From the suburbs to every corner of the capital city, the Hartford area is teeming with Jamaican restaurants. Most people have their favorites, but some locations garner more gossip than others. Jerk Pit Café in the North Meadows part of town seems to regularly come up in conversation.
From the outside, Jerk Pit Café isn't much to look at. It's located in a generic brick building on Main Street near quite a few other generic buildings. Despite a sign out front, the restaurant's actual entrance (around the side) is just as lackluster. Window decals spell out its name, and at first glance seems more a destination for auto parts.
Inside is a different story: no tires, just a bright and clean dining room with white tablecloths and plenty of seating.
Pony up to the counter and place an order from the short menu displayed on the wall. Friends had recommended the fried chicken, which is not on the menu but peeks out from a metal bin in a case behind the counter. Through force of habit, this diner opts for his go-to of jerk pork. The dish seems to be a good barometer of overall quality, because if the pork is overcooked it can be a throat-clogging combination of dry meat and cakey spices.
That's definitely not the case at Jerk Pit.
The meat, marinated and juicy, crumbled easily under a plastic fork. Each tender chunk had a pink ring of smoky flavor around its edge and a rich spice that burned slow throughout the meal. An order of jerk chicken was much the same, and even light meat dripped with addictive succulence.
Both were served atop a bed of cabbage slaw with rice and beans and topped with a perfect (yet optional) sweet jerk sauce.
Each medium order ($8.99) was enough to stuff, but a return trip will demand a large order ($11.99), because it was too good to not crave leftovers. Other dishes (curry chicken, stew pork or chicken) were the same price, while others (oxtail, ribs, goat, pepper steak) were $1. The patties, beef or chicken, are $1.85.
Parking may be a little dicey on first pass, as the driveway and parking lot alongside the building are narrow. An option is to park in the big lot next door and walk a few extra feet. Credit cards are accepted, but with a minimum charge of $8.50.
Jerk Pit Café, 2940 Main St., Hartford, is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Wednesday; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 a.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Information: 860-527-2214 and http://www.jerkpitcafe.com.