The good kind of jerk: Jawaiian Irie
Thanks to Cassie Simmonds, Jamaican food has long been a Honolulu option—from his Jawaiian Irie Jerk food truck. Unfortunately for me, his locations—Mapunapuna and the edge of Waikiki—weren’t in my regular flight path, and even though I’d have jerk cravings every so often, his food remained a myth to me. Until now.
In August, he opened a permanent home in Kaimuki, in that eclectic hive that also houses Himalayan Kitchen, Bella Mia, Hog Island Smokehouse and Comfort Foods, and Sugarcane boutique.
Last night the no-frills joint was jumping, most of the tables filled with all kinds of people—young, old, local, uh, not local.
Homey is the only way to describe the experience. You get your main course, two starches (rice ’n’ peas and fritter), and veggies (ital stew of carrot and potato) ladled on a plate (garnished with a purple orchid), and it doesn’t need to be any other way. Whether it’s jerk-marinated pork shoulder pieces or a mahimahi steak topped with vinegary julienned vegetables, you get a well-seasoned meal that’s a nice change from the usual. A scoop of smoked-marlin dip served with house-made sweet-potato chips, rich oxtail stew, and shrimp skewered on a sugarcane spear and doused with an addictive yellow coconut-curry sauce are just a few of the honorable mentions.
So the mahi was overcooked, and the jerk isn’t quite as pungent as what I was used to in New York (perhaps the kitchen holds back on the Scotch Bonnets in deference to local palates)—the fair prices and general aloha vibe of the jerk shack make it a place worth returning regularly for the taste of another island. PS: Cold brews are perfect with this food, and Jawaiian Irie is BYOB.
Jawaiian Irie Jerk Restaurant, 1137 11th Ave., 388-2917, www.jawaiianiriejerk.com.