Thursday, July 19, 2018

Food Dudes: Jerk Pit Café cooks up Jamaican classics

ALEX COGGIN ’16

STAFF WRITER

This week I took a trip to Jerk Pit Café on Main Street in Hartford. Hidden in a small corner of a relatively barren plaza, this restaurant is a hidden gem. Jerk Pit Café serves a variety of Jamaican specialties including, of course, the famous jerk chicken.

Finding this place required the help of Google Maps, but once I found it, I realized it is actually relatively easy to get there from campus. The restaurant is located in a neighborhood on the other side of Interstate 84, so it is about a 10-minute drive, just north of the downtown center.

The area directly north of downtown is historically known to be one of the more poor areas of Hartford. While driving through the neighborhood, it was apparent that the area was underprivileged. But, there were definitely bright spots, like Jerk Pit Café. There is a vibrant immigrant population in the neighborhood that has given birth to many great eateries and local establishments.

The restaurant’s exterior is very unassuming. There is a large sign in the front of the restaurant with the name and logo, as well as a small sign over the door. The interior is simple and relatively bare. The restaurant has a small dining room with many tables, as well as a small eating area by the counter. Both ordering and payment are done at the counter.

The menu is relatively small, with options like jerk chicken, jerk pork, oxtails, curry goat, and others. They also have beef patties, which are a Jamaican specialty consisting of a spiced meat mixture wrapped in a flaky pastry.

I ordered jerk chicken and jerk pork, both in the “small” size. I also added a side of plantains. The chicken and pork come with a hefty portion  of “rice and peas” which is basically just seasoned rice and beans. The meal is also served with mixed vegetables. When I ordered, the woman behind the counter asked if I wanted sauce, referring to jerk sauce, to which I said yes. It turned out to be a great choice, as the sauce was amazing.

The chicken was the highlight of my meal. Extremely juicy, the pieces literally were falling off the bone. It was some of the most flavorful chicken I have ever had. The jerk seasoning was perfectly spicy. The jerk pork was also delicious. It had a nice smoky flavor to it and was moist and tender. Both were spicy. If you are not a fan of heat, skipping the extra sauce could offer some relief.

The rice and peas were also tasty, and they had absorbed all the extra jerk sauce. The vegetables had a hint of vinegar and went well with the rich meats.

The plantains were okay, but I have definitely had better. They did have a nice seasoning on them. However, they did not seem very fresh. They were quite greasy too. Additionally, since I ordered to go, when I got back to campus to eat them they were not hot anymore.

The portions were huge. The small or medium sizes would be plenty for a single meal. With the large size, you would definitely have leftovers and it might even be large enough for two people to split.

The cafe is open very late. On Friday and Saturday, the hours are 10 a.m to 4 a.m. and on Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. I am not entirely sure what the scene would be like for late night given the surrounding neighborhood, but I am sure it remains busy at night with people who crave their delicious food.

Jerk Pit Café is also quite inexpensive. The chicken and pork meals were each about seven dollars, and the plantains were only one dollar. For the generous portion sizes, this was a definitely good deal. They take cash and credit, but there is a minimum of about nine dollars for credit card purchases.

I definitely recommend making a trip up the road to Jerk Pit Café if you are adventurous and in the mood for some traditional Jamaican food. Given the neighborhood’s large Caribbean immigrant population, the food is definitely traditional. One taste of the jerk chicken, and I assure you that you will want to go back.        

2940 Main St, Hartford, CT 06120

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