Jamaica – Scotchies Jerk (Authentic/Best Jerk Chicken in Jamaica)

Restaurant: Scotchies
Cuisine: Jamaican/Caribbean/BBQ
Last visited: October 8, 2011
Location: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Address: Drax Hall (about 10 minutes west of Ocho Rios)
Price Range: $10 or less

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6Tres Excellent!!

Food: 6
Service: Self serve
Ambiance: 6 (for what it is)
Overall: 6
Additional comments:

  • 3 locations in Jamaica
  • Local favourite/must try
  • Famous for Jerk chicken
  • Authentic Jerk chicken
  • Known as Jamaica’s Best Jerk Chicken
  • Seafood option
  • Cheap eats/budget friendly
  • Good for groups/family
  • Beer available
  • Covered outdoor seating (huts)
  • Eat in/Take-out
  • Mon-Sat 11:00am-11:00pm
  • Sunday 11:00am-9:00pm

**Recommendations: Jerk Chicken, Jerk Pork

No! I did not eat the camel! There’s no Jerk Camel… just chicken! But after a bit of of camel riding at Prospect Plantation

… and a bit of bob sledding at Mystic Mountain Jamaica! Love Cool Runnings!

It was time to put away the lucky egg and head for lunch at the one and only, Scotchies! This was definitely one of the things I was looking forward to most on the foodie itinerary in Jamaica.

I was invited on a culinary bloggers trip to Jamaica and with our wonderful local guide we were taken to some local favourites. The itinerary referred to Scotchies as an “authentic Jamaican Jerk Experience”. Being from Vancouver, BC, anything in Jamaica was likely going to be more authentic that what I’ve had before. On the other hand, I did question whether this was a true local favourite and really “the best Jerk chicken in Jamaica”, or just the most popular.

I ended up doing my own research by asking random locals throughout the trip, and I promise you that Scotchies was the name that always came up for Jerk chicken. Sure it could be just the most popular as well, but for good reason!

As soon as I stepped foot onto their parking lot I could smell the smoke and spices of the Jerk chicken grilling already! If this didn’t spark your hunger, then you must be vegetarian.

The hole in the wall ambiance just topped things off! I value these places as much as I do fine dining. But for authentic Jamaican food in Jamaica, the dives are more often than not the places to hit up. To Guy Fieri from Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives: Jamaica is calling your name! You would have enough material for 50 seasons there!

Although “we” consider this a dive, it’s not even really a dive in Jamaica. It’s more of a fancy man made dive. Their real dives literally look like shacks, and you’re lucky if there’s even a sign for the restaurant. At Scotchies you eat in a hut and it was actually reminiscent of BBQ houses in Texas, like the famous The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que – see my post here, and of course my favourite, Smitty’s Market – see my post here.

I was totally feeling the ambiance and I can officially say that authentic Jerk chicken will almost be impossible to get outside of Jamaica because authentic Jerk chicken is prepared like this!

Okay, but that just looks like an intense outdoor BBQ right?! Wrong!

See the difference? No? Okay, let’s get closer.

Ah, there we go! The chickens are never on an actual grill.

Authentic Jamaican Jerk chicken is grilled over sweetwood and pimento wood logs. Therefore authentic Jamaican Jerk chicken is challenging to get anywhere else because the “grill” is literally made and grown in their natural environment. Of course I won’t have these expectations for Jerk chicken outside of Jamaica, but it was nice to actually try the real deal and have the opportunity to taste the difference.

As a tourist, I would be completely satisfied having Scotchies as my one authentic Jamaican Jerk chicken experience. But as a foodie, I would have liked to try a few more places that are self-proclaimed as “the best”. I did try a few Jerk chickens from other restaurants and even from a Jamaican fast food chain, but unless it’s cooked like this, it’s comparable.

Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork

The place for Jerk chicken before Scotchies was called Ochio Rios Jerk Centre, but I spoke with one of my fellow bloggers who went to both and she said this was better. This is definitely the new kid on the block and this location opened only six years ago. There are three locations for Scotchies in Jamaica (Kingston, Ocho Rios, and Montego Bay), but this one is supposed to be the one to go to if you can. Don’t take my word for it because I haven’t been to the other two, but regardless, Scotchies is a must try and one of the best places I ate at in Jamaica.

