Jamaican food sizzles with sunshine and heat. Ocho Rios is served well by the food of all nations and the usual restaurant chains — but it would be rude not to focus on the blessed island cuisine, the best of the bunch.
This is why for ‘when in Rome’ reasons we do not list International food outlets — this is Jamaica, would you really come all this way to eat at Burger King? — but we may add a ‘selected selection’ later.
Many of the so-called ‘all-inclusives’ [which they are not] prefer their guests not to venture beyond the gates for whatever feigned rationale, and this takes away a lot of the tourist business from the local restaurants and bars.
To escape from wristband-required obligation and go out and sample the local food certainly beats queuing three times a day like ants at a picnic for yet another ho-hum ‘all-inclusive’ buffet.
Street Food To Die For
Come early evening, the sounds and smells gather roadside as jerk carts are fired up to fill the street with the sweetest smoke and the most chickenous of temptings.
Street food is fresh and delicious. Hot jerk chicken straight off the grill, freshly cleavered and wrapped in foil with an extra squirt of sauce (and a piece of white bread to cool your boots) will blow your socks off.
On weekend nights during Farmers’ Market, the street food gathering at the market entrance is quite a commotion. Chefs come from all over to rumble your tummy in a dark, smoking frizzle-fest of dutchie pots, bubbling away over charcoal stoves repurposed from the wheels of cars. Just watch your step on the rubbly ground.
Overnight boiled dumplings, fried…
Try fry chicken, fry fish, steam fish, bammy, festival, fry dumplings and curry goat. Jamaicans love a generous helping of rice ‘n’ peas, mix veg and callaloo on the side too. Look out for the little Boston jerk pork cart… and if you can find that elusive guy who sometimes pops up to sell bully beef sandwiches, all Heaven will break loose!
Restaurants We Love
While it’s convenient enough to grab a quick, delicious spicy patty or two from one of the island chains (see bottom of page), there is an abundance of cookshops and restaurants to make your mouth water and your belly full, serving up real island fare all the way down the busy strip of Main Street and beyond.
“Nuff gravy ‘pon de rice…”
For those we heartily, hungrily recommend for a real Jamaican sit-your-batty-down experience, tuck in your bib and read on.
MISS T'S KITCHEN
Our first-up foodie heaven at 65 Main Street with its open-plan, all-Jamaican crazy decor (pictured above and right). This gorgeous award-winning ‘restaurant to the stars’ has dished up “Nice Jamaica Country Cookin’” since 2009. For more adventures with Miss T and the gang, keep up to date at their Website, Facebook and Instagram. Read Anna-Kay’s (for it is she) OCHI INSIDER page. Look on the map for Yellow 1 ►
Main Street (formerly Centre Spot), opposite the Singer store. Small, cosy, no-frills restaurant, run by the same family since 1989. Serving the national dish of ackee and saltfish, brown stew pork, fry chicken, mackerel and red bean soup. And Wilson’s favourite breakfast: kidneys and callaloo with a couple of saltfish fritters. Yellow 2 ►
Just inside the Market off Main Street, this homely cookshop, family-run since 1984, is always bright and cheery, and usually packed with market folks spooning down the delicious red bean soup. Yellow 3 ►
This diner on Evelyn Street is just opposite the Police Station, so behave yourself. Decor is simple enough but the tasty food is bargainous: oxtail, curry goat, fry chicken, steam fish, and a rainbow of fresh juices. Yellow 4 ►
Delightful little Ocean Village hole-in-the-wall in with friendly service and daily-changing menu. There are tables outside under the large gazebo where you can sit and eat with the locals. Yellow 5 ►
52 Main Street, right next to the big storm gully. Varied menu (their scrumptious jerk burger repays a glance), an open air seating option, and live reggae every Saturday night. For more useful Mongooseful info on other weekly events such as Friday Power Hour and Ignite Fridayz, find them on Instagram and Facebook. Yellow 6 ►
