Beef patties. Curry goat. Salty cod. Jerk chicken. Ackee. Jamaican cuisine is one of the most recognized in the Caribbean. Get ready for spices, fresh fish, and lots of reggae music, because these are the restaurants at which you’ll be eating. To be totally clear: “best” restaurants in this case doesn’t necessarily mean “most romantic” restaurants, so don’t go in expecting fireworks… just the best food on the island.
Aunt Merle’s Fish ShackHalf Moon Bay Hellshire Beach Portmore, Jamaica
In Hellshire Beach in Portmore, this funky little shack serves grilled lobster tail and sea bass straight from the sea. It’s so authentic and no frills (you’ll be eating on a picnic table) hipsters would be lined up around the block if it were in Brooklyn. Make a point to dine here if you love no-fuss, mouthwatering cooking (it’s one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite spots): you’ll be in Jamaican seafood heaven.
Far Out Fish Hut221 E 54 St 11 Montego Bay, Jamaica
This basic little spot on the water looks like it’s about to fall apart, but it’s here to stay. Far Out Fish Hut has the best seafood on the island, period. Expect grilled, seasoned fish with head and tail to maximize flavors at cheap prices. Locals are always relaxing under the thatch roof, chomping into fresh parrot fish, snapper, lobster and shrimp. Far Out can also spice things up on command with habanero peppers, if you need that fix.
Rick’s CafeRick's Cafe W End Rd, Negril, Jamaica
You don’t have to know who Rick is to know this place is one of the best spots on the island. Situated on the West End Cliffs of Negril, Rick’s Cafe is a magnet for couples because of the sunsets (arguably the best on the island) and the incredible live reggae music. There’s also an outdoor pool and stiff rum punch. The food is amazing: you can get broiled lobster, blackened tuna, fresh salads, and plenty of other options from a chef that’s been here 30 years. The biggest attraction, though, is the cliff diving platforms, which you can access right from the bar. The highest platform is 35 feet high, and plenty of guys show up here and do all sorts of crazy dives and gymnastic flips into the sea below.
Murphy’s West EndMurphy's West End Lighthouse RD Negril, Jamaica
If, like us, you’re obsessed with jerk chicken, then you’ll be in good hands at Murphy’s West End. This ramshackle hotspot in Negril specializes in creating delicious jerk chicken. After one meal here, you will never eat jerk chicken the same way again: it’s an authentic Jamaican recipe that melts right off the bone, and it’s also affordable (about $12 max on a plate). If you’re serious about that jerk spice, we recommend Murphy’s Devil Chicken.
Belinda’sBelinda's Rio Grande, Port Antonio, Jamaica
Locals are quick to say Belinda’s is the best restaurant on the island. It’s jungle chic–with bamboo supports and a palm frond roof–which is appropriate as you’re essentially eating in the rain forest. Like most of the best restaurants in Jamaica, it’s all about the food, not the presentation (they serve with plastic forks) but the meals are unforgettably flavorful and fresh. The chickens are raised right in Belinda’s yard and the spices and herbs are grown locally. Entrees like fish and chicken come with all the side fixings you could want, like rice and peas, dumplings, and fried plantains. The dish that made Belinda’s foodie famous is the crayfish coconut rundown (made with crayfish that are caught that morning). We guarantee you’ll want seconds.