a little bit of Jamaican

I had the chance today to go on a bit of a culinary journey. I’d been thinking recently about how NYC food bloggers, myself included, all write about the same places. A new spot opens up, there’s a little hype and a line to get in, and a bunch of us post reports. I guess it’s fun, but those places are almost always in Manhattan, or maybe in an “accepted” culinary hotspot like Flushing or Jackson Heights. NYC is a big place with a lot to offer. My adventure today started here in Crown Heights.

Oops, I mean it started here. I strolled up Nostrand Avenue. I haven’t been there in a while, and some of the old places have shut down or changed names. My destination was a tiny vegetarian Jamaican place called Ras Diggi. This place is so unknown, virtually everything you can find on the web about it was written by me (either in books I’ve written or on sites like Chowhound under my pseudonym JC). Most people don’t even believe me that this place exists. It’s not the easiest neighborhood for strolling. You’ve just got to be street smart about it. I made it all the way to Ras Diggi on Park Place, but they’d just started cooking for the day. The kind woman in the kitchen told me to come back later for their amazing soup with dumplings. There wasn’t going to be a “later” for me today, so I headed to an old favorite veggie spot nearby on Lincoln Place called Caribbean Delicacy, but it was clearly shut down long ago. Strike two.

Just before I got back on the 4 train to Manhattan, I spotted Jamrock Kitchen on Franklin Ave. It wasn’t vegetarian, but something about about this place drew me in. (Dumb luck… hunger?) In places like this, you have to ask what they’ve got. The menu is almost irrelevant. The counter guy gave me the run-down, and then I asked him what was really good. With no hesitation, he said, “the jerk chicken.”

I got it with rice and peas with some extra chicken gravy, and that cabbage veggie stuff on top. The container was exploding with food. I took a seat over at the promenade on Eastern Parkway and tried to work my way through this monster. The chicken was dripping with that zesty sauce, and soon so was I. It had just the right amount of heat to tantalize, and the chicken was falling off the bone. I’m no expert on Jamaican food, but I know what I like. This rocked. Get it… Jamrock? Okay, bad joke. That’s a Ting in the background. If you’ve never had it, let me try to explain. Have you ever had ginger beer and thought, wow, this is SO much better than ginger ale? Well, Ting is SO much better than anything else that might be called grapefruit soda. It’s got kick, and it goes perfectly with Caribbean food. P.S. If you’re still reading, forgive me for deleting some posts lately. I want the blog to be really about food stuff, so even though I write about author TV appearances and foodie events sometimes, I’m just letting those live for a day or two.

34 thoughts on “a little bit of Jamaican

  1. i think it’s awesome how you’re exploring other areas that may not be as exposed to the blogging world. i’ve never had jerk chicken but that photo looks nomomom worthy :).

  2. Sounds like you had quite the adventure. Too bad you did not get to make it back to Ras Diggi, but in the end you got to find a new great place.

  3. These are the places that really need the attention. Otherwise, they’ll meet the same fate as Caribbean Delicacy. This jerk chicken looks amazing and I want a bottle of Ting! I hope you’ll continue to highlight these unheralded joints.

  4. Risa: hi, I’ll make it back to Ras Diggi eventually. thanks for commenting.Tangled Noodle: you’re totally right.ChineseKite: yeah, there is something great about big cities with so much to explore.Jenn: it’s tough even in NYC, but this was pretty darned tasty.

  5. :::sigh:::: I miss walking around nyc and eating, just eating all kinds of good and different foods.I love my jamaican patties too.

  6. I have never had jerk chicken before. This looks so good I am going to have to give it a try. One of my teachers is from Jamaica and she gave me a recipe for it but I haven’t got around to it yet. Now I’ll have too!

  7. Yum that chicken looks so very tasty. I love food that gets you messy while you eat it…so long as there is somewhere to wash your hands! I might have to find a recipe and try it out!

  8. Oooooh, suddenly craving some jerk chicken…And yes to Ting! I’ve only ever had one can of it a long time ago. I need to go off in search of more!

  9. thank you for venturing out to the “real new york”. you’re so right about the same old places being written about. jackson heights is another awesome place to venture to (if you haven’t already) for some colombian, indian, peruvian, etc.i want to try the cow foot i see on the menu.

  10. Often the little places serve the best food. Although, it’s not on the same level as NYC I want to start eating at all the little places in my town–as an adventure and hopefully a discovery.

