Where to Eat and Drink in Jamaica

BY Gina Hargitay

Where to Eat and Drink in Jamaica
Photography by Kevin Sanon


First and foremost: water. Whilst it is unlikely that you will get sick from drinking the tap water in Jamaica, it is recommended that you filter it first. Most restaurants offer filtered water for free. Otherwise, buying bottled water is the way to go. There are a number of locally bottled brands, the best and most delicious of which is Catherine’s Peak.

Aside from water, stay hydrated with rum punch (fruit punch with a rather strong dose of rum). Jamaican rum is excellent and you will most certainly want to buy a few bottles to bring home with you at the duty-free store at the airport. The best dark rum is made by a brand called Appleton, who have a variety of different ages and blends. Wray and Nephew is the brand you want for white rum, it is famous both for its flavour and strength – be warned! Rum tends to be the leading act in most local cocktails. For those looking for something a little less distilled, most restaurants offer a delicious fruit punch, made from fresh local fruits such as banana and papaya. All the flavour without the hangover.

As for food, when it comes to Jamaican cuisine, you will not be disappointed. Jamaica is famous for its jerk chicken: chicken slow cooked on a bed of coals slathered in the most delicious spice blend. It's a must-have with a side of festival, a sweet and savoury fried dumpling. There are jerk-centres scattered throughout the island, you just have to ask someone for the nearest, and everything on the menu is worth a try. Try Chelsea Jerk when in Kingston, and Ultimate Jerk Centre in Discovery Bay on the north coast. You can pick up a meal for around five dollars.

With a large Rastafari community, Jamaica tends to be very vegetarian friendly, so veggie options are easy to find, just look out for "Ital" food. The Rastafari way of cooking and eating places emphasis on health and excludes meat. For a great Ital meal visit Calabash Ital restaurant in the heart of Ocho Rios.

Another must-try is our national dish, ackee and saltfish. Ackee is a yellow fruit with an indescribable savoury taste and a texture similar to avocado. Together with salted cod and various veggies and herbs, this dish is a winner for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Seafood in general is delicious and extremely fresh. Try red snapper cooked escovitch style; the fish is fried and topped with pickled onions, carrots and hot-peppers.

Street food is both safe and delicious. There are always vendors on the street selling a variety of foods like peppered shrimp, drum pan chicken, seasonal fruit and local snacks. They are usually super friendly and nine times out of ten they are willing to give you a good deal if you buy enough.

Something that is an absolute must try is patty! A Jamaican patty is a pocket of flaky, crunchy pastry with various savoury fillings. The classic filling is beef, but there's a huge variety to choose from. There are various chains of patty shops throughout the island, the two most popular are Tastee and Juici.