Restaurant: Jamaican Pizza Jerk
Last visited: May 21, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC
Address: 2707 Commercial Drive
Price Range: $10 or less, $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 3.5-4 (5 for its authenticity)
- Authentic Jamaican food
- Jamaican owner/chef
- Popular to Jamaican community
- Hidden gem
- Hole in the wall-ish
- Incredibly Jamaican atmosphere
- Traditional homemade dishes
- Some fusion items
- Generous portions
- Very casual
- Very friendly service
- Daily specials
- Cheap eats/budget friendly
- Vegetarian/Vegan friendly
- Gluten Free friendly
- Accepts Visa/MC/Debit
- Eat in/Take out
- Tues-Sat: 12pm-9pm
**Recommendations: Jamaican Juice, Ackee & Saltfish with Plantains, Spicy Snapper, and if you’re less adventurous the Jerk Chicken is great.
Friend: “Hey Mijune, come try my friend’s restaurant.”
Me: “Sure! What kind of food? And where?
Friend: “It’s Jamaican food. It’s on Commercial and 11th”
Me: “Oohhh exciting!! Okay what’s it called?”
Friend: “Jamaican Pizza Jerk.”
Me: “Okay! I’ll meet you there!”
… 3 weeks later I finally made it…
Excuse my language… but how the hell was I ever suppose to find this place on my own? There’s no freaking sign!! I see “Jamaican Pizza Jerk” nowhere! I knew it was on Commercial and 11th (it’s actually on Commercial), and I still passed by it.
Obviously I am not that visual, and to be honest the proud Jamaican flag wasn’t a dead giveaway. Even after seeing it I still questioned if this was the place I needed to be. I’m totally guilty of stereotyping but driving by it I thought it was a place to get a weave. After slowing down to take a closer look, I then thought it was too sketchy for a beauty store and then assumed it was a bong shop. From the outside it looked like a shady dive, although less shady than Narrow Artist Lounge, but open the door and you’ll see this!
Hey not too shabby huh? It’s a real restaurant and they accept Visa and Master Card! It sure looks and feels Jamaican inside and out, but it doesn’t smell like it (if you know what I mean) so it’s family friendly too! Okay I’m treading on dangerous ground, but you get where I’m going with this. I came after the lunch rush so that’s why it’s empty, but otherwise this place is a Jamaican community hang out! I honestly didn’t know there was such a Jamaican population in Vancouver.
I highly recommend sitting up at the counter, or standing, because it’s a bit high and the stools are a bit low. The Jamaican barber next door actually referred to this counter as the “conversation counter”, and it’s really the best seat in the house. It’s like sitting at the bar at a Japanese restaurant where you can see all the action taking place. Don’t ask how I ended up at the barber shop, I live a random life… or just have a random friend…
So who’s the Jamaican Pizza Jerk here? Meet Bounty! No he’s not a jerk, but he is Jamaican! He’s actually one of the first Reggae recording artists in Vancouver as well as being a certified red seal culinary chef. He was also one of the guys in Cool Runnings! Lol j/k, but did you believe me? Everything else is true though.
Yes, from the talent, to the name, the look, the accent, the chef’s “hat”, the pose, and even some of his teeth, it all screamed Jamaican! It was great, he was great and this is all in good fun! But what’s an owner and chef without his best support?
Meet Verona! Together they run the show (but behind the scenes she probably runs it). Bounty has owned and operated Jamaican Pizza Jerk for 9 years and I’m really surprised how feel people know about it outside the Jamaican community. Actually I take that back, given that there’s no sign, I’m not surprised at all. Of course I asked him WHY?! And his answer was simple: “I like being the hidden gem”. Being that I’m type A, I could only be amused with his nonchalant happy-go-lucky attitude.
I have to add that pizza is only half their menu and I wouldn’t call it the specialty here. It’s only part of their fusion and eclectic style, but Jamaican Pizza Jerk is so much more than just Jamaican style pizzas.
