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Fearless Critic restaurant review
DC
Food
Feel
Price
6.5
2.8
$15
Caribbean
Counter service

Hours
Mon–Sat 11:00am–9:30pm

Features Kid-friendly, live music, Wi-Fi
Bar None
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx

www.negrileats.com

Shaw
2301 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 332-3737

Silver Spring, MD
965 Thayer Ave.
Silver Spring, MD
(301) 585-3000
Negril
Not quite doing justice to some of Jamaica’s best

In Jamaica, there are two things that you can find almost anywhere: jerk chicken and homemade fruit punch. You can find either one along the swarthy streets of Kingston, at the all-inclusive resorts of Montego Bay, at roadside shacks in the crevices of the Blue Mountains. You can find either one at a nocturnal food cart outside a throbbing discotheque, in the dormitories of Portmore and the slums of Spanish Town, and, yes, along the panhandler-infested beaches of Negril, the Jamaican city that has most successfully leveraged the profit potential of the island’s skillfully cultivated rasta/reggae/marijuana/take-it-easy-mon image—even while, behind closed doors, locals seem to prefer a quiet game of dominoes to an overpriced bag of schwag.

The primary virtue of jerk chicken in Jamaica is that it’s cooked (and not overcooked) over live coals in a grill that billows with smoke; that famous jerk spice rub is really a secondary concern. Unfortunately, while the rub is right at the version purveyed by this Jamaican fast-food minichain, those juicy, smoky signs of the fire aren’t there, while the drumsticks tend to be serviceable, thigh meat has generally come out woefully dry. Also absent are the expected moistness of rice and peas (rice and red beans); the savory addictiveness of the beef inside a beef patty; or, seemingly, any seasoning whatsoever on a plate of cabbage.

How about the fruit punch? Well, in Jamaica, it’s all balance and complexity, but not at Negril (the restaurant); here, it tastes kind of like syrupy frozen-strawberry purée. Coco bread is sort of comforting, like a warm dinner roll, but the easy highlight is the tender, carefully stewed curried goat, whose yellow gravy carries its curry-powder flavor well. But even that plate is diminished by a useless salad with a sugar-charged version of Russian dressing.

It’s all diminished, too, by the thoughtless atmosphere, which is in the McDonald’s vein but with plasticky furniture that fails in its most basic mission: to hold food. Tables for two can scarcely fit two meals, and some are falling apart. Still, if do you happen to pass by a Negril branch at lunchtime, it’s a serviceable and definitely more interesting alternative to those golden arches (which, by the way—at the Howard University branch at least—are across the street).

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