor.
Tucked away in the lofty Blue Mountains is EITS (‘Europe In The Summer’) Café. The restaurant is a fresh escape from the plains of Kingston’s heat and bustle, blending the best of European and Jamaican cuisine. The restaurant is known to have a farm-to-table reputation, with all of their produce coming from their garden. Under the roofed outdoor terrace, you will be blessed with scenic views of amazing frosted canopies. You might hear reggae beats being played a couple of miles down the road or the pitter patter of rain on the roof. Whatever the experience is, it will be one to remember.
Situated in a garden just above the beach, Jack Sprat is a reggae lover’s dream -Reggae music, complete with film posters and album covers – are all over the walls and there’s even a jukebox. Some nights you can even catch dinner and a movie and this spot is a favourite outing for folks staying at nearby Jakes Hotel and Villas. Tables are set inside the island-style house and laid out undersea almond trees. There is amazing seafood and a tasty Jamaican-style pizza too. There are also weekly bonfires on the beach.
Steakhouse On The Verandah at Devon House - Kingston
While Devon House offers a range of food from light flaky crust Jamaican patties, to the world famous Devon House ice cream as well as pizza, specialty sandwiches and traditional Jamaican fare at the Grogge Shoppe restaurant, the Steakhouse on the Verandah restaurant is perfect for special occasions. Although a divine experience to indulge in a fantastic steak, the side dishes are a gourmet delight. Not a red meat lover? Not to worry, the vegetarian dishes are divine, the chicken juicy and tender, the shrimp are to perfection and the fish is light and melts in your mouth.
Gloria’s – Downtown Kingston on the Waterfront & Port Royal
The perfect spot to end a day exploring the historic area of Port Royal, site of the former pirate ‘wickedest city in the world’ that sunk under the ocean in a massive earthquake, and the other historic buildings in the small sleepy seaside fishing village. The church has gravestones you have to read to believe and the nearby Fort Charles is still in great condition with a small museum onsite. Gloria’s is a Kingston institution of freshly caught seafood cooked in traditional Jamaican styles. Steamed and fried fish done escoveitch style (a tart vinegar based sauce with the local fiery hot scotch bonnet pepper) then kick back with a cold Red Stripe as you look out at the sea from the upstairs level if you’re at their second location. Die-hards (i.e. locals) still head to the original location on a sidewalk in the heart of the village. Gloria’s also offers an upper deck dining spot with a view at Kingston’s Downtown Waterfront location which also offers other eateries, a lounge and the famous Devon House Ice Cream.
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This is a traditional, Italian, checked-tablecloth sort of a place, with great pasta dishes, pizza and salads, plus crepes for dessert. Keep an eye on the specials board too, as the chef puts a great twist on local offerings, such as lobster ravioli dressed with avocado. The wine is pretty good too. Located in the heart of the small town of Port Antonio, the simple unassuming spot is an easy choice as a break when strolling through the town or when you want to head out for a casual dinner.
Zimbali Retreats – Negril
They offer a shuttle service and you should take it, not because the location is a little off the beaten track (it is but the restaurant and accommodations are easy to find and get to), but you should do it so you can truly start this experience from the moment you leave your hotel. You’ll get whisked up a road away from the cliff side and Caribbean Sea into the lush vegetation where you will walk the grounds a bit to see some of what you’ll get to have for you meal. After the tour of the farm, the ‘farm to table cooking show’ has you enter the specially designed cooking studio where the chef takes you on a 6-course culinary journey. Enjoy a bottle of wine and loosen your belt, there’s no holding back when the food is this fresh. And remember you’ll be taken back to your hotel at the end of the night.
Although not included here, local patty franchises like Tastee and Juici Beef as well as Devon House Bakery and The Brick Oven offer delicious, freshly baked Jamaican patties all day long. You can get the traditional beef but chicken, shrimp are available as well as ackee and callaloo for vegetarians are a treat. Try it in soft buttery warm cocoa bread for a true Jamaican lunch.
Another food experience is the traditional Jamaican boxed lunch with everything from fish to stewed peas and bar-b-fried chicken with a ton of rice or ground provisions (e.g. green bananas and yam) and dumplings provide a stick to your ribs hearty meal. Ask almost any Jamaican at midday in an area with offices and they are bound to reel off a bunch of options for approximately only USD$5.
And last, but definitely far from least, for a true Jamaican culinary experience, don’t overlook Jamaican street food! Savory soups, hot peppered shrimp on the side of the road in Middlequarters or an ice cold coconut water straight from the coconut with the jelly to look forward to afterwards are only a few of the culinary delights to savor on any road trip across Jamaica.
Check out the directory of www.jamaicaexperiences.com for contact information on all of the locations mentioned as well as many other options for dining in Jamaica.
Also read Top 8 Restaurants Serving Jamaican Food in Negril Jamaica