As you may have guessed, I am not Jamaican. I know, don’t be shocked. Therefore my knowledge of Jamaican cuisine is extremely limited. However you don’t have to be of a culture to know about the food, but I haven’t tried much Jamaican food in the city to draw many comparisons either. Yes, I’ve been to Jamaica, but Caribbean cruise ship food is barely a taste of real Caribbean food. There’s nothing really wrong with Vancouver’s most known Jamaican restaurant The Reef, but even I know that’s barely a representation of authentic Jamaican food.
I really hate using the word “authentic”, but it’s a fact that there is more authentic and more to explore beyond The Reef, literally and figuratively. Jamaican food is a fusion of cuisines so it’s hard to pinpoint what “authentic” is, but sometimes you can just tell when something is more representable of that culture, and I definitely got that feeling here.
So how am I supposed to “rate” food that I don’t know much about? Well, I can’t really, but I can tell you how it tastes and if I liked it, then you can decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth trying. In a city with very limited options for authentic Jamaican cuisine, this seems like a solid choice for authentic Jamaican food. Sure it might not be what you would get in Jamaica, but it’s good for what we have in Vancouver and I wouldn’t miss out. Yeah man!
On the table:
- $3.50 (Available Friday & Saturday only)
- Drinking a Jamaican Juice with Jamaican cuisine was like drinking a Chicha Morada or Horchata with Latin cuisine.
- It’s a relatively healthy drink and it’s home made.
- It was a chilled, sweet, thick and creamy smoothie made with boiled down sweet potatoes, squash and yams.
- It reminded me of a lot of Asian desserts made with the same ingredients, but much better. I’m not fan of Asian desserts or sweet boiled down potatoes made into a drink and I loved this one!
- It has that banana like starchy texture, but there’s no banana or any fruit in it. Oddly enough, it tastes more like a fruit than a vegetable drink though.
- It kind of reminded me a little of a taro bubble tea, but not as sweet and more vibrant and summery in flavour.
- It’s not citrusy or tangy, but full flavoured, dessert like and delicious!
- Ting or Pink Ting $3
- This is one of the most popular drinks in Jamaica. It’s the “Ting” there.
- It’s pretty much grapefruit pop, and it’s really refreshing, but too sweet for me.
- It’s as sweet as Mountain Dew, but tastes like a grapefruit version of Fresca.
- 2 items of your choice + rice $16.50 (the price varies accordingly depending on what you choose).
- It’s a pretty good deal with good portions and it’s enough for 2 people for lunch.
- They don’t have combos in Jamaica, but Chef Bounty got the idea from Chinese cuisine. He liked the 2 items + rice concept so he wanted to introduce it in Jamaican cuisine. It’s so bizarre for me to hear that because I’m so used to this style of eating that I don’t think of it as anything new.
- Mmmoooo… most high treat!! $10 (Available on Saturdays only. Sample size shown for $6.50)
- Yes, I hate feet in general with a passion, even my own, but my love to explore other cultures through food outweighs my hate for feet. So I was actually excited to try this!
- This is a Jamaican delicacy and it’s most definitely acquired. That being said I ate almost all of it even though it’s not really my thing, but I didn’t want to be rude and I wanted the full Jamaican experience.
- Cowfoot is almost impossible to find because of Foot-and-mouth disease. It’s very rare, unlike the popular pig’s foot, and it’s quite commonly used to flavour stews in Latin style cuisines. This one was safe though, I’m fine!
- The round clear part is the foot and the black piece is the toe. Daahhhhh!! And *breathe*.
- It was similar to pig’s feet which I’ve had before, and it is 100% gelatinous, blubbery and very gluey.
- It was almost like eating sea cucumber and it was chewy, creamy and jelly like.
- It’s very rich and almost sticky and I just felt like I was eating pure fat.
- The flavour was coming from the sauce which is a bit sour from the lemony thyme.
- Since it’s not sour to the point of being pickled or actually tasting fermented, the lemony thyme gave it an “off” flavour that I wasn’t accustomed to.
- It was moderately spicy and there was some aromatic all spice in the background as well.
- Traditionally there’s butter beans (lima beans) in it too, but there weren’t any in here, but just to have it on the menu was authentic enough for me.
- I’d still recommend adventurous foodies to order this just to try a Jamaican delicacy that’s rare to find in Vancouver.
