When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
The Caribbean cuisine scene is expanding in Phoenix, and we're just fine with that. JamRock Café and Grill in Central Phoenix has been open for about three weeks. We're told the chef is from Jamaica and has been in the country for about a month.
Just past Van Buren on Grand Avenue, we parked in the back and walked through the impressive outdoor patio area, which includes a gazebo covering two barbecue grills.
Inside the restaurant has a warehouse feel, with beige walls and some exposed brick. A portrait of Bob Marley hangs in the dining area.
Happy hour is from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the wings were 10 for $5. The wings came out crispy and moist with two sides of spicy jerk sauce.
Some construction and finishing details were still being completed during the meal, so the manager's time was spilt between waiting our table and directing those who were there to finish up signs and get other things done in the restaurant.
We ordered the curry goat with two sides for $10. The curry was a Jamaican curry with a bit of heat to it, which dressed up the tender goat mixed with potatoes, carrots and onions. Side choices included rice and peas, fries, steamed rice, plantains, and festival (think deep fried corn bread fritters). We ordered the plantains and festival. Three thick slices of plantains came with our plate and were sweet and tender. The festival was fresh with a hint of sweetness and paired well with the curry goat when dipped in the sauce.
Other entree choices are oxtail with two sides for $12, jerk or barbecue chicken, a jerk burger for $6, or add fries and a Coke for $9. For those who are vegetarians, you can get vegetarian stew for $6. Caeser salad with barbecue or jerk chicken is $8.
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The dessert of the day was bread pudding for $4, and guests can choose for it to be cold or hot. We opted for cold. The texture was similar to thick custard with raisins. Maybe we'll try it hot instead next time.
JamRock will have musical guests on weekends, something to look forward to. The new restaurant was still smoothing out finer details and getting things right, but the obvious passion to tap into a unique cuisine is exciting. We'll be back.