Good food often comes at a price, and usually with the fandangles of a fancy establishment. But, does it have to? Not necessarily. Let me share with you four certifiable holes-in-the-wall in Jamaica near Discovery Bay that serve insanely good food.
I have two traits that don’t necessarily go well together. I am a very picky eater but I love good food and love to try new foods. You won’t find me at fast food places and greasy spoons eating unhealthy foods because I don’t believe good food has to be unhealthy. Fortunately, we do have a chef at the villa who can satisfy not only my palate, but our guests as well, as our guests’ reviews will affirm. Sometimes though it is nice to go out for a bite. And, you would be surprised to know that when I am in Jamaica, generally, I am not into getting all decked out and eating at fancy places. It just feels like way too much work.
Everybody knows that I am a Scotchies fan. I love, love, love their jerk pork in particular. I visited Jamaica in March 2015 and that was my only trip when I did not go to Scotchies. Needless to say, that omission did make it to my list of regrets. Scotchies is not fine dining by any stretch of the imagination and serves what I would call local street-style food. The food is jerked on open fire so smoke is almost always billowing from the open kitchen area, which is one criticism I have of them. I was quick to add Scotchies to my list; however, Darrell was quick to point out that casual food and smoke do not make it an automatic hole-in-the-wall.
Did you know that “hole-in-the-wall” is actually a term found in the dictionary?! It is a noun, which the Merrian-Webster dictionary defines as “a small and often unpretentious out of the way place (as a restaurant)”. Urbandictionary.com defines it as “generally a small, raggedy place (usually a bar or a club) that has very low quality equipment, furniture, etc but sometimes will provide the best variety of entertainment on any given night.”
So it seems that there is some debate about what would qualify as a hole-in-the-wall. The four places I am going to tell you about are what I am calling “certifiable” holes-in-the-wall because I cannot imagine that there would be any debate from anyone as to whether or not these places would be considered holes-in-the-wall.
The Steamed Fish Man in Brown’s Town
Late one night I had a craving for fish. Everywhere was closed so we went up to Brown’s Town, about 20 minutes easy drive from the villa, to perhaps the only place that would have fish at that ungodly hour. Dave took us to this little run down place at the side of the road, just across from the Agro Grace Store on the Main Road in Brown’s Town. I took one look at the place and declined. He and Darrell ordered the steamed fish. It took forever to get the food. As it turns out, it was prepared to order.
Back at the villa, I opened the aluminum foil in which the fish was wrapped. I took a bite and OMG! It was the freshest, juiciest, tenderest, most mouth-wateringest steamed fish I had tasted in a mighty long time. And it came from that little place where I had declined to order! I had no choice but to pull a Brer Anancy. For those of you who don’t know, Brer Anancy is a spider who in Jamaican folklore uses his wits to make sure he takes care of himself. So my Brer Anancy strategy came directly from an old story. I asked Darrell quite nicely for a piece of his fish since I hadn’t bought any for myself. Being the kind-hearted dear that he is, he graciously gave me half. Dave offered me half, which I did not decline. I then got to sit back and eat the equivalent of a whole fish all by myself, no regrets, just pure pleasure. As one of the pickiest eaters on the planet, the fact that I devoured everything but the bones, spoke volumes about how great the food was.
The Jerk Pan Corner
Usually on Friday and Saturday nights, in Con’s Plaza by the D&G Outlet, just above Discovery Bay’s Square is a little area where there are people making jerk chicken. Think of mobile barbecue pits with each one made out of a metal drum. They sell the chicken by the quarter or half and usually give pieces of bread to go along with it. You can either use their sauce or ketchup or some combination as a dipping sauce. If you don’t like hot peppers, skip their sauce and go with the ketchup. Whose jerk is the best? That is highly debatable as the locals each have their own favorite jerk (person). Maybe they like one person’s sauce or top secret marinade. Or, maybe that person always gives them a little bit extra. What I do know is that the food is good and it is a unique experience.
The Soup Place
On your way back from Ocho Rios to Discovery Bay, you pass through a little town called Priory, maybe 15 minutes from the villa. Just at the stoplight on the main road, on the left hand side, just across from the Infirmary, is a teeny tiny little shop that sells among other things, soups. It is so small that you can stop at the light, order your soup, and get it before the light changes. The red peas soup and the conch soup are the best. Don’t go after 2 o’clock though because by then the soup is all finished or, if they do have any, it is likely to be watered down.
The Pudding Man
You can get Jamaican pudding at almost any pastry shop in any town but why would you when you can get pudding made following the ways of Jamaican grandmothers and great-grand mothers using wood fire as opposed to modern ovens. Just across the street from the Soup Place, on the same side of the road as the Infirmary, is Just Cool aka The Pudding Man. You can’t miss it because there are three-legged pots lined up outside. They are open from 6am to 10pm except on Saturdays, so don’t forget that.
They are known for sweet potato pudding and corn meal pudding made the old-fashioned way. Pudding made the traditional way is described as “Hell on top, hell at the bottom and Hallelujah in the middle”. This refers the process of making the pudding whereby fire is placed both on top and below the pudding while it is baking. Hallelujah refers to the wonderfully tasty pudding that is being created in the midst of the fire. Watch video below and you will see what I mean.
The Jamaican Observer, one of the national newspapers, gave them a massive write-up in October 2014 where they described the Pudding Man as “making one ‘hell’ of a pudding”! The owner’s wife is blind and she is the main taste-tester. I can’t help but think that is part of their secret sauce. Those puddings have to be good to get her approval.
As you can see, most of these places don’t have official names, at least not that I am aware of. You want their website? As card-carrying holes-in-the-wall, they don’t have websites. What they do have is their calling card – their reputation that they have cultivated for years. If you go to any of these areas, whether it is Brown’s Town, Discovery Bay Square or the stop light at Priory, any local will point you to exactly where you need to go.
I have no idea if these are properly registered businesses but all I can tell you is that their food is insanely good, they always have a steady stream of customers including an abundance of regulars, and the fact that they are certifiable holes-in-the-wall is totally irrelevant. The food is just that good. Plus, they give you a real taste of Jamaica. Pun intended!
If you are staying at the villa and would like to try the food at any of these places, just ask Dave. He would be happy to help you. He is a certified regular!
Til next time. Think and dream Jamaica!
Sherry & Darrell
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Sherry & Darrell, owners of Mais Oui Tenis & Spa Villa in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, consider themselves unofficial ambassadors for Jamaica. They look forward to using their insider knowledge to help guests create priceless vacation memories. Feel free to say hi!