- Pressure cooked to perfection $12 (Available Wednesday & Saturday only. Sample size shown for $6.50)
- Pressure cooking is pretty popular in Jamaica it seems. This was an oxtail stew.
- If you’ve had the Hong Kong Cafe style version of Russian borscht, that’s what this tastes like, but spicy.
- This was a bit Chinese tasting and the broth was made with a tangy tomato paste, soy sauce and then braised carrots and turnips. It’s a bit sweet as well and it has a hint of all spice and I think cinnamon and maybe a bit of curry or turmeric as well. It about a medium spice, but the broth is drinkable and it’s a nice sauce.
- The meat wasn’t really falling off the bone and it was a bit dry and chewy and I’ve had it more tender, but it wasn’t bad.
- The meat is relatively lean, but it’s surrounded with tendony parts and a big piece of bone in the centre. It almost tastes like brisket if you’ve never had it.
- Boneless “hot like pepper” $10.50
- I loved this! He’s still perfecting the hot sauce served on the side, but it was very tangy and reminded me of Frank’s Hot Sauce. It actually wasn’t that spicy.
- This was very lightly battered and deep fried snapper and the meat was juicy, moist and incredibly tender and flaky.
- It doesn’t have a strong fishy taste and it tasted like Jamaican fish n’ chips.
- It also tasted very similar to the Chinese Deep Fried Sea Bass with Spicy Salt at Red Star Seafood Restaurant.
- The fish was nice and crispy with a thin batter, and it actually wasn’t that spicy. If anything I found it lemony and savoury with onion salt and thyme leaves in the batter.
- What was actually extremely spicy, and the spiciest thing I had on the menu, was the pickled slaw served on top of the fish. That had my hole mouth tingling, my nose running and my tongue on fire! That was pretty damn spicy and I can handle spicy… just not “real” Jamaican spicy I guess.
- That slaw is his grandma’s recipe and it’s not that spicy for Jamaican people, but for outsiders, that had some serious heat and even one carrot had my mouth burning. It’s also made with shredded chayote, this Chinese vegetable that looks like a pear, and it tastes like a mild zucchini meets a crisp melon. In this salad it’s very spicy though and it’s intended to make it mild, but it’s spicy.
- As spicy as you like it! $9.75 (Sample size shown. Around $6)
- This is for the “play it safe”, non-adventurous, and white bread and butter diners.
- There’s nothing wrong with ordering Jerk chicken, but it’s like ordering the sweet and sour pork at a Chinese restaurant or the Butter Chicken at an Indian restaurant.
- There’s a reason why it’s popular though, and this was very good chicken so I’d still order it again.
- The chicken was incredibly moist, juicy, and falling off the bone tender, but it didn’t have that fresh off the grill smoky charred flavour.
- The spice rub was great and only moderately spicy, but you can request it spicier and the heat did linger for a while.
- It was smoky from cumin and there’s lots of spices in it. It almost has this rich, bold, and malted earthy flavour that brought me back to flavours of Mexican mole sauce, but without the chocolate and nuts.
- **Update – Another Jerk Chicken I would highly recommend is from Jamaican Thyme.
- Rice and peas cooked in coconut milk and spices $3.50
- I thought this was Jamaican rice and red kidney beans, but they call it “Jamaican Rice & Peas”.
- It’s a staple weekend rice and they eat regular rice during the week.
- It was a bit clumpy, sticky and mushy, but it didn’t have much flavour surprisingly. It had spices, but it wasn’t spicy.
- Yellow yam, boil dumpling, boil green banana $4? (Available Friday & Saturday only)
- I thought this was breakfast, but it’s actually a side.
- I really liked this idea! It was simply a bunch of boiled starches to eat with all the meats and stews and it was a fun alternative to rice.
- I loved the variety and it made everything more interesting to explore.
- The “yellow yam” wasn’t the authentic Yellow Yam, which is too hard to get in Vancouver. This was just a regular sweet potato.
- There was a chunk of boiled taro root and a starchy boiled green banana which isn’t that sweet.
- All the ingredients are naturally sweeter starches and it helps to balance out the spicier stews and smokier sauces and flavours.