Oh, and heads up! For intense foodies, there’s an annual Jamaican Jerk Festival in Jamaica (that oddly originated from South Florida) but if you’re planning to go to Jamaica… I’d organize around that time 😉

On the table:

Clockwise from 12 o’clock: Jerk chicken, Jerk pork, rice n’ peas, fish, roasted breadfruit, plantains, and festivals

**Jerk Chicken6/6

  • 1/4 $300 (about $3.48USD) 1/2 $600 (about $6.96USD) Whole $1200 (about $13.91USD)
  • You see the moistness! Aw, and now only if you could just taste it!
  • The dark meat was obviously more moist than the white meat.
  • The dark meat was dripping chicken juices and it’s not even that greasy at all.
  • The chicken was so well flavoured with an earthy and spicy Jerk seasoning that was herby and lemony with fresh thyme and spicy from probably the Scotch Bonnet peppers in the marinade.
  • Unlike the stereotypical idea of Jerk seasoning, it wasn’t actually that hot and it doesn’t burn your mouth.
  • It was spicy, with a kick, but bearable and I’d consider it a medium spicy.
  • To give you an idea, I order my Indian/Thai food medium-hot spicy. I don’t like the spice to mask the flavour and this jerk seasoning didn’t do that.
  • The chicken didn’t have a heavy crusted dry rub, or was it drenched in Jerk sauce like I’m used to seeing in Vancouver.
  • It was actually more of a marinade with fresh herbs and closer to what you would see on a typical roast chicken.
  • The meat was smooth and almost silky and likely brined and tenderized with lemon juice and marinated overnight before it was smoked on sweetwood and pimento wood.
  • The pimento wood (all spice) gives the chicken great aromatics, but the chicken doesn’t taste woody or anything.
  • I could just smell the aroma of warm spices and it played a subtle but important role in developing the flavour of the chicken.
  • The “non-authentic” Jerk chickens I’ve had usually rely on the seasonings and spices to give the chicken its smoky flavour, but here the smokiness was developed through the cooking technique.
  • The smokiness was natural and infused into every crevice of the meat and every bite was juicy and deliciously savoury, but not too salty.
  • It was nice and charred, but not blackened, burnt or bitter.
  • It was very tender and cooked perfectly and I liked how it was still a bit pink.
  • It’s fully cooked, but chicken should look like how it does in this picture when cooked perfectly.
  • The skin isn’t crispy (it usually won’t be), but it locked in flavour and was flavourful itself without being too thick and fatty.
  • Although it’s not “authentic” Jerk chicken, I actually enjoy the Jerk Wings from The Reef and the Jerk Chicken from Jamaican Pizza Jerk in Vancouver, BC.
  • My favourite Jerk Chicken in Vancouver so far is from Jamaican Thyme.

**Jerk Pork6/6

  • 1/4 lbs $350 (about $4.06USD) 1/2 lbs $700 (about $8.12USD) 1 lbs $1400 (about $16.23USD)
  • The pork was perhaps even better than the chicken, but you had to be so selective with the piece you ate.
  • If you got a lean piece, it was pretty dry, but the fatty pieces were melt in your mouth delicious!
  • It almost reminded me of Chinese style BBQ pork, except the marinade is different and this is a Jerk seasoning.
  • It was the same Jerk seasoning as the chicken and the cooking process was the same.
  • It was just as smoky as the chicken and the flavours were similar, but just different proteins.

Roast Fish Fillet4.5/6

  • $650 (about $7.54 USD)
  • The fish was boneless, with the skin on and grilled in tin foil pockets.
  • It was a flaky white fish that was incredibly tender, juicy and moist with a topping of sweet and pickled vegetables.
  • The topping had some okra, onions, tomatoes and bell peppers so they were sweet and well caramelized while being a bit tangy. Their flavours absorbed into the fish.
  • Since the fish never touched the wood, it was never smoky in flavour.
  • This was very enjoyable, but not what you come here for unless you’re a pescatarian eating with carnivores.

