Ya Mon: Tampa’s Jerk Hut takes taste buds to the Islands

Middle Quarters Pepper Shrimp ignite a little fire in your mouth.

No worries: There are no button-down attitudes at Jerk Hut Jamaican Grille & Rhum Bar. The lazy, hazy, island lifestyle beguiles your senses with lively, if loud, reggae, casual ambience and a peppery aroma. The hostess asked “take out?” as three of us walked in to dine there. Sure enough, a good number were huddled in the lobby, waiting on Caribbean carryout.

Your taste buds tingle with an order of Jamaican jerk, chunks of meat having a well-rounded blend of seasonings from the fiery Scotch bonnet pepper to the sweet of allspice. The jerk is rubbed into whole pork butts and when grilled, creates a tasty crust that ignites fiery underpinnings.  Jerk chicken is also  popular enough that the restaurant cooks 50 cases of poultry every week.

“First, we make up homemade spices, then grill [the birds] an hour and a half on the rotisserie,’’ says manager Sam Reiner.  Jerk dinners come with white rice and salad (obviously not an island specialty) or peas (beans) and rice, a Caribbean staple. The same chicken elevates vegetable Alfredo pasta mixed with some overly cooked squash, zucchini and carrots blended. I would like crisper veggies.

No mistaking, it’s Jamaican when you see goat on a menu. Sam says they buy it already cut up, add potatoes and onions, and mix it up with homemade spices. It tastes like a lean beef stew.

“Many also come in for the oxtails or brown chicken,’’ (fried chicken that is simmered with onions and tomatoes), says Sam. The curries here are not too rambunctious so even weenies would like these chicken entrées.

Grilled jerk pork has spices and Scotch bonnet peppers that ignite fiery underpinnings.

Hot, hot, hot, warns the menu on aptly named “Middle Quarters Pepper Shrimp.’’ Seven, shell-on, shrimp, boiled in a Scotch bonnet and garlic mixture, arrive on a bed of lettuce.  Mon, this was spicy.

Conch can be chewy but ours was tender. Crisp, conch fritters, served in a Calypso tomato-dipping sauce, went down easy. Negril Sampler Plate, chock full of fried items, including the fritters, coconut shrimp, sweet potatoes, plantains, and potato chips, is not for dieters.

Jerk Hut knows its Caribbean bread pudding. Lemon cake, chocolate cake, sorbet and cheesecake are options. Rum is probably the most ordered beverage, but there are Cool Running’s fruit punch, ginger beer, ting and other tropical tastes.

If you have a taste for the spicy, you won’t be disappointed at this Rasta reverie.

Jamaican Grille & Rhum Bar
Where: 926 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa (also on Twiggs St. downtown and Gandy Blvd. in South Tampa)
Hours: Sun. and Mon. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tues – Thurs. 11 a.m. to 10 pm., Fri and Sat., 11 a.m. to midnight.
Way to Pay: MC, AE, V, Discover
Drinks: Full bar.Call: (813) 977-5775
Website (although it doesn’t appear to be live)

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Charitable chance to chow down: I’m pumped about  the Gourmet Feastival on Aug. 24. Sponsored by The Centre, formerly the Centre for Women, this is the 20th year for the “tastiest event of the summer.’’  Jerk Hut will be there along with J. Alexander’s, the Hyatt’s Avanzare, Timpano Italian Chop House, and 30 restaurants, caterers and wine and beer purveyors sandwiched together and serving their favorites.  Expect a heated silent auction and live music, starting at 6 p.m. The event is downtown at the Tampa Hyatt, 211 N. Tampa St.

The Centre helps thousands of women and families in Hillsborough County in everything from substance abuse treatment programs, elder home repairs, counseling to teen mentoring. Tickets and more information.

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B is for better burritos: St. Pete residents know this Burrito Boarder. Tampa residents will find it in North Tampa next to World of Beer at 12908 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.; (813) 963-2400. The Surf tacos with grilled mahi hold promise. Look for it here.

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Large barge becomes luxurious palace: A shuttle or helicopter will take you to the Fisherman’s Paradise floating resort, which opens Sept. 9. The Paradise, assessable from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, is on a barge moored 15 mile off the coast  of Clearwater. The palatial palace also has a restaurant, marina, two-floor gym,  health spa, and  a 900-bottle wine cellar. The five-story  barge was transformed into a $25 million, luxury mother ship for deep-sea anglers and divers that will stay here half a year. Pulled by a tugboat, it loops between the Gulf of Mexico, Panama and Belize. A night’s suite on the maritime mansion will cost $600. It sleeps 36 and weighs 5,000 tons. Read more about the barge

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No comments yet to Ya Mon: Tampa’s Jerk Hut takes taste buds to the Islands

  • Brad Kustin

    Hi Mary!
    Great to see you back. So, when’s your review of Gino’s? Did Amy tell you my thoughts?
    By the way, I would love to go with you when you’re going to review a restaurant..
    Good luck and bon appetit!
    Brad.

  • Yes we talked. Thanks. Gino’s runs next week…
    Will be in touch. Bon appetit to you too.
    Mary

  • George Pastor

    Hi – Long time – Really like Carmel Carrollwood and Jerk Hut Fowler
    and across Dale Mabry – Toasted Pheasant. I’m old, bit still get around!
    Love – George

  • Mary D, Scourtes

    Hello George. It is great to hear from an old friend. Miss those wonderful days in your cooking classes. They were the best. Glad you like my reviews… What other little hideaways do I need to know about?
    Hugs,
    mary

  • George Pastor

    Hey, Mary – sent you a message – but tried forwarding our menu – didn’t work.
    Menu is for Tutored Chef Restaurant at 4401 N Himes – only open thurs and fri,lunch & dinner – 873-2112 – ask for the restaurant. You would really like the food – not much atmosphere – a student run place – so not too expensive. Speaking of cheap – my new spouse LOVES
    Sweet Tomatoes, Carrollwood

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