- The dumpling reminded me of a very firm perogie meets a South Indian idli. Although different, I prefer the Jamaican Fried Dumplings better at The Reef.
- It was the most interesting for me, but it’s very dense, very filling, and it tasted like hardened perogie dough mixed with some corn meal.
- It looks creamy and I thought the inside would be like creamy polenta, but it’s not.
- It’s very dense throughout and it’s something I had to cut into with a knife and it was the texture of a semi-hard cheese and not creamy at all.
- It doesn’t have much flavour and it’s kind of chewy.
- I didn’t know how to eat it but just started dipping it into stuff like I would with pita bread. It doesn’t absorb much though.
- As spicy as you like it! All meals served with rice & peas (cooked in coconut milk and spices served with homestyle coleslaw) $9.75
- This was huge! This was not my order, but someone else ordered it and I asked to take a picture. It was for the blog! I want to show what a meal would look like.
- This was enough to feed two people!
- Jamaica’s national fruit with West African origins $15 (Sample size shown. Available vegetarian or vegan)
- This is Jamaica’s national dish, so of course I had to order it and try it.
- I’m not sure if this was an excellent Ackee & Saltfish, but from my perspective of trying it for the first time, it was excellent! I’d order this again for sure!
- It looks like scrambled eggs, but there’s no eggs although it has a similar texture.
- It’s a sweet and savoury dish, with sauteed, sweet bell peppers, juicy fresh tomatoes, scallions and onions.
- If you like cured salty fish, you’ll love this. It’s quite fishy from being fermented, but not as fishy as sardines. It’s more savoury than sweet and also spicy (as spicy as you want).
- The Ackee isn’t really sweet or juicy, but it tasted like Jackfruit and it has the texture of hard boiled egg whites crossed with durian. It doesn’t have the flavour or smell of either though. It has a slightly sweet and floral like flavour, but it’s not that sweet for being a fruit.
- There were pieces of saltfish throughout, but I wanted more. It was about a 2:1 ratio Ackee to saltfish and I just wanted more saltfish.
- This was fantastic eaten with the plantains or even just as is.
- I really wanted it wrapped up in a roti, which they offer, and they even use this dish as a topping for pizza!
- Sweet bananas $3.25 (Sample size shown)
- I loved these! It’s served as a condiment and I thought it was delicious with the Ackee & Saltfish.
- It was also nice to eat in between dishes or when things started to get too spicy, it just helped kill the spice a bit.
- It’s pan fried and served warm and it was nice and creamy and sweet with crispy edges.
- Unlike the Latin version, these ones are not starchy and it was more like a caramelized sweet banana.
- Frozen 6 – $13.50 or 12 – $25
- This is a snack or appetizer and it’s not made in house.
- This was like a baked Jamaican style beef pot pie meets an empanada meets an Indian samosa, but without the potatoes.
- It’s quite substantial, but more because of the pastry than the filling.
- The pastry was great and authentic, but the filling was a bit weak.
- It was good and flavourful with a buttery pastry pie shell and a saucy ground beef gravy filling.
- It was finely ground beef and there wasn’t much of it and it got a bit dry with so much pastry and I wanted more quality filling.
- It was creamy, savoury and slightly tangy with a bean like texture and a lack of vegetables. It seemed like there was a lot of filler and it was a bit gluey too.
- They were pretty good, but I have a strong feeling these can get much better.
- **Update – The texture, quality and lack of filling is actually quite authentic to Jamaican patties I tried in Jamaica – see here.
- The green one was coconut, candied ginger and vanilla essence.
- The pink one was coconut, candied ginger, vanilla essence and ground almonds.
- I love all these ingredients and I thought I’d like the pink ones better, but I couldn’t taste much almond and actually liked the green ones more.
- These reminded me a bit of some Indian desserts meets an American coconut macaroon. They were pretty good, but it was very sweet.
- It also reminded me of Chinese New Year when they have the trays of candied ginger and coconut candies.
- They were dry and crumbly rather than moist and chewy and I’m not sure if that’s intentional.
- It was sweet and the ginger flavour kicked in after a couple chews. It’s not spicy at all, but just aromatic.