In anticipation of next week's inagural NyamJam food and music festival, we asked Chris Blackwell, legendary music impresario and Jamaican hotel magnate, to tell us about the local food scene that inspired him to create the weekend event.
JAMAICA – I grew up eating Jamaican food, having lived here most of my life, so it always reminds me of home. I truly miss it when I am away: There is nothing like the bold flavors and incredible seasoning found on the island. I always felt that Jamaican food was on par with its music scene and its world-class athletics, which is why I am keen on NyamJam, a culinary festival highlighting Jamaican food, music, and culture that will be held on November 14.
These are the places that I think are defining and redefining Jamaican cuisine.
Stush in the Bush
Free Hill, Arterial Rd., Saint Ann; +1-876-562-9760
I love that they are doing their own thing up in the bush: All ital (a Rastafarian diet that adheres to similar rules as vegetarianism) with food that they grow. Their sauces are also incredible, especially their blow fyah pepper sauce.
Yam Man in Trelawny
As you enter Trelawney from Saint Ann, there is a guy who does yellow yam on the side of the road, sometimes with ackee and saltfish. It is great. Yellow yam is an important staple in Jamaica and is even credited as a reason behind the speed of athletes like Usain Bolt.
On the road from my hotel GoldenEye to Kingston is an incredible peanut soup stand on the left side, midway on Junction Road. There is no website or even an address, but you know it when you see it. Soup is an important part of Jamaican food culture, but this one always hits the spot as a little break on my drive.
North Coast Hwy. (across from Holiday Inn SunSpree), Montego Bay; +1-876-953–3301
You can't go wrong with jerk chicken in Jamaica, but Scotchies has a great vibe. I love spicy food, and the sauce they use has an incredible kick.
17 Mile Post on Newcastle Rd., Kingston;+1-876-489-5671
A fun little spot tucked away in the Blue Mountains where the view is incredible and the food is delicious. They grow most everything right there, which means the food is about as local as it gets.
New Castle Rd. B1, Crooked River; +1-800-232-4972
This may be another one of my properties, but there is no place more magical for a special meal in Kingston. It is 3,300 feet up the Blue Mountains with an incredible view of the mountains, Kingston, and the sea.
Chris's Cook Shop
Main St. (across from Maxine's Hot Spot), Oracabessa; 1-876-861-1611
Our guests at GoldenEye love to walk into town and visit Chris's Cook Shop. It is a typical roadside restaurant: The menu might change and there are only a few options, but it is always delicious and a great thing to do when hanging out in Oracabessa.
Main St., Oracabessa; +1-876-844-1621
Another roadside spot that is nice to wander to from GoldenEye.
Toscanini Italian Restaurant
A3 Highway, Tower Isle, Ocho Rios; +1-876-975-4785
It's not Jamaican food, but it's nice to mix things up every once in a while. The seafood is always fresh and the pasta is delicious.
The Strawberry Patch Café & Grill
Robin's Bay, St. Mary; +1-876-337-6127
Really wonderful fried chicken, and that's all there is to it.
Miss T's Kitchen
65 Main St., Ocho Rios; +1-876-795-0099
Jamaican classics in an inviting spot and wonderful setting about 20 minutes down the road from GoldenEye.
Sawyer's Beach Rd., Hopewell; +1-876-783-5046
A great family-run spot just outside Montego Bay, where the lobster is kept alive until you order it.
Devon House, 26 Hope Rd., Kingston; +1-876-968-5488
Chef and owner Colin Hylton does an amazing job putting a bold spin on authentic Jamaican dishes. The desserts are also spectacular, proof that Hylton got his start as a pastry chef. Devon House is also beautiful: Guests can dine on the lovely terrace or in the vault.
Devon House I-Scream
26 Hope Rd., Kingston; +1-876-929-7028
There are so many great restaurants and places to eat in Kingston, but Devon House I-Scream is always a nice treat after dinner or really just anytime.
Norma's at the Marina
Errol Flynn Marina (near the lighthouse), Port Antonio; +1-876-993-9510.
This is the creation of three of Jamaica's most critically acclaimed restaurateurs: Norma Shirley, Colin Hylton, and Gariel Ferguson. They use both local and international ingredients to create truly special Caribbean fusion dishes.
#16-19 Market Place, 67 Constant Spring Rd, Kingston; +1-876-906-4393
Gariel Fergusons's crispy chicken wings, wood-smoked chicken, and baby-back ribs are killer. The seafood is outstanding too, especially the grilled jumbo shrimp and cedar plank grilled salmon filet.