On a Rock, In a Bay, On an Island, In Jamaica: The Food

So I’ve been holding out on you. I’ve talked all about the gorgeous beaches, the stunning sunsets, the adventures, the chill vibe. But what I haven’t mentioned, at least not in much detail, is the marvelous food – spicy and flavorful, the food we had in Jamaica was a true highlight of the week. And did I mention there was lobster? Lobster for days.

Rockhouse has three restaurants. The Rockhouse Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers room service for the resort. This is also where the Juice Bar is located. The Pool Bar & Grill is all about the tropical poolside drinks and small, casual meals. And finally, there is Pushcart, an upscale interpretation of local Jamaican jerk centres. We had the chance to enjoy all of these options during our week in Jamaica.

Slightly jet lagged, desiring a tropical beverage and our first Jamaican meal, we made our way to Pushcart after settling into our room and briefly exploring the property. As we looked out over the ocean, the salty breeze mingling with the scent of rum and grilling meats, it was impossible not to feel happy.

My handsome date

But enough about that. What did we actually eat?

Well, we of course had to start with a cocktail or two. We were in Jamaica, after all.

If you can get a drink made inside of a coconut, you probably should. Many coconuts were harmed in the making of this vacation.

And something fruity for me

These seafood fritters had an excellent seafood to batter ratio – substantial bites of seafood in a savory batter were a delicious beginning

And jerk chicken skewers that were sweet and spicy deliciousness

We really struggled to narrow down what to order and eventually settled on a platter that included curried goat, braised oxtail, curried chicken, and bushman stew – a hearty and flavorful stew of lentils, red peas, black beans, and vegetables, this vegetarian dish was a take on Rasta fare. These were served with variations of rice, including callaloo rice, which is made with a leafy green such as amaranth.

We tried each dish and tried them again, doing our best to decide on a favorite. I think we eventually decided that the bushman stew was the best, but just barely. By the end of the meal, our mouths were on fire and our bellies were full.

We would return to Pushcart a couple more times that week for dinner and we did our best to try every dish on the menu.

The view from the restaurant was as fabulous as the food

Regardless of what we ate, we paired it with this scotch bonnet pepper sauce that was oh-so-spicy while still managing to add flavor.

Fried calamari served with a sweet tomato relish

Peppa shrimp that was equal parts messy and tasty

Fried chicken and the classic Jamaican side dish, rice and peas

We would find ourselves at Pushcart one last time the night before going home. It was a bittersweet night, as we listened to live Reggae music and reminisced over the loveliness of the previous week, while the sadness of leaving began to sink in. Thankfully we could take comfort in more amazing Jamaican food.

Unable to decide and feeling the pressure of this being our last island dinner, we again chose a combination platter. This one included jerk pork and jerk chicken and jerk sausage (all delicious) with traditional sides including roasted yam, plantain, and festival (sort of a fried dumpling). Every bite was amazing.

As I mentioned above, the main restaurant at the resort, Rockhouse Restaurant, was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner at Rockhouse was more of a fine dining affair than at Pushcart. This was also the restaurant that provided room service, which we ordered for breakfast once or twice. Like Pushcart, there was an emphasis on local foods with much of the produce sourced directly from the Rockhouse’s organic garden. And like Pushcart, all the food was delicious. Seriously, I don’t think I had a bad dish the entire week.

When you have a headache, breakfast on your balcony overlooking the ocean with a giant pot of coffee is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Jamaican rancheros made with plantains rather than tortillas, stew peas rather than refried or black beans, with the spice of scotch bonnet peppers. It was a cast iron skillet of deliciousness.

Can’t hate this breakfast view. Like literally. Hating this view would be impossible.

Other mornings, we chose to have breakfast in the restaurant. It was wonderful to wake up and drink coffee overlooking the stunning blue ocean, enjoying the still cool air as the day began to warm. We would make our plans for the day while we marveled at the beauty and perfection of it all.

One of the most unique breakfasts I tried was the Jamaican Special. Included with the breakfast was the iconic Blue Mountain Coffee, which some consider to be the best coffee in the world. Served alongside the coffee was the national dish of Ackee and Saltfish. Ackee is a much-loved fruit that, to me, seemed somewhat similar in taste and texture to an avocado. Salt cod and ackee are sautéed with spices to create this iconic dish. The Rockhouse breakfast also included other Jamaican foods, such as callaloo, fried dumplings, plantains, and, because that was not enough, even banana bread.

I enjoyed trying the different traditional foods, although I think ackee and saltfish may be a bit of an acquired taste.

Lunch at the Rockhouse Restaurant was also good. We were typically out and about during lunch, but on the day I went to the spa, we decided to check it out. Maybe because we had the coconut chicken at a pool party the day before and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Coconut shrimp, which might be one of my all time favorite foods

Crab quesadilla

And some of that coconut chicken, just for starters

Brandon ordered Jamaican jerk chicken fajitas

And I ordered a grilled fish sandwich

I now realize just how ridiculous this amount of food was. My only defense is that it was a gorgeous afternoon and a long lunch with my love was just perfect.

We also had dinner at Rockhouse once during our stay.

Plantain chips with ackee dip

We also shared an incredible seafood stew, simple perfection in a coconut shell bowl

The food may have been amazing, but the real highlight of the evening was this:

There are no words.

I think it is pretty obvious that the food at Rockhouse was stellar. But our favorite restaurant was just down the road, within a short walk of the resort. We first ended up at 3 Dives Jerk Centre after a somewhat disappointing experience at Rick’s. I am so glad we did.

This place was a quintessential dive, in the best way possible. At first I was a little leery. We arrived as very last of the sun set, walking up to the dimly lit building. After a moment, we realized that we would place our order at the counter. We perused the daily chalkboard menu, getting a glimpse of the large stew pots bubbling in the small kitchen. We initially ordered jerk chicken. When we expressed some uncertainty about the lobster, we were pointed toward a table located by the water. It was laden with the freshly caught crustaceans. After that, how could we not order lobster?

We found a table and drank Red Stripe as we waited for our food. The smells, man, they were incredible. The scents wafting from the kitchen made us more and more hungry. This is not a place where food was hurried. The jerk chicken and lobster were prepared after we ordered it, which meant plenty of time to take in the scene. Someone by the water was playing reggae music, which drifted underneath the conversations of locals and tourists alike.

Every bite was worth the wait.

The sides that night were rice and peas and callaloo. We also ordered some plantains because obviously this was not enough food. The immensity of the portions did nothing to diminish our determination to eat every single bite. It was one of the best meals of my life. No exaggeration.

This place was so good we had to go back again before we left. It was just was good the second time. This time we ordered curry goat. And more lobster.

The sides this time were rice and peas and some type of slaw. The curry was so good. So, so good.

And then there was the lobster

If you’re wondering how jerk anything is made, this is how – in grills made out of repurposed barrels, the sweet and savory spices blended into an ideal combination of charred flavors as they’re slowly cooked over smoky wood.

I actually feel sad as I write this because I’m not there right now eating this food. Just looking at the pictures makes me want to hop on a plane to Jamaica just for dinner. But since I can’t do that, I will content myself with staring at this rather attractive picture of my man.

If you’ve somehow missed this point, Jamaican food is kind of awesome. I think you should go to Negril and eat jerk chicken and grilled lobster and curry and plantains. I promise your life will be better for it.

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