Right at the heart of James Avenue so expect a bit of revelry from the street... it’s Jamaica after all! With an emphasis on seafood, the cooking and service is excellent and the place is a popular gathering spot for families on Sundays — always a good sign. Yellow 7 ►
OCHO RIOS JERK CENTRE
At 14 DaCosta Drive, just past the gas station intersection, a dedicated haven for jerk lovers. Take away or sit down to stuff your face in the big wooden atrium or front bar area. The succulent jerk pork is sublime, the jerk platter will freak you out. Feast your eyes over on Instagram and Facebook. Yellow 8 ►
GOLDEN LOAF & PIZZA KING
59 Main Street. A sort of Jamaican pizzeria with bakery, but — here’s the deal clincher — they do a top notch hot jerk chicken sandwich and are Wilson’s #1 provider of emergency cheesecake. A pleasant out-front shady seating area awaits you too. Yellow 9 ►
Brightly coloured walls and rustic decor grace this spotless den of eatables with a side order of reggae at the top of James Avenue. Named after music legend Jack Ruby and located in the Jack Ruby Plaza near the site of the great man’s famous recording studio. Yellow 10 ►
Along Main Street to the east of the town. Hibiscus Lodge’s own restaurant has a gorgeous clifftop location and garden walkways. A daytime visit is preferred before the views are diminished when the Jamaica sun sets around 6 each evening. Visit their Website or find them on Instagram and Facebook. Yellow 11 ►
There are not many places on earth where James Bond fans can feast on amazing seafood whilst gazing upon the headquarters of Dr No! There are a dozen small cookshops to tickle your fancy at this clinical revamp of the old Fisherman’s Beach; below we list our two faves so far:
SPRING GARDEN SEAFOOD
…and Steak House. On the Ochi Bypass just before you get to Irie FM. “Since 1999, this garden oasis has served up scrumptious seafood and mouth-watering dishes to locals and travelers alike.” Get a taste of their full seafood and steak menu over on Instagram and Facebook. Yellow 14 ►
Derived from the word ‘vital’, Ital (or I-tal) is the food of the Rastafarian, a vegetarian diet intended to promote health and energy. The food is natural, organic and from the earth, thereby excluding any processed foods and meat. For both spiritual and health reasons, then, Ital increases livity, the universal energy and life force that flows through us all.
Ocean Village is home to this cute veggie cookshop and health food store... let them big up themselves: “We specialize in teas, vitamins, herbs, juices, grains and books.” Yellow 15 ►
Head up east Main Street to right opposite the Hibiscus Lodge to find this sweet, no-problem restaurant with its revitalizing menu of freshly prepared Ital/vegan/veggie goodies. Yellow 16 ►
DaCosta Drive. Ital is vital and the healthy Rastafari food of choice. Rookwood’s favourite, lovely veggie food and fresh juices abound in this hallowed joint, which sells gift items, packaged foodstuffs and befitting items of clothing too. Yellow 17 ►
Ice Cream & Tasty Treats
Not strictly speaking Jamaican cooking but a tasty treat nonetheless whenever the sun is shining — which is every day! You can really taste the rum in the rum ‘n’ raisin ice cream — more than two of these and It’s Time To Party!
DEVON HOUSE I-SCREAM
An independent smoothie, juice, protein shake and milkshake bar at the Little Pub Complex by Island Grill. (Wraps, hot dogs and ciabattas and things are also on the go.) Owner Rika is one of our esteemed OCHI INSIDERS, and there are lots of photos to swoon over on Instagram and Facebook. Yellow 20 ►
Jamaican Restaurant Chains
MOTHERS offers breakfasts, fried chicken and patties at 17 Main Street opposite the clock tower.
ISLAND GRILL serves breakfasts, jerk and amazing BBQ from their Little Pub Complex premises.
JUICI PATTIES (opposite the clock tower) and JUICI—BEEF (at the Eight Rivers Plaza) put the emphasis on the delicious staple patty (you’ll need two, washed down with a grape soda).
CAPTAIN’S BAKERY for typical Jamaican fast food fare but with extra points awarded — being a bakery of course — for their pastries and yummy cakes and stuff. On Rennie Street, parallel to DaCosta Drive.
We’ll soon add this bitesome bunch to our map too.