The best jerk in Jamaica

That hurricane everyone was so nervous about on Friday? Never showed up. Lincoln and I were laughing about the pandemonium even a no-show hurricane can produce on an island. For instance, Lincoln said, he’d planned on taking his gal to the best jerk shack on the island Friday evening only to find it was closed.

“Closed!” he said, still outraged. And they were still closed on Saturday and Sunday. Then he started telling me how if he didn’t have jerk on Friday or Saturday, it slowed his blood. Which is probably why he was so tired today, he said.

Which is when I suggested we go get some jerk.

The best jerk on the island, according to Lincoln, can be found at Scotchies, on the coastal road going to the airport, and that’s where we headed. It’s a good thing Lincoln knew where it was because even if he’d given me directions, I’d have driven right past it. But once you park along the highway, all you have to do is follow your nose. The smoky smell of spicy chicken and pork floats over you the minute you get out of the car.

There’s not much to Scotchies: two pit barbecues beneath a corrugated tin shack where a cook in a red dew-rag tends to the jerked chicken and pork by turning the inch-thick pimento branches it is smoked over.

The cashair window at Scotchies, Montego Bay. Photo by David Lansing.

The cashair window at Scotchies, Montego Bay. Photo by David Lansing.

Lincoln puts in our order at the “CASHAIR” window; we get a little blue stub of paper with a number on it which we hand to the cook. A quarter of a jerked chicken is $3, breadfruit thirty-five cents a slice, and a Red Stripe will set you back a buck-fity (though you can get a shot of Overproof for a buck).

Most people are getting their jerk to go, but in the back, beneath palapas, are benches atop empty beer kegs, which is where Lincoln and I settle in, sharing jerked pork and chicken, smoky sweet yams, breadfruit, and a couple of Red Stripes. The ubiquitous Bob Marley blasts from a boom-box.

Picking apart the jerk chicken with my fingers, downing the cold Red Stripe, I come to one of those universal truths that sneak up on you unannounced every now and then and it is this: The better the food, the less the need for conversation.

Lincoln and I are silent as we eat. As is almost everyone around us.

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  1. Sonia’s avatar

    Traditionally what is jerk chicken or pork? The actual ingredients…curious since you are there and all.


  2. david’s avatar

    Everybody makes it differently, of course, but the key ingredients are Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, nutmeg, sugar, thyme, scallions and salt and pepper. It’s very, VERY hot, so a little goes a long ways. Walkerswood makes an exceptionally good jerk seasoning that you can buy on-line at Amazon (

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