Scotchies house made Scotch Bonnet Pepper Hot Sauce

  • Any person that enjoys real “Indian people hot” or “Thai people hot” you’ve met your match!
  • The dangerous thing about this sauce is that it’s addicting, but it almost hurts.
  • To stop the spiciness of the sauce, you almost have to have more of it.
  • The initial flavour of the sauce is sweet, a bit tangy and then immediately you’re hit with the powerful spice of roasted Scotch Bonnet peppers!
  • It gets gradually spicier and the heat lingers long after you finish your bite and it’s followed by a faint bitterness.
  • It’s a very full peppery spice, not like a chili spice, and it’s the kind of spice that makes your saliva glands go.
  • When the tongue is on fire it needs to cool down and changing the flavour profile helps, so having something sweet makes it go away temporarily. That’s why you just want more and more of this sauce because the first 2 seconds of it is sweet.
  • This sauce was excellent, but 1 spoonful of this with a 1/4 chicken would have my eyes watering and my nose running.
  • If you bite into the seeds… I feel bad for you. Eat the starches if you do… or drink milk! Never water!

Festivals, Roasted Breadfruit, Plaintains

  • Festivals4/6
    • $60 ($.70USD)
    • It’s almost like a Johnny Cake, or hush puppy, but with added sugar so it’s a bit sweet like a donut.
    • This helped to kill the spice from the hot sauce too and I found it the most enjoyable starch to eat with Jerk chicken.
  • Roasted Breadfruit2/6
    • $40 ($.46USD)
    • I wanted to like these, but they did nothing for me.
    • They don’t absorb sauces and it was almost like eating a yucca root or very starchy and fiberous neutral tasting potato.
    • When it’s roasted, it’s lighter and drier than a potato and has no characteristic of a typical sweet or juicy fruit.
  • Plantains3/6
    • $100 ($1.60USD)
    • They’re basically roasted unsweetened “bananas”.
    • They were done well over the grill, but as a starch to my Jerk chicken it seemed so random, although very traditional.
  • Overall I wasn’t crazy about the traditional Jamaican starches to go along with almost everything.
  • They’re prepared rather neutral in flavour, which is understandable, but they don’t absorb sauces and they’re so substantial.
  • The Johnny Cakes and Festivals kind of do, but otherwise I generally treated them like fillers.

Rice & Peas4/6

  • Small $60 ($.70USD) / Large $120 ($1.39USD)
  • Maybe it’s the Asian in me as to why I liked this as my favourite traditional Jamaican starch to go along with my mains.
  • This is typical Jamaican rice cooked in coconut milk and it was at every lunch and dinner.
  • It’s not actually peas, but red kidney beans that they call “peas”.
  • This was really good with the Scotch Bonnet pepper hot sauce, and the beans helped cut the heat.

24 Comments

  • Linda says:

    mmmm what a feast! can you sense the jealously in my voice yet? 🙂

    wow that jerk chicken and pork look delish! at first i didn’t read the conversion and i was like ‘1/4 chicken for $300?!?!?!? it must’ve been made with gold!’ haha then i got it lol the chicken definitely looks uber moist, i don’t think i’ve ever seen chicken look so good before.. the pork looks tasty too but some parts of it remind me of cha siu (the dryer parts)… but wow, seriously, what a feast! i’d be eating those festivals and noshing on that chicken all day 🙂

  • Looks delicious!
    I am glad you were able to enjoy the Jerk Chicken, it is my favourite Jamaican meal.
    So many different ways to prepare it. We (in Kelowna) have a Jamaican man who makes the best jerk chicken & beef patties – he nails the spice!
    One day I will go to Jamaica – did you find that you had to stay in the resorts? I have heard that some people are too fearful of traveling around while others really don’t see why. Kingston is supposed to be more “dangerous” I think, but I really don’t know from experience.

    Thanks for sharing!
    The Wanderfull Traveler

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – lol!!! I wrote it looked like char siu too!! I said like Chinese BBQ pork, but the flavour was different! Yes I had to get up close to show the texture of that chicken!

