The Question: My husband and I like a warm destination with a good beach, but what we really want is good food. Where we can skip the buffet line?
We've all done our time in Caribbean all-inclusive buffet queues where somehow everything tastes the same. So let's forgo the all-you-can-eat and sample what's simmering under the corrugated tin roofs.
You can find these sidewalk kitchens across the islands – just ask a reputable taxi driver to take you to a local favourite, says Anne Brobyn, a real-estate tourism expert with Hibiscus International, who has travelled extensively and worked throughout the region.
Jamaica, she says, combines both your craving for good beaches and authentic cuisine. Dining at local stands is cheap to boot – often for as little as $5 a meal.
“Expect sides of roasted breadfruit or corn, some ackee and sweet treats, such as tamarind balls and raw sugar cane,” says Brobyn. “Wash it all down with a local beer, Irish moss [a seaweed drink]or a soursop.”
Eating at these slow-cooking stands will both satiate your appetite and offer time with locals and island culture. And a note on food fears: “I've never gotten sick from roadside eating so my experiences have all been very positive,” Brobyn says. Here are her picks for five memorable roadside eateries across Jamaica:
Port Antonio: To the north of Boston Beach, there is an alley known for its jerk stands. “Also located at the end of this alley is Great Huts ( greathuts.com), a unique village resort with Rock's Café,” she says. “Great food.”
Southwest Jamaica: Here, find Billy's Grassy Park, one of the most famous roadside eateries near Middle Quarters, St. Elizabeth. “Known for his shrimp – curried, peppered, fried and in one of the most delicious soups I've ever tasted.”
Negril: Track down Ras Rody's ( rasrody.com) for his excellent vegetarian and organic food sold under a thatched roof.
Ocho Rios: Settle into Miss T's Kitchen ( misstskitchen.com) in the heart of the city. “It's a rustic restaurant located in a pretty garden setting,” Brobyn says. “It features colourful decor and amazing food.”
Falmouth: Plantations are another way to experience the island's cuisine, such as at Good Hope Country House ( goodhopejamaica.com), which overlooks the Martha Brae River and the Cockpit Mountains. You can stay at this restored sugar plantation that features a beautiful 18th-century home, orchards of exotic fruit trees, trails, horse riding and, of course, Jamaican cuisine. If you just want a sample, Chukka Caribbean Adventures ( chukkacaribbean.com) offers tours and gourmet lunches here, Brobyn says.
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Follow Karan Smith on Twitter: @karan_smith. Special to The Globe and Mail