A meal isn’t always just a meal. It’s an experience. It brings people together for conversation and creates community. Food can also tell a story. The ingredients, cooking techniques and flavors are shaped by the history of a nation. The dish placed in front of you at a Jamaican restaurant in Kansas City didn’t come out of thin air — it carries hundreds of years of history.
Jamaican food has a distinct history, both in how the culinary style was shaped and how it made its way to Kansas City. This cuisine is a melting pot of unfortunate circumstances born from the many struggles heaped upon the people of Jamaica. It is shaped by many years of conquest and power. It is a food born of struggle, and it is a testament to both hope and the strength of Jamaican people that something so delicious could be made from undesirable circumstances.
When you enjoy a juicy jerk chicken at a Jamaican restaurant in Kansas City, you’re not only getting a good meal but also biting into history.
What is Jamaican Food?
Jamaica’s position in the Caribbean made it a prime destination for European adventurers and colonizers. This is the source of many of the island’s hardships, and also a source of many of Jamaican foods ingredients.
Jamaica naturally provides ingredients for cooking from its lush vegetation and surrounding ocean. But Jamaican cuisine is also heavily influenced by Spanish and French ingredients. As those nations conquered areas of the island and set up trading outposts, spices from Europe flowed into Jamaica. Those conquerors made life hard for Jamaicans, but the people of the island made the most of the influx of new ingredients.
The European goods received from the trade were combined with the heart and soul of Jamaican food – a style of cooking called jerk. Jerk is pit-style roasting of meat that has been dry rubbed or marinated with a hefty dose of spices. If that sounds a little familiar to you as a resident of Kansas City, it’s because jerk is the ancient ancestor of American barbecue.
Jerk chicken is the most famous type of food you’ll find at a Jamaican restaurant in Kansas City, but it’s not the only item on the menu. There are baked and fried pastries, fresh vegetable dishes and savory seafood options, too.
Jamaican Restaurants Near Me in Kansas City
There are only a handful of Jamaican restaurants in Kansas City. The Jamaican population of KC is relatively small. Still, you can find great Jamaican food in Kansas City if you know where to look.
Start in south KC at G’s Jamaican Quisine. G’s isn’t anything fancy. It’s a small dining room with a walk-up counter off Troost Avenue near Waldo — a true hole-in-the-wall. And customers love it. This shop has a strong positive response from the locals who frequent it. G’s serves jerk chicken, of course. Diners also rave about the brown stew chicken, curry chicken and oxtail dinners.
From G’s, you can head north to Midtown to find the most concentrated pocket of Jamaican restaurants in Kansas City. Several of these spots serve Caribbean classics along with Ethiopian and Eritrean food, which are all closely related.
Working south to north, your first stop will be Island Spice on 39th Street. You’ll get an authentic meal, and it won’t cost you too much. Continuing on, your next destination is Mesob, which is only eight blocks away. Mesob is a little more upscale, serving Ethiopian and Jamaican food. Mesob offers dishes made of lamb, beef, goat, chicken and seafood. They also offer vegan meals.
The third destination for Jamaican food in Kansas City’s midtown district is Awaze. Here, you can find fusion dishes of Jamaican, Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. You can also find live reggae music on weekends, which only adds to the great atmosphere.
You also can find Jamaican food in Kansas City at Sankofa Café on the east side. The small shop prides itself on serving fresh and authentic meals. You can sit down or carry out your order, and you can even order catering for an event from Sankofa Café.
Still hungry? Consider trying any of the other great Jamaican restaurants in Kansas City:
Dishes to Try at Jamaican Restaurants Near Me in Kansas City
Regardless of which Jamaican restaurant in Kansas City you try first, here are few classics to look for on the menu:
- Jerk Chicken: We’ve already mentioned jerk chicken several times. But just in case it wasn’t clear, this is the staple of Jamaican cooking, and if you can handle the spice then it’s a must-try.
- Oxtail: There are a thousand ways to prepare oxtail, and each Jamaican restaurant in Kansas City does it differently. Oxtail is a common Jamaican dish. It packs a flavorful punch and classic Jamaican spice.
- Curry Stew: Wait, isn’t curry an Indian food? Yes, it is. Curry is one of those foods that came to Jamaica through unfortunate circumstances of the slave trade, yet the Jamaican locals made the most of it by mixing one of their favorite meats, goat, into a stew made with curry. It is tangy, spicy and delicious.
Jamaican restaurants in Kansas City serve generous portions, so that should be all you need. Pick a spot, pick a dish and enjoy.