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Jamerica Caribbean Restaurant

In a word: Don't like Jamaican? You'll love it.

The specs: #0273
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp, Dane101, dmoz, Cap Times, 77Square; official web site (music); Jamerica Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Latest Jamerica news and reviews

JM ate the BBQ ribs dinner and a grape soda.
Nichole ate the jerk pork and chicken special and a grapfruit Ting.
The bill was $23, or $11.50/person, plus tip (thanks, Bucky Book!)
JM and Nichole both gave Jamerica an A (see our grading rubric).

Jamerica is laid back. So laid back, in fact, that we were invited to grab our drinks from the cooler and kick back. We also didn't get a check proper at the end of our meal, we just went to the register and paid, but it sounded all right so we didn't worry.

Our Nordic doubts notwithstanding, we had an excellent meal at Jamerica. The menu is short-ish but looks longer because each variation of jerk (pork, chicken, shrimp, tofu etc.) is listed. What it lacks in breadth is more than made up for in quality, however.

BBQ ribsWe got our plates not long after ordering. Each of us got a platter of meat and a second plate, just as big, with a mold of (mostly unremarkable) beans and rice and a generous portion of what the menu described as "vegetable stir-fry." The veggies turned out to be a simple, splendid blend of cabbage, zucchini, peppers and broccoli cooked just shy of crunchy, in butter, black pepper and herbs.

JM (again) practically inhaled his BBQ ribs. How could one not, when the bones slid perfectly cleanly out of the beyond-tender meat? And when the sauce was so smoky, sweet and rich? It was an amazing sight. When the chef passed by to ask how our dinner was, JM's plate was already clean, which was taken as the high praise it was.

Jerk chicken and pork specialNichole's jerk pork and chicken special was super tender, as well. It's a tough call which was the better of the two. While the chicken was moist and sweet, the pork had the benefit of, well, being pork. Each forkful had a slightly different texture, sometimes lighter and more firm, sometimes darker and more like pulled pork. The tart grapefruit Ting soda was perfect for cleansing the rich meatiness between bites.

Despite all the meat, the menu gave the impression that vegetarians have some options at Jamerica, including jerk tofu and the vegetable stir fry, beans and rice which could stand on their own. Plus, we ate 2 more meals off the leftovers (two can easily share an entree here). All that plus the friendly staff means we can gladly add Jamerica to our list of favorites.

Comments

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I was actually pretty disappointed by what I had there (I'm vegetarian, so it might just be that's not their specialty). I love the lunch cart though. Veggie patties and beans and rice for a song, totally worth it.

I'm a vegetarian and I really love some of their veggie dishes. I reviewed it for dane101 a few months ago:

http://www.dane101.com/food/2006/10/25/the_veggie_variant_jamerica

I'm a big fan of the mango tofu rundown and the jerk tofu. The bbq tofu is pretty tasty too, but there was one dish whose name is escaping me that always fell flat for me... I believe it had the word "mountain" in it. Anyway, this vegetarian gives it a big thumbs up.

Hmm that url didn't work so well. Perhaps I can post it as a hyperlink?

My husband and I are both vegetarian and we loved Jamerica. The mango tofu rundown is so very good. The bbq tofu is a close second. One thing to mention, they either don't have or don't run the A/C so it gets hot in there on the warm humid days of summer. But nothing a nice pinapple soda can't cure.

My Jamaican boyfriend says the food here is "Ja-fakein" (i.e. not very authentic). I'm not an expert on Jamaican food, nor have I eaten at Jamerica, so I can't really form an opinion.

That's not the first time I've heard that! Hm, maybe it needs a re-think.

Any more so than any other ethic restaurants in America are *-fakein? 99% of Italian places around utterly fail to live up to the worst place I ate at on my business trips to Rome, but after a while I had to let that go and just enjoy them for what they were. I always hear similar complains from Chinese, Indian, ... x-ethnicity friends about the ethnic food here. Doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed for what it is. It's not always a bad thing either, 99% of the English "Style" restaurants/pubs I've been to in America are much better than anything I had on my business trips there. ;-)

Good point, Mike! It seems that ethnic foods are difficult to reconstruct when in a completely different culture. I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be able to get ingredients like fresh ackee and breadfruit here in Madison to reconstruct authentic Jamaican food, but my bf just seems to think that David's is the better of the two.

I was vegetarian when I lived in Madison and loved going to Jamerica. I especially enjoyed getting the jerk tofu and loading it up with the various hot sauces they offered.

Just went to Jamerica for the first time last night. Had the Jerk Chicken, it was fabulous, tender and tasty!
Also the key lime pie is to die for!

I'll never attempt to eat here again. Judging on food cart (and fair) fare, we've been meaning to eat at the brick-and-mortar for ages. Arriving at 8:45 on a Friday night, we assumed there'd be no problem. Until we were greeted with the hostess throwing a hissy fit in the kitchen about having to serve us (they stop serving at 9?!? on Friday nights). After her minute-thirty tirade, obviously loud enough for us to hear, she emerged to seat us. We politely declined & went to Jolly Bob's where we were greeted with a smile.

I only tried the food from this restaurant at Taste of Madison 2 years in a row. The meat was soaked in a one note flavor of vinegar. It was terrible. There was no complexity of taste. Just old shredded chicken in vinegar! For way too much money.

Please try to disregard the negative comments above. Jamerica has been a superlative option in Madison for authentic Jamaican food for many years..I live in NYC and it compares favorably to what I am able to find in Brooklyn. Not dead-on accurate but amazing nonetheless (it is Madison folks, come on now). The jerk is outstanding, tender, moist, seasoned perfectly, just great stuff. It is an informal joint, if you come expecting to be doted on you might be disappointed, but if you come with love and respect you are treated as such. Great portion size, two meals per one order. Much better food than JBs too, although JBs has the cocktail game down pat. Go to both, Jamerica for food and JBs for drinks, perfect irie night for you tundra-dwellers. Big up!

I agree with this last review----Jamerica is a great restaurant! Big portions, fresh food, good taste, fair price. Their cart is great too. Definitely worth a visit if you're on Willy.

Wow, my eyes are drooling over these foods :)The BBQ ribs look so delicious. I'd love to visit this restaurant one of these days.

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