Hartford has over thirty Jamaican restaurants, reflecting its large Jamaican population. There are at least 15 Jamaican take out restaurants on Albany Avenue alone. The food is always precooked and ready to be served into a Styrofoam container, and then placed in a brown bag with plastic utensils for takeout. Most restaurants offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many of the places are closed on Sunday.
Ackee and saltfish is the Jamaican national dish. Akee is a yellow fruit that looks like scrambled eggs. It is sautéed with saltfish (cod), onions and peppers. Breakfasts traditionally come with boiled green banana, yam, and dumpling. This dish will cost $10.
If you want a cheaper alternative, order okra and saltfish or cabbage and saltfish, which will cost you $6 for a small size. The meal, thanks to the boiled green banana, yam and dumpling is very filling and will keep you full for hours.
You can go in and simply order banana, yam and dumpling and it will run you $1.50.
If they have breadfruit, you can order a slice for $1.50. It is from a fruit that looks like pineapple, but has a distinct bready flavor and texture. It comes fried and is an excellent accompaniment to akee and saltfish.
Plantain is a traditional accompaniment to many Jamaican meals. The plantain is a thicker member of the banana family. It is allowed to riped to the point of the skin turning black, then it is fried. It is very soft and sweet. A side of plantain costs $1. It goes as well with lunch and dinner as it does with breakfast.
Lunch and Dinner
Typical menu items in most Jamaican restaurants include jerk chicken, jerk pork, curry chicken, curry goat, stew chicken, stew pork, and ox tails.
Jerk is just a name for Jamaican seasoning that is dry-rubbed or marinated usually on chicken or pork. Each cook’s jerk mixture will be different, but will likely include allspice (pimento) and Scotch Bonnet Pepper. Other ingredients may include garlic, thyme, cloves, scallions, cinnamon and nutmeg. Every restaurant’s jerk is different, which is one of the things I love about Jamaican restaurants. Everyone has their own homemade style.
Always order with rice and peas, which is the Jamaican rice cooked in coconut milk with kidney beans (called peas). Like the banana, dumpling and yam with breakfast, the rice and peas is very filling and a small order will last you most of the day. You can order white rice instead.
If you don’t want rice and peas and are being carb conscious, you can order chicken or pork by the quarter or half pound
I usually order jerk chicken, rice and peas, with stew chicken gravy. A small is usually $6 and with the rice and peas is filling enough for me.
Those who don’t like spice, should order stew chicken or stew pork, which are simmered meats that are cooked till the meat is very tender and delicious.
To fully sample the array of Jamaican dishes, you need to try oxtails and curry goat.
Ox tails are actually cattle tails. The meat comes on the bone and needs to be slow cooked until it is tender and will comes easily off the bone. It is often served with butter beans over rice and peas. If you order ox tails, be sure to say yes if they ask you if you want gravy. Ox tail, tastes like pot roast, and if slow-cooked right, the meat comes right off the bones. The gravy is so good; most places will not allow you to get it only you actually order the ox tail. Always ask for extra gravy – it is that good.
Curry goat is good, but the yellow curry powder will stain your uniform, so be careful. The meat is cooked with the bone. I also find goat meat tends to stick between my teeth.
Jamaican curry is flavorful and not too spicy.
Beef, chicken or vegetable patties are a traditional dish, the filling in a lightly pastry that is often eaten alone or in the middle of a piece of sliced coconut bread. Patties are $1.75 each and 0.95 cents for the coco bread.
A coco-bite is a hot dog with cheese cooked into a piece of coco bread. It will cost you $3.10.
Gizzada, coconut drops and carrot cake are also treats that can be found at Jamaican bakeries.
I like coconut water. There are two types, water with and pure coconut water, which is more expensive. You can also get Ting, which is a grapefruit soda. I sometimes order Soursop juice, which comes from the Soursop fruit. Most Jamaican restaurants serve pineapple, grapefruit and coconut sodas as well.
Jahm Ske’s jerk is not too spicy. Those who don’t like spice at all should order stew chicken, which just stewed slow cooked chicken, very tasty.
If you are looking for something extreme, try the Goat’s Head Soup available on Fridays. Goat’s Head Soup is made from goat brains with some vegtebles and maybe some dumpling thrown in. It is considered an aphrodesiac.
Jahm Ske doesn’t serve pork products.
Jerk Pit Cafe
The best pork I’ve had has been out at the Jerk Pit Café on Main Street. I order a half pound of pork, and decline the jerk sauce, which they can give you in a small plastic cup on the side. The sauce is very good, but just a bit spicy for me. The pork is moist and flavorful with just enough spice to give it a great taste.
Mr. Snapper’s Restaurant
Mr. Snapper’s on Albany Avenue is known for it porridge. Order a small for $2.50. The
Seashore is on Garden Street just off Albany Avenue. It has excellent seafood soup and conk soup – great to have in the winter. It comes in a Styrofoam cup. Careful of inhaling little flakes of scotch bonnet pepper which give the soup a strong kick.
They have some excellent fish dishes (Jamaican’s love whole fried fish), but fish in general should be avoided when working on the ambulance as unless eaten quickly and disposed of, it can significantly stink up the ambulance.
McGregor’s is on lower Albany Avenue. They have excellent curry goat. Their jerk is sometimes a little too spicy for me. I preferred Stew pork, which is slow simmered until it is nice and juicy.
Scott’s Bakery 1344 Albany Avenue Open Monday through Saturday 8 M to 7:30 PM. Sunday 8-5.
Scott’s on Albany Avenue is a bakery that does not offer the full array of foods that other restaurants do. What Scott’s does offer are beef patties, coco-bites, and an arry of Jamaican baked goods such as duck bread and carrot cake.
Scott’s also has a restaurant at 3381 Main Street that offers traditional takeout such as curry goat, ox tails and jerk chicken, as well as another storefront on Blue Hill’s Avenue close to Mt Sinai, they have another small restaurant where you can get patties, regular meals and they have jerk chicken wings for $3.00 that are particularly good.
Located at Albany and Woodland, the Golden Crust also has great patties. I personally prefer the patties at Golden Crust, which comes in a lighter pastry than Scott’s. A beef or chicken patty costs $1.80. You can get coco bread for 90 cents.