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Best Kingston Restaurants

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The best places to eat in Kingston depend on what you’re looking for in a Jamaica travel experience. Like any cosmopolitan capital, Kingston has a variety of restaurants serving all sorts of cuisines from around the world, with the majority of high-end restaurants centered in New Kingston. Asian and Indian cooking is particularly well-represented, but you’ll also see international fare on the menu, from Italian specialties to New York strip steaks. To stay in this narrow channel would be a big mistake, for sampling Jamaican cooking is a must, especially if your taste runs to spicy dishes. Number one, you have to try jerk cooking. Authentic Jamaican jerk is marinated chicken, pork or fish slathered in spices and slow-cooked over a smoky fire of pimento wood. Sides are usually a starch of roasted yam or breadfruit and a slightly sweet cornmeal doughnut-type concoction called “festival”—a nice complement to the heat of a jerk meal. Other authentic dishes to try are a breakfast of saltfish, ackee and eggs; for dinner or lunch order curried goat or escovitch fish (usually red snapper grilled with lime, vinegar and spices) with perhaps a side of steamed calaloo (a leafy vegetable), boiled banana and rice and peas. For a drink, try one of the juices from island fruits, such as tamarind or sorrel, maybe a glass of coconut water or—in the can’t-go-wrong category—order an icy Red Stripe. You can dine big and break the bank, or go small and eat at a roadside vendor or small shop. Most hotels and restaurants will include a 10% to 15% service charge on your bill. A 10% to 20% tip is considered acceptable.

East Japanese Restaurant

Neighborhood: Half Way Tree Price: Expensive
If you’re looking for the best Kingston restaurant for sushi, this is it. East Japanese Restaurant serves it up in a traditional Japanese setting. The successful eatery opened in 2004. Japanese Chef Kzumi Utoguchi, known as “Taka,” oversees sushi and sashimi, prepared in front of diners at the sushi bar (their warm entrees like tempura and teriyaki are also worth exploring). Taka learned his craft in Tokyo and then perfected it in New York and Miami before moving to Jamaica. He now slings sushi for a clientele that includes international diplomats and reggae superstars. If you want to dine al fresco, head for the terrace tables. Stand-out specialities include a white miso soup with scallions and seaweed, the Chef’s signature seaweed salad or Ika Sansai, a seasoned squid salad mixed with Japanese mountain vegetables. The dress code is worth noting; no sleeveless shirts, short shorts, spaghetti straps or flip flops are allowed.

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Regency Room

Neighborhood: New Kingston Price: Expensive
Romance is the order of the day at the Regency Room in the Main House at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel. This 45-seat dining room drips with crystal chandeliers and precious antiques, all under the watchful eye of a super-attentive maitre d’ who seems to anticipate your needs before you even know you have them. Tables are candle-lit, chairs are draped in white tablecloths, and the interior design’s color palette is a comforting combination of warm chocolate and regal merlot. The gourmet menu includes shrimp martini, rack of lamb and lobster thermidor. The Regency Room is one of Kingston's finest restaurants, and you’ll probably find yourself dining among government officials, visiting diplomats and showbiz bigwigs.

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Norma's on the Terrace

Neighborhood: Liguanea Price: Expensive
The elegance of Devon House, Kingston’s most famous Great House, is effortlessly transferred to Norma’s on the Terrace, a restaurant on the grounds of the historic property. The owner and magician behind the meals is Chef Norma Shirley—tabbed the “Julia Child of the Caribbean.” Menus change with the season, and showcase such Caribbean-fusion entrees as sautéed shrimp with calamari, capellini pasta in herbs, grilled whole red snapper with citrus and capers, and  roasted corn-fed chicken glazed with Jamaican June plums. The piece de resistance is Norma’s English trifle dessert. Terrace tables make the most of the genteel setting and are primo for romantic special occasions. Reservations recommended.

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Gaucho's Grill

Neighborhood: Half Way Tree Price: Moderate
Gaucho’s Grill may confuse you at first. Are you dining in the middle of a bustling capital? Or out in the country surrounded by nature. It’s a little of both, especially during the day, when the business life of Kingston is at its peak. Gaucho’s Grill is set back from South Avenue, hidden behind earth-toned walls and shadowed by mango trees—even so, you’ll still hear the occasional honking horn. At night, a romantic ambiance is in full effect, with bamboo lanterns and water splashing from clay pots into an ornamental pool. But what about the food? Grilled South American pampas-style rules the menu, with ribs, steak and seafood featured. Go hearty Jamaican and order the fresh sea snapper steamed in garlic butter and pumpkin sauce with okra and hot peppers with a side of steamed or fried bammy. Closed Sundays.

