When you think of Jamaica, what comes to mind? For most people, it’s a particular flavor of paradise: reggae music, rum, and Rastafarianism along with picturesque beaches and James Bond. As one might expect, Tony Bourdain found other flavors there too – both on the plate and in the politics of the place.
Anthony Bourdain visited Jamaica to film season 4 (episode 7) of No Reservations, and season 4 (episode 8) of Parts Unknown. These two visits give him a chance to show the changes and contrasts in the Caribbean country, and explore different parts of the island – yes, there’s more than just Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.
If you’re planning a trip and want to eat well during your time on the island, you’ve come to the right spot. Below you’ll find a guide to all of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Jamaica, as well as what he ate. Even if you don’t visit these exact spots, you can try some of the same – and essential – Jamaican dishes. Come ya and let’s dig in!
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Taíno and Yamayeka (Yamaye) peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
No Reservations (2008)
On his visit to Jamaica, Tony stays mainly in the capital area. But that doesn’t mean the journey lacks adventure. He explores the local market, meets a Rastafari, tries Jamaican festivals for the first time, explores the Jamaican music scene, and discovers that, while Jamaicans are not heavy coffee drinkers, they’re high producers.
Coronation Market (Kingston)
As Tony says, visiting the local market is the best way to get a sense of the culinary scene of a new country. So, he goes to Coronation Market. He tries chicken foot soup, a very popular dish in Jamaica. Bourdain also tries the Jamaican beef patty, which puts all the other beef patties he has had to shame.
Red Hills Road (Kingston)
On Red Hills Road, known for its street food, Bourdain stops to try a Jamaican classic, drum pan chicken (or jerk chicken). The name comes from the grills made from 55-gallon oil drums. It’s very well seasoned and the seasonings are similar to what was used for dry jerky. The blend of spices includes cinnamon, cloves, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, and garlic. And always Scotch bonnet pepper.
Aunt Merl Fish And Lobster Restaurant (Hellshire Beach)
Tony does as the locals and heads to Hellshire Beach, where Kingston kicks back on Sundays. He pops into a beach shag called Aunt Merl’s for some grilled fish and cold beer. He gets a fried snapper and lobster. Next, he enjoys a bammy, a very Caribbean cake of cassava root, and another Jamaican specialty he had never heard of called festival. It’s like a fritter or a Johny cake.
Parts Unknown (2014)
On his second trip to Jamaica, for Parts Unknown, Bourdain channels his inner James Bond, thinks about villains, and enjoys a well earned break – as he says in the intro (paraphrasing): after nearly a year on the road, it was time for something low-impact. Here’s where he ate on that trip – though (of course) the rest of the show deals with headier topics alongside delicious food.
Piggy’s Jerk Centre (Port Antonio)
Tony starts out with a Jamaican essential: jerk chicken, plantains, and jerk sauce. This is a dish he enjoyed on his first trip, though this time he instead enjoys it on Jamaica’s northern shore in Port Antonio at Piggy’s Jerk Centre. This spot is well-known and well-loved for quality jerk chicken – it’s a good option if you’re a first-time visitor.
The GoldenEye Estate (Oracabessa)
Through the rest of the episode, Tony balances the push for development against the natural magic of Jamaica – and the right that Jamaicans have to enjoy it. One conversation on this topic happens at the GoldenEye Estate with owner Chris Blackwell.
As neither man is a native Jamaican – Blackwell is pushing for tourism and Bourdain is well aware that his mere presence drives it – their conversation over tropical drinks covers villains and heros – both in the Bond world and in Jamaica.
Chris’s Cook Shop (Oracabessa)
Next, Tony swings back toward more casual digs and conversations with locals. Joined by chef Chris Marsh at his eponymous Chris’s Cook Shop, he digs into more Jamaican classic dishes including oxtail, curried goat, callaloo, rice and pigeon peas, with a a red stripe, of course.
Dr. Hoe Rum Bar (Oracabessa)
At Dr. Hoe Rum Bar, Bourdain meets up with some local fishermen to have a traditional fisherman’s breakfast. Called a “Steel Bottom,” it’s one part rum, four parts beer – and wholly essential for a day on the water.
After “breakfast,” he talks with the men about overfishing in Jamaica and the whole Caribbean as well as development plans for the area, which stirs up some serious emotions – it’s about the most agitated I’ve ever seen Jamaican folks!
Cynthia’s/Winnifred Beach (Fairy Hill)
Bourdain’s final stop keeps it local, heading to one of the last local and free public beaches on Jamaica’s northern shore, Winnifred Beach.
Here, he’s joined by Cynthia Miller – who runs her own food stall, Cynthia’s – as well as fellow food stall owners Joy and Marjory, for a lunch of ackee and salt cod with banana. Their conversation turns to private/public access and the development of beaches that creates a risk that Jamaicans can’t even go to the beach in Jamaica. (Following this episode, I’m happy to share that CNN had a story about how Winnifred Beach managed to avoid development.)
Tony so enjoys his lunch that he returns the next day for lunch of yam, plantain, breadfruit, rice, peas, corn, carrots, dumplings (festival), fish, veggies, and ting and rum.
Have any questions about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Jamaica? Let me know in the comments below!
This post was co-written with Agustina Deis.