  11. i’m an a$$ (from my last comment re: trying jackson heights). yes, jackson heights is an accepted culinary hotspot. i totally get what you’re saying – it really is. but i do think there are so many places in jackson heights that don’t get the hype/write ups they should. but you’re right on about crown heights and lots of other places in my borough of brooklyn that have authentic, delicious and fabulous food. people may feel too nervous to venture into some of these places which may be why it’s not as “accepted” as a culinary hotspot (which is a very, very lame excuse).there are some excellent caribbean/ west indian places in prospect lefferts that you should check out. you should also check out the caribbean day parade if you’re around next labor day w/e. here’s our write-up on it if you’re interested: http://www.weareneverfull.com/nyc-caribbean-day-parade-a-feast-for-the-senses/awesome food there.

  12. This is what I miss about NYC. Take the subway and you can be in another world – having a culinary advenutre. Made me think – it’s time to go back.

  13. Dawn: i love jamaican patties too, and I almost got one, but I had a hunch the portion was going to be massive, and I was right. you can get good patties in Brooklyn and some spots in Queens too — Jamaica Heights…Melissa: then you definitely have to try that recipe!apparentlyjessy: yeah, I didn’t mention that in my blog entry. there was NO WHERE to clean-up. I was a bit of a mess.su-lin: hi, thanks for commenting. I’m craving another Ting right now… not to mention that chicken.pinkstripes: i had to remind myself where you live. there must be so much exploring to do in L.A.! Honestly, most of the time I’m there, I’m eating in more fussy places for work-related meals. I’m not complaining or anything — I’ve just never done any exploring there except maybe once in Koreatown.hi, “we are never full.” thanks for visiting. no need to defend yourself. I agree that there are a lot of untapped places in Jackson Heights. I was really just talking about places like Jackson Diner that everybody seems to know, and nobody bothers to explore beyond what’s closest to the subway stop. Crown Heights isn’t for everybody. Frankly, if I was a young woman alone after dark, I wouldn’t even think about going there. in fact, I wouldn’t even think about going there alone after dark myself, being a 6-foot tall guy. You definitely have to know your way around — you don’t want to look lost in Crown Heights. I’ve tried more West Indian and Caribbean places in Brooklyn than I care to admit. And of course I know about the parade, but thanks for the tips!

  14. I am insanely jealous that you live in NYC! I have never been but I have a list of places I want to go when I do get the chance to make a trip out. Now reading your blog my list will only get longer! That chicken looks so good I think I might just want to drink the sauce it is basted in…

  15. This post brought back memories of an awesome Jamaican place in DC Nigril’s. I loved it, we can probably find something like that around here in SF, but requires a bit more digging. Until I stumble across this place, I’m destined to make my own Jerk chicken and leave all visitors in coughing fits from the peppers.

  16. hi, oysterculture. you sound like my kind of foodie. I should tell you about the time Paul Johnson let me try all kinds of oysters fresh off the boats at his wholesale market, Monterey Fish Market at Pier 33. I’ve NEVER had anything that fresh before.

  17. I mostly hit the store fronts and street carts in jackson heights – I am dying to try the indian food but its like stabbing apples in the dark – I dont know which one to pick

  18. thanks for commenting, doggybloggy. i’m almost afraid to recommend a place in jackson heights because my favorites have closed, and I haven’t been in a year or two. dimple is great for veggie indian, but you don’t go for the decor. dosa diner was good too, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was closed down because it replaced another amazing restaurant that didn’t last long enough.

  19. Good for you for branching out and seeking the goods outside our little island. I’ve lived in nyc for about 4 years and can basically count on one hand how many times I’ve done the same. We just recently got a car though, and I’m feeling the freedom. Thanks for the inspiration to get out of the city!

  20. I am all about finding stuff to eat outside of Manhattan or other popular or trendy areas. I love getting Trinidadian food in Brooklyn (I am half Trinidadian) and I will go so far out of my way to get it. Sometimes it is just those places that are unassuming that have everything written above the counter on a board that have the absolute best, most flavorful food that feels like it was cooked in someone’s kitchen at home. Great post.

  21. hi, Teanna. thanks for visiting. Half-Trinidadian? Hmm, maybe I should consult with you next time when I’m thinking of taking another Caribbean adventure. Yes, a lot of those places have great, home-style food.

  22. Delish. I’ve never eaten there but this place is a few blocks away from where I live. I will have to try it. But this neighborhood is full of little jems.

  23. eliana: you live in that area? lucky! yes, it’s full of gems, but some of my favorites are gone. jamrock kitchen looks to be quite new compared to others. definitely worth a try.mermaid sweets: thanks for visiting

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