Charlotte offers a solid selection of great Jamaican food

By Beth Mack

March 24, 2021

For a country the size of Connecticut, Jamaica has had a disproportionate global influence. Of course, there is Bob Marley and Red Stripe, but that only scrapes the surface of Jamaican culture and cuisine. Located in the Caribbean Sea with a population just shy of three million, Jamaica is world-renowned for its food. The country’s tumultuous history culminated from many different beats into one harmonious rhythm that is what we have come to know today as Jamaican cuisine.

Dig deeper into some of Jamaica’s iconic dishes and you will find diverse culinary influences. A popular Jamaican preparation of fish, escovitch fish (fried fish topped with pickled onions, carrots, and Scotch bonnet peppers) is the Jamaican twist on the Spanish escabeche. For the infamous Jamaican patty, look no further than the beat of Britain. The Jamaican patty is a savory turnover filled with meat or vegetables encapsulated in a flaky pastry shell that can be eaten by itself or stuffed inside a sweet roll of coco bread. The beat of India is felt through the Jamaican style of curries and rotis that can be found on almost all Jamaican menus. The ackee fruit, used in Jamaica’s national dish of ackee and saltfish (dried and salted cod) was imported from Ghana.

Beef patty with coco bread at Lawrence Caribbean Restaurant.

But no dish is more Jamaican than jerk. Jerk seasoning typically consists of Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and salt. It’s used as a dry rub or wet marinade on meat then grilled low and slow. Other entrees to look for are oxtails, brown stew chicken, and fish prepared in a variety of ways. These dishes are often served with rice and “peas” (red kidney beans), fried plantains, and stewed cabbage or callaloo (indigenous leafy green similar to kale), it is food for the soul.

Jamaican cuisine offers a little something for everyone from seafood lovers to non-meat eaters. With warmer weather on the horizon, sit back and relax with a cool breeze and enjoy the rhythm of flavors that Jamaican cuisine provides in Charlotte. 

Island Cuisine

A relative newcomer to the Jamaican food scene in Charlotte, Island Cuisine offers one of the most expansive menus. Opened in 2018 in North Charlotte, Island Cuisine serves up some dishes that you won’t find anywhere else, as well as a full bar to complete the experience. Glance through the menu and you will find seven varieties of patties, curries, oxtail, jerk chicken, and seafood dishes that can lead to indecision. If you want to try a variety of meats or different preparation styles, try one of their combination platters. Drop by on a Friday or Saturday to enjoy their unique specials of jerk pork, BBQ chicken, fried chicken, and festivals (fried cornbread fritters), but be sure to stop by early as they typically sell out. Finish your meal with one of their many authentic Jamaican desserts such as gizzada or a slice of black rum cake. Island Cuisine is not just a restaurant– they also offer a small grocery selection so customers can bring the flavor of Jamaica home. 

Island Cuisine
5332 Docia Crossing Rd.,Suite A
Charlotte, NC 28269
(980) 237-2677

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Curry goat at Island Cuisine

Lawrence Caribbean Restaurant 

Just around the corner from the airport, you will find a humble white cinderblock building that brings you the authentic flavors of Jamaica without the cost of a plane ticket. Owner Gavin Lawrence, a Jamaican native, opened Lawrence Caribbean Restaurant in 2015. While they are known for their oxtails, the flaky patties are not to be overlooked. Their menu is rounded out with your typical jerk chicken, curries, rotis, and stews. For a taste of Jamaica’s national dish, stop by on a Friday or Saturday when they serve up ackee and saltfish. To wash it all down, you will find a selection of Jamaican sodas, beer, and homemade sorrel juice or ginger beer. 

Lawrence Caribbean Restaurant
3011 West Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28208
(980) 299-0609

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Oxtails at Lawrence Caribbean Restaurant.

