Pretty much everyone in the world has heard of Bob Marley, he arguably put Jamaica on the world stage. But the island isn’t just known for its reggae, beaches and luxury villas, it’s also known for high quality coffee (Blue Mountain), deliciously aged dark rum (Appleton) and irresistible local dishes like jerk chicken and Jamaican patties.
If you’re traveling to Jamaica and you’re on a limited budget, have no fear, the island has many restaurants and local venders to choose from. When you land in Montego Bay, look alongside the main road as you make your way to your hotel or villa – you’ll notice white mini vans where locals serve some of the best authentic dishes. For those of you who have never tasted a Jamaican beef patty, let me describe to you what’s in it.
Picture a pastry, kind of like a small hand held pizza but folded into two. Inside you’ll find warm and savory spices and beef (the most popular filling), or a variety of other options such as chicken, vegetables or shrimp. Some will add hot sauces to give it a little extra kick. You can freeze them for later; it’s the perfect meal to grab if you want a quick meal after a day on the beach!
Another very popular local dish is Jamaica’s jerk chicken. There are many different versions of this dish; each recipe includes its own take on the classic Jamaica jerk spice rub, made from scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, chopped onions and more. As if that wasn’t enough flavor, the meat is then usually grilled over charcoal or smoked for that delicious smoky taste.
Whether you are looking for a quick patty or planning a special meal, here are a few restaurants to try in Jamaica:
Scotchie’s (Montego Bay)
Considered one (if not the) best spots on the North Coast to enjoy spicy and flavorful jerk chicken. If you’re looking for a real local, authentic Jamaican experience, try Scotchie’s.
Toscanini (Ocho Rios)
Every destination has their go-to Italian restaurant. In Jamaica, Toscanini is the place. The restaurant is located in an ancient colonial villa and is regularly visited by the island’s movers and shakers. Come here for a special night out.
Rick’s Cafe (Negril)
You’re not really coming here for the food but rather for the vibe. Tourists in the Negril area will usually end up at Rick’s Cafe to dance, and yes, jump off its cliffs into the ocean if you’re brave.
Juici Patties (Montego Bay)
Do I really need to say more about this local spot?
Marguerite’s (Montego Bay)
This is definitely a restaurant you save for that special night. Dress up, order a martini, and enjoy the oceanfront views from your table.
So whether you’re backpacking, staying in a hotel or a luxury villa in Jamaica, I hope you enjoy this quick guide to the island’s local cuisine!
Susanne Richards is a food-loving adventure traveler, who enjoys discovering great new flavors as much as a beautiful new beach. When she’s not out exploring, Susanne regularly writes about her trips and Jamaica.