    @Wanderfull Traveler – yes authentic Jerk is hard to find because of the cooking method. Does the guy in Kelowna cook it on pimento logs and sweet wood too?
    Kingston was surprisingly more for business and if you stayed in the “core” it was safe… we did drive by some dodgier areas to get to our hotel, but the feel was a lot different than Ocho Rios. In Ocho Rios I stayed in a resort and in Kingston it was a hotel in their downtown area. Everyone saying in the hotel was there for business and all the honey mooners and couples were in Montego Bay/Ocho Rios/Negril.

    Hope you get to come here too!

  • KimHo says:

    You have finally found out/understood one of the reasons why I don’t care much about ambiance and service at restaurants: because I grew up eating in places like these, where it ain’t “fancy” by any means, despite it being a “fancy” restaurant!

    While rice and peas is a misnomer, rice and beans would have ended up being a misnomer at times, specially when the dish uses peas! And, of course, using the more encompassing “rice and legumes” (or “rice and pulse”) does not necessarily sound appetizing, hehehe. As a side note, rice and peas (or beans) is a combination as such out of necessity, not fanciness. It is cheap and, nutritionally, it is “complete”. As for carbs being the filler, remember, this is part of tradition going down: back in the old days, there wasn’t easy access to meats…

  • Mijune says:

    @KimHo – I didn’t “finally” find out, but this non-fancy atmosphere IS part of the atmosphere and what makes it so special. It’s still ab ambiance, just not a fine dining one.

  • Bow says:

    That’s some great looking BBQ…can’t replicate those wood flavours here, wow !!! Luv that fish fillet too.

  • Jerky says:

    Defo the best locally .
    Great price and taste .
    Ate there every day when I was there , thats a month of lunches and dinners .
    Only if they do Jerk Breakfast .

  • Mijune says:

    @Jerky – awesome! Glad you liked!

  • Paul Panchyshyn says:

    Hi Mijune, I’ve actually been able to mimic jerk pork/chicken in my Weber charcoal grill using a spice method from Strikie T (Treasure Beach) and a smoking technique using whole allspice (also known as pimento seeds). Pimento is indigenous to Jamaica and my understanding is it’s illegal to export the wood.

    I ate a lot of jerk last time in Kingston and Port Antonio, so I think I have the flavour almost perfected. I can send you my recipe if you wish.

    Paul
    Winnipeg, MB

  • Mijune says:

    @Paul – ummmmmm… YES!!!! You are amazing!!! Please send to mpak (@) followmefoodie (dot) com! You know what you’re talking about… I like!!!!

  • brian kelley says:

    the best jerk chicken i read about this place

  • Mijune says:

    @brian kelley – hope you try it brian!

  • Nannette Hoyt says:

    The best jerk in the whole world!!

  • Kristine knowles says:

    Paul could you please send the recipe to me as well. Im not by any means a cook of any kind but I LOVE jerk chicken. I can never make it taste anything remotely similar to what I buy at restaurants. Thank you.

    Kristine

  • loving paupa says:

    Your right Mijune, the chicken at Scothies is awesome! I visit that exact location multiple times when I’m there and whenever I walk into the place the aroma from the pimento wood gets me everytime. The smell is incredible! Authentic jerk is the best!

  • Mijune says:

    @Nannette Hoyt – I wouldn’t doubt that!

    @Krisitne Knowles – hope you got it!

    @loving paupa – can’t wait to try yours!! thanks for sending me an e-mail!

  • pat says:

    My mouth is watering just looking at this. You can’t get authentic jerk chicken in Canada, the style that they have in Canada actually does exist in Jamaica, but there it’s called fricasseed chicken – it’s a totally different thing that people there cook at home in a pot. But the few Jamaican immigrants to Canada only know how to cook that, so they sell it as ‘Jerk Chicken’ because Canadians don’t know the difference. And some places in Canada just sell a spicy bbq chicken as ‘jerk chicken’.

    Although interestingly this ‘best in Jamaica Jerk’ may not be entirely authentic either – I don’t see any meat wrapped in leaves!

    I remember Boston Beach in Jamaica being the epicenter of Jerk.

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