Finally, Amazing Jerk Chicken and Oxtail at Downtown’s New Irie Jerk

Come for the chicken, stay for the curried goat.


Irie Jerk Exterior 2 Gregg Hoshida

Photo: Gregg Hoshida


Some things are worth the wait. I’d been seeing videos on my social media feed about a Jamaican food truck. More precisely, the videos showed the owner of Irie Jerk Hawai‘i describing the triumphs and tribulations of cooking jerk chicken and other specials from scratch. Like all good stories, the videos made me want to try the food, but since the truck was at Schofield Barracks, fate was not on my side. As luck would have it, it would only be a matter of time.


Two weeks ago, Irie Jerk opened its first brick-and-mortar location on Bishop Street in the Executive Centre. At last, chef and proprietor Kadeen Goldcamp has brought her cooking within my reach and that of throngs of hungry Downtowners.


SEE ALSO: Don’t Sleep on the Oxtail or Curried Goat at Jr’s Jamaican Jerk


My first visit starts with the fragrance of jerk spices wafting from the tiny restaurant. It is 1 p.m., and I am told they are already sold out of half the extensive menu. Apparently, a large lunch rush has just wiped them out. Jerk chicken wings with mac and cheese? Gone. Brown sauce chicken? Nope. Jerk pork? Maybe next time. Curry shrimp? Come back tomorrow.


Irie Jerk Oxtail Stew 1 Gregg Hoshida

Photo: Gregg Hoshida


Undaunted, I press on and luck out with the oxtail stew with rice and peas ($23.99). Pillowy soft, the four oxtails are cooked to perfection with glistening jewels of collagen making every bite sticky and satisfying. Under the meat, a bed of flavorful rice and peas soaks up the gravy, compelling me to finish every grain. The ballet of complex, savory flavors finishes a little sweet with just a slight tickle of heat. A cup of ginger-pineapple-lemon ice tea ($4.50) refreshes my palate between moreish bites.


The next day, having learned my lesson, I arrive at 12:30 p.m. Most plates run about $13 to $18, with $12 sliders and sandwiches, sides like plantains and mac and cheese and assorted lemonades and smoothies. Takeout is your best option, as there are only two small tables. Today, my luck holds: I score a table as well as a jerk chicken leg quarter with rice and peas ($20).


Irie Jerk Chicken 1 Gregg Hoshidajpg

Photo: Gregg Hoshida


The beautifully composed plate features succulent chicken nestled on a bed of rice and peas with a side of simmered cabbage and plantains. My first bite produces a reaction that only happens when the food is so good it catches me off-guard: I giggle. The chicken is so juicy and flavorful and the skin so perfectly rendered and caramelized from the marinade that I can’t help it. It’s like the best huli-huli chicken fresh off the grill, but with a bit more heat. My accompanying pineapple mint lemonade ($5) tastes of a tropical place that’s different from Hawai‘i.


Irie Jerk Curried Goat Gregg Hoshida

Photo: Gregg Hoshida


When I gushingly tell Goldcamp how much I love the chicken, she insists I taste her curried goat with coconut rice because, in her words, “Jamaicans love eating curry and white rice.” Who doesn’t? Toothsome and packed with flavor, blanketed on a delicate coconut perfumed rice, the curried goat ends up being my favorite dish. When all is said and done, I sit with a happy belly, scotch bonnets dancing on my tongue and grains of rice stuck to my face.


I talk story with Goldcamp and learn that she is the chief cook behind every dish and marinade. She sources locally what she can, cooks from scratch and not cans and starts her day at 4 a.m. Not only that, she still also has the Irie Jerk truck, which still parks at Schofield. Every dish I’ve tried reflects this dedication and passion. Combined with what I know from Goldcamp’s videos, I feel as though I’m eating in the chef’s kitchen, with the food being cooked just for me.


I recommend you go early, before the most popular dishes sell out. If they do sell out, try again the next day. Some things are worth the wait.


Open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from noon to 7 p.m., 1088 Bishop St., Suite 101,, @iriejerkhawaii