Updated August 2, 2019
Getting the Real Deal
I’m a fan of jerk. No, not rude people. I’m a fan of jerk: the Jamaican-style of barbecuing meat. It’s very difficult to find authentic jerk in the United States. That includes at most every Jamaican restaurant I’ve eaten at in the States. If I want good, authentic, jerk pork, chicken, or whatever else, I usually have to make it myself at home. What I prefer, though, is to go to Jamaica and get it there. In fact, my first stop after leaving the airport is usually The Ultimate Jerk Center.
As much as I enjoy firing up the smoker and cooking at home, it’s not the same as going to Jamaica and eating freshly cooked jerk. Even better is eating it while looking at the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Yeah, that sounds way more fun, right? Even in Jamaica, though, not all jerk restaurants are created equally. Honestly, I’ve never eaten anywhere that I simply didn’t like their jerk. However, some places have established a bit more of a reputation than others.
Before booking your Jamaica vacation, read our guide to the north coast, from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios.
Ultimate Jerk and More
The main raod that hugs the north coast is the A1 highway. If you are meandering along the A1, you are likely to pass one of the better known jerk restaurants, so you might as well stop by for lunch. “Jerk Centre” is a common appellation for the roadside eateries that specialize in this uniquely Jamaican style of smoking meats. This one, as the name indicates, considers itself to be the “Ultimate”. Is it really the ultimate? Eh…who’s to say? Tastes are subjective, so I don’t normally like to declare things to be definitively “the best”. I do consider the Ultimate Jerk Center in Discovery Bay to be a solid example of the style and definitely worth a visit.
At the Ultimate Jerk Center, you will get the usual options of jerk pork and jerk chicken. At least occasionally, they serve up more exotic items, such as jerk rabbit. Whichever you choose, you can’t really make a bad choice. You also have the usual sides – rice and peas, festival (a type of bread), breadfruit, etc. If someone in your party isn’t a fan of jerk, you can always get some fish and bammy (another type of bread), or go for the curried goat.
Looking for a place to stay in Jamaica? Read our review of Turtle Beach Towers in Ocho Rios.
Ultimate Jerk, Ultimate Location
While there are other jerk centres along the north coast, some of which may prove better in the jerk department, if you’re vacationing in the area, it’s hard to beat this place for location. Discovery Bay is right on the well worn path from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios and beyond. The Ultimate Jerk Center is on the beach side of the highway, so you can enjoy a nice, sea breeze, while dining in the open air facility.
Almost directly across the street is the Green Grotto Cave, a popular attraction that is open for tours. Right behind the restaurant is the grounds of the Ultimate Sports Club, which is essentially a cricket field. If you’re lucky, there will be a game underway, offering the opportunity to watch a game that is rarely seen by North Americans, despite being quite popular throughout much of the world. Columbus Park is nearby, as well, marking the original landing of Christopher Columbus. It is from this event that Discovery Bay takes its name.
Making Your Own Ultimate Jerk
If you have a grill, or smoker, at home and would like to try your hand at authentic Jamaican jerk, I have written some step-by-step instructions for making your own authentic Jamaican jerk pork at home. I grew up in Jamaica and have been eating jerk pork for over 40 years. I’ve been making it myself at home for more than 20.
You can make authentic Jamaican jerk pork at home (or chicken, or anything else, for that matter). Don’t let others fool you, though. If you’re not smoking the meat, it’s not authentic jerk. Find out how to bring the taste of Jamaica home with my Jamaican jerk pork instructions.