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Rib Kage

Neighborhood: New Kingston Price: Moderate
The best Kingston restaurants for ribs are those that indulge an informal atmosphere, dining spots that allow you to dig in and wipe down when you’re done. The two Rib Kage Bar & Grill locations in Kingston are one of the best when it comes to budget eateries in the city. Carnivores descend in waves to feast on honey-glazed rib tips, smoked and marinated baby back ribs and porterhouse steaks. In a nod to variety, they also serve a selection of seafood, from lobster to fish and chips. The original location has seating under a shingle roof as well as at sunny tables outside. The second and newest version is located on Braemar Road and has 40 seats; those waiting for a seat usually cool their heels at “The Kage” or gazebo bar on the front lawn.

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Akbar

Neighborhood: New Kingston Price: Moderate
This New Kingston restaurant draws on fresh Jamaican ingredients to create traditional, mouthwatering Indian dishes. The owners named the restaurant after the Moghul Emperor Akbar and in a similar burst of grandiosity loaded the menu with over 90 items. You’ll find a wide choice of dishes, including vegetarian fare, as well as Indian breads like hearty naan and crispy paratha. Signature dishes include Tandoori chicken and Navrattan Korma, which uses plenty of fresh Jamaican vegetables. Save room for dessert and order the Gulab Jaman—doughy milk balls  in sugar syrup laced with rosewater and cardamom.

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Chelsea Jerk Centre

Neighborhood: New Kingston Price: Budget
Chelsea Jerk Centre is around the corner from Scotchie’s Tree and near the New Kingston Shopping Plaza. This Kingston bad boy does its business from a squat building under a swinging Pepsi sign (which is an outrage—it should be Ting, a soda made from Jamaican grapefruit). You can order takeout, but grab one of the seats inside and soak up the atmosphere. Chelsea Jerk is the real deal when it comes to authentic jerk cooking, with a variety of dishes, including chicken, pork and fish in season. You can also order up a medley of traditional island sides, from slightly sweet cornmeal dumplings, called festivals, to stick-to-your-ribs roasted breadfruit. Top bargain is the “Chelsea's Special”—a heaping plate of rice, peas, vegetables and jerked pork or chicken. If you want to dump the jerk, you can order oxtail and stewed fish.

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Juici Patties

Neighborhood: New Kingston Price: Budget
We know people who on arrival in Jamaica go to Juici Patties before they check into their hotel. There’s nothing fancy about Juici Patties, but they are simply one of the top Kingston restaurants for easy island food. You can choose from a fresh selection of patties filled with beef, chicken, shrimp or veggies and—in season—exotic patties stuffed with lobster and shrimp. Wash it down with a Ting, the popular Jamaican soft drink made from grapefruit. Breakfast is also served with a tasty selection of island porridges, from peanut porridge and cornmeal to hominy corn porridge. Started in 1980 as Juici Beef Patties, the founder, Jukie Chin, learned to make patties from the age of 16 in his mother’s kitchen. He began selling them in the small grocery store owned by his family, and the demand for his patties quickly grew. There is now a Juici Patties restaurant in every parish in Jamaica.

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Scotchies Tree

Neighborhood: New Kingston Price: Budget
A Jamaica vacation without a jerk meal at Scotchies is just wrong. It used to be that you could only experience a Scotchies meal in Montego Bay, but they now have a second location in Ocho Rios and, in the spring of 2010, they opened a third restaurant in Kingston called Scotchies Tree. Umbrellas shade the communal wooden tables and the stools are beer kegs. This no-frills bonanza dishes up roasted breadfruit, frosty Red Stripe beer and chicken, fish and pork blackened to perfection in a marinade of scotch bonnet peppers. Their hot sauce packs a punch and can be purchased by the bottle.

Hot Pot

Neighborhood: New Kingston Price: Budget
The Hot Pot in New Kingston is across the street from the Altamont Court Hotel and only a short walk from the Jamaica Pegasus. The Hot Pot prides itself on having the atmosphere of a simple Jamaican home. An island cuisine menu offers stewed chicken, steamed fish and okra, curried goat, and fried chicken with a hefty side order of yam and dumplings. You can also order fresh juices, such as soursop, June plum and beetroot with milk and sugar. The interior is decorated with rustic earth tones, and plenty of plants fill the dining area. The restaurant stays open throughout the day, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Make like a Jamaican and drop by for a breakfast of salt fish and ackee. It’s recommended you have Jamaican currency with you as their conversion on U.S. dollars is somewhat less than generous.

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