Traditional Island Foods

One of the benefits of staying in a villa, rather than at an all-inclusive resort, is that you can dine with the locals, savoring the island’s traditional foods. Jamaica has a number of local foods, from ackee and saltfish to rice and peas, to jerk meat (pork or chicken) to pepper-pot soup… you get the picture. Here’s a brief description of some island specialties:

– rice and peas: kidney beans (not peas), white rice, coconut milk, scallions, and coconut oil
– salt fish and ackee: dried cod and cooked fruit of the ackee tree
– pepperpot soup: salt pork, salt beef, okra, and callaloo (Indian kale)
– jerk: spice rubs and grills set over oil drums are used to create tasty meat dishes
– chicken fricassee Jamaican-style: rich chicken stew with carrots, scallions, yams, onions, tomatoes, and peppers in coconut oil
– roast suckling pig: a three-month-old piglet boned and stuffed with rice, peppers, yam, and thyme with shredded coconut and corn meal

The island is also famous for its rum, Red Stripe beer, and Blue Mountain coffee. Shaved ice with fruit syrup is a favorite dessert.

The size of Jamaica makes it nearly impossible to create a list of the best restaurants. We’ve listed a few favorites, but don’t be afraid to ask the locals for their recommendations. Most restaurants include a 10% service charge; otherwise a 10-15% tip is appropriate.

Almond Tree
Main Street, Ocho Rios
(876) 974-2813
“Romantic outdoor dining overlooking the sea. Well priced seafood, continental, and Jamaican cuisine.”

Day-O Plantation Restaurant
Montego Bay
(876) 952-1825
“Delicious Jamaican cuisine on the site of the 19th century Barnett Plantation.”

Evita’s Italian
Mantalent Inn, Eden Bower Rd., Ocho Rios
(876) 974-2333
“Attentive staff, heartstopping view, delicious food (try the Tiramisu). Kids under twelve are half-price, and half portions are available as well. ”

The Hungry Lion
West End Road, Negril
(876) 957-4486
“Vegetarian and seafood, perfectly prepared. Attentive service.”

Gloucester Ave., Montego Bay
(876) 952-4777
“Elegant seafood restaurant. Get a seaside table.”

The Native
Montego Bay
(876) 979-2769
“Good local food specializing in Jamaican jerk dishes. Outdoor dining overlooking the beach and coastline.”

The Pork Pit
Gloucester Ave, Montego Bay
(876) 952-1046
“Renowned for its jerked meats. Spicy or mild.”

Rockhouse Restaurant
Rockhouse Hotel, West End Road, Negril
(876) 957-4373
“The setting, high on a coral cliff, is awesome, and the food (traditional Jamaican with a “worldly” flair) is also terrific.”

Sugar Mill Restaurant
Half Moon Club, Montego Bay
(876) 953-2314
“Excellent menu including the island’s best Jamaican-style bouillabaisse. Good service. Candlelit outdoor dining.”

Three Dives
Norman Maney Boulevard, Negril
“The Jerk is cooked so well that it falls off the bone, and you taste the seasoning throughout. Excellent lobster, red beans and rice, and callaloo. Very casual, feels ‘like a friend’s backyard barbecue.'”

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