Island Grocery & Grill

Nestled in a strip mall off of Albemarle Road is one of Charlotte’s oldest Jamaican food joints, Island Grocery and Grill. Walk up to the counter and you will find a modest menu full of Jamaican cuisine’s top hits along with baked goods and house-made fresh sorrel and Irish moss juices. Island Grocery offers the elusive yet authentic, peanut juice (a blend of peanuts, water, condensed milk, sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla) that is typically used to make peanut punch by adding white rum. In addition to the food, Island Grocery offers the largest selection of delicacies imported directly from Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. Stop by on a Friday and Saturday to try out their weekend specials of jerk chicken wings or ackee and saltfish. With no dine-in seating, it is best to order ahead through their website or you can find them on GrubHub and Postmates.

Island Grocery & Grill
5861 Albemarle Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28212
(704) 532-0322

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Stew chicken, yams, and rice & peas.

Caribbean Hut

One of Charlotte’s most popular Jamaican restaurants is Caribbean Hut. Over 10 years ago, Jamaican native and chef, Trevor Lewis, went searching for authentic Jamaican cuisine in Charlotte but came up empty. Thus, Caribbean Hut was born in 2010. The flavors Lewis cooked up were such a hit that he’s grown his business to expand from his original location, located in the University area. The second location off of Woodlawn Road in Charlotte opened in 2014, followed by a location in Gastonia in 2016, and they recently added a location this past January in Clemson, SC. Boasting one of the largest Jamaican menus in Charlotte, Caribbean Hut has something for everyone including curry tofu along with rotis, fish, chicken, oxtails, patties, and sandwiches. One unique menu item you won’t find anywhere else in Charlotte is the callaloo roti. 

Caribbean Hut
9609 N. Tryon St. – (704) 593-0030
200 W Woodlawn Rd. – (704) 527-9505

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Jerk chicken combo at Caribbean Hut.

Irie Nation

Located on the outskirts of Noda on North Tryon Street is Irie Nation. Formerly Irie Vibes, Irie Nation’s compact menu offers a punch of flavors with the tried-and-true dishes of Jamaica. Browse the menu and you will find the usual suspects of jerk, curries, oxtails, and the Jamaican quartet of cooking methods for fish (fried, steamed, escoveitched, and stewed in a brown sauce). For the full Jamaican experience, snag one of the limited dine-in tables and treat yourself to a drink from their full bar and enjoy an authentic meal all while basking to the rhythm of modern Jamaican music. You can also find Irie Nation on DoorDash, GrubHub, and Postmates.

Irie Nation
2729 N. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28206
(704) 909-7377

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Curry shrimp at Irie Nation

Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery

Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery has been serving Charlotteans authentic Jamaican food since 2014. Pull into the parking lot of the small bright green building and you will be greeted by the smell of jerk chicken being cooked on the grill out back of the restaurant. Once inside the cozy restaurant, you will notice a mini grocery of items imported from Jamaica. Of note on this menu is the inclusion of authentic breakfast items other than ackee and saltfish. In addition to Jamaica’s national dish, you can also try out plantain porridge, steamed fish served with dumplings and banana, or callaloo and saltfish. Other unique menu items include stewed beef and a large selection of bottled Jamaican sodas and juices.

Finga Lickin’
2838 The Plaza
Charlotte, NC 28205
(980) 430-5120


Oxtails at Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery.

Yard Cooked Dishes

Native Jamaican Neville Storer has been in the kitchen all of his life. He ventured into selling Jamaican food during college and has grown his business gradually from there to a food truck, and then to a brick-and-mortar restaurant that he opened in 2017 located in west Charlotte. In addition to serving up authentic Jamaican dishes, Yard Cooked Dishes also offers chicken wings that can be tossed in one of their 17 sauces and served with steamed cabbage, plantains, and choice of rice (white, yellow, or peas and rice). Neville will occasionally cook up special dishes that aren’t on the menu so keep an eye out for those. 

Yard Cooked Dishes
1610 Ashley Rd Suite 7
Charlotte, NC 28208
(704) 496-9021

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Oxtails, plantains, steamed cabbage, and rice & peas at Yard Cooked Dishes.

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