Kingston is home to Jamaica’s finest dining scene, and you can get food from many of the world’s most distinct cuisines– Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, West African, Greek, French and of course, Jamaican cuisine. I try to eat in much more than I dine out because it’s cheaper, healthier and I like knowing what went into my food, how, and how long ago it was prepared. I also enjoy cooking even if I don’t get the time to do so as often as I’d like. I’ve been cooking more since coronavirus though and you can see what I’ve been up to in the kitchen here. That being said, once in a while I love dining out! Something about having food made for me by someone who makes a living from cooking and in a different ambiance from my humble abode gets me excited. I often find myself going back to old favourites– those places which have never let me down– but trying new places can be fun too. Here’s a list of my five favourite restaurants in Kingston, and five more I’m excited to try once it’s safe to dine out once more.
1. Tamarind Indian Cuisine (📍Shop #28, Orchid Village Plaza, Liguanea) Tamarind is my favourite restaurant in Kingston, hands down. A lovely ambiance, delicious food which has never disappointed, great portions, reasonable prices and excellent customer service, I have absolutely no complaint with this place except maybe too extensive a menu if that’s even a valid point to have. They specialize in Indian and Asian-fusion cuisine, they have extensive vegan options and their sister restaurant Saffron in Marketplace is equally as exceptional. My favourite dishes are their sweet & sour chicken, butter chicken and garlic naan. Yum!
2. South Avenue Grill (📍20A South Avenue, Kingston 10) This elegant poolside dining spot serves up local and international fare. My favourite dish is certainly their savoury succulent baby back ribs! Their menu is a bit pricey and walk-in dining during peak hours on weekends may leave you with a lengthy wait for seating but otherwise, South Avenue Grill has earned its place as one of my favourite places to dine in Kingston.
3. Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records (📍67 Constant Spring Road, Market Place) Sports-bar vibes meet delectable authentic local cuisine and memorable cocktails, Ubtandr for short is a must-stop on the Kingston night scene for couples, friends and families alike. Their dishes range from a jerk platter with the heat and flavour profile unique to Jamaica, juicy ox-tail and curried goat, to other crowd favourites like their pastas and the U-burger, the U coming from you-guessed-it: Usain Bolt, the 8-time gold medalist for whom the restaurant is named. Ubtandr has earned a place in the hearts and bellies of Jamaicans and fans of Jamaican cuisine across the island and in the UK, its only location overseas to date.
4. Chilitos JaMexican Food (📍88 Hope Road, Kingston 6) Chilitos is that restaurant which will always have a place in my heart no matter how long the waiting time for to-go burritos on Burrito Fridays gets, no matter how pricey the tacos get or how long the wait is at the bar for my margarita on Margarita Mondays. Why? Well, I like to think that I grew up with the place. I attended high school just up the road at 105 Hope Road to be exact, so the occasional after-school Friday treat and hang-out spot with my friends and during Restaurant Week was Chilitos. Over the past decade I’ve seen their customers grow in both quantity and affluence, and their dingy but somehow cozy location has been replaced for a glitzier one with a rustic trendy finish. They stay true to the Mexican theme but with a Jamaican flair, and if you’re craving tacos, burritos, chimichangas, quesadillas or my favourite go-to cocktail: a margarita, Chilitos is your best bet!
5. Pepperwood Jerk (📍Chelsea Avenue, New Kingston) I’ve eaten at several jerk joints in Kingston, and Pepperwood usually gets it right the most. Spicy and succulent jerk pork and chicken are their most popular dishes and are served with sides of bammy (cassava cakes), festival (fried dough, slightly sweet), breadfruit, roasted sweet potato or hard-dough bread. It’s always exciting unwrapping the foil and being greeted with that irresistible aroma of jerk over pimento wood. Their prices are reasonable, wait-time isn’t usually too unbearable and there’s no table service charge or tips required as you order, collect your meal then dine, similar to the set-up at a fast food restaurant. I especially love the rustic feel of the restaurant with wooden tables and benches by several gazebos nestled among the foliage of verdant shrubs and trees.
Restaurants I’m Looking Forward to Trying
1. Sora Japanese Cuisine (📍9-11 Phoenix Avenue, off Hope Road) Sora is the first restaurant I plan to visit once indoor dining is allowed again. Something about dining open-air on a rooftop under the night sky sounds so alluring, and where better for me to try sushi for the first time? E-x-c-i-t-e-d! I’ve heard nothing but good reviews about Sora. Update: I visited in October 2020 and the food was amazing! Great cityscape of New Kingston too, especially at sunset.
2. F&B Downtown (📍107 Harbour Street) Food and Beverage Downtown, or F&B for short, is located in the centre of the capital city’s reviving art and culture district. Enjoying fine dining alongside fine jewelry and art is the main selling point of this restaurant, and I think a place which manages to do that successfully is certainly a must-see. They offer a wide variety of cuisines, including local, Italian and Asian dishes. Also, F&B is the monthly meeting point for the Kingston ArtWalk, an event which showcases the best of Downtown Kingston’s street-art.
3. Chive Restaurant (📍Shop 15, Orchid Village Plaza, Liguanea) A restaurant I’m excited to try mainly from social media, I hope I’m not left disappointed like I have been at several other food establishments I’ve only heard about this way. Their marketing team is truly top notch; you should see their Instagram account! The restaurant looks gorgeous and romantic with soft lighting and sleek decor, and the food which includes both local and international cuisine looks very tasty. I hope to enjoy a dinner-for-2 here some time later this year. Update: I visited in April 2021 and had an amazing time! Great food and ambience. I used a Gustazo as well which went seamlessly.
4. Cafe Africa (📍2 Trafalgar Road, New Kingston) Jamaican cuisine is heavily influenced by our African heritage, but sadly there are few places in Jamaica to enjoy authentic dishes from the Motherland. Well, at Cafe Africa, eastern Africa meets western African cuisine and you can enjoy dishes from over 20 countries on the continent. If it’s anything like the jollof rice and puff-puffs I’ve eaten from a Nigerian roommate and another colleague thus far, I have reason to be excited. Yum-meee!
5. Moby Dick (📍3 Orange Street, Downtown) I’m convinced the best food in Jamaica comes from the places without an online presence. Word-of-mouth is enough to keep business booming and Moby Dick is one such place. If you ask any Jamaican where have they had the best jerk in Jamaica, they’d tell you Boston in Portland and similarly if you ask where to get the best curry chicken or curry goat and roti, you’d hear Moby Dick in response. I absolutely love anything curried, so it’s about time I visit the place which is often touted as having the best. Update: I visited with a friend in June 2020 & this was her (our) experience.
I hope you don’t mind me veering off topic a bit since I really have no new outdoor adventures to share, so I’m sharing other experiences, opinions and ideas in the mean time until that fateful day when it’s safe to resume exploring my island home once more. How are you coping during this pandemic? Let’s chat.
Also, do tell. Which restaurants are your favourites in Kingston and why? I’d love to hear from you. If there are any topics you’d love me to write about as well, feel free to share too.
‘Til next time! ✌🏽 Walk good.