Even though I spent the morning prepping and storing beautiful produce from my CSA and collecting links to veggie recipe ideas for the week, I was suddenly hit with an intense craving for spicy Jamaican jerk chicken.
I don’t know what happened. One moment I was thinking about making a shaved radish salad, and then the next minute I was like, “GIVE ME SOME FREAKIN’ JERK CHICKEN NOW!!!”
But we don’t have a true Jamaican restaurant in town. <insert sad face emoji here> I mean there are plenty of restaurants with Jamaican jerk chicken (mostly sandwiches) on the menu, but I didn’t want to go to one of THOSE joints. I wanted a restaurant that was strictly Jamaican; and thanks to Yelp, I found one that had great reviews in Maryville, TN.
When you want something so badly, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it. So that meant hopping in the car and driving to a neighboring city to find a drive-thru restaurant called Rocky’s Jamaica Sunrise.
Thankfully, Rocky’s Jamaica Sunrise isn’t hard to miss. So an out-of-towner will be able to spot it right away. The building is painted in the bright gold and green of the Jamaican flag, and on the side is the classic stencil art of Bob Marley’s face. A huge barbecue smoker is in front of the restaurant under a carport, and if you roll down your windows as you drive up, you can smell the meat being cooked.
It’s a drive-thru, so there isn’t much room for parking, but you can eat on location at one of the picnic tables in the back. We decided to park and walk up to the window to place our order. We went for the 1/4 jerk chicken meals that came with a side (red beans and rice for us) and a drink (Ting!). We added an order of stewed cabbage, as one Yelper recommended. We also asked for the hottest sauce to go with our chicken. (You can choose your heat level.) We were warned though to DIP the chicken in the sauce. “Don’t pour it. It’s really, really hot.”
Rocky was out front cooking, and it was so cool to know that the jerk chicken we were eating was fresh off the grill. The skin was perfectly crispy and had a good amount of heat from Rocky’s homemade jerk spice rub. The hot sauce was made with Scotch bonnets and had a nice spice to it. It was tangy and made the edges of my mouth burn a little. The tip of my tongue was kind of tingly, and there was sweat around my nose and forehead. That’s when you know hot sauce is good. I even dipped the stewed cabbage in it and mixed in a little drizzle on the red beans and rice. I love spicy food, so this level of heat was perfect for me.
And then there was Ting.
I’ve had Ting only once before when some friends brought a few bottles back from a trip to Jamaica. So I was excited to see that Rocky’s had Ting on the menu because I remember it tasting really good. Ting is a soda made from Jamaican grapefruit, and it tastes the way I always wanted Fresca to taste (if that makes any sense). Ting is tart, sweet, appropriately fruity (not too much though), and refreshing. It’s the perfect way to cool down your mouth after burning it with Scotch bonnet hot sauce and jerk spice.
Rocky’s Jamaica Sunrise was an awesome food discovery. It’s humble and authentic. I like that Rocky is there cooking the meat. I like that Bob Marley is blasting through the outdoor speakers. I like that there’s no indoor seating, and that you can pick up your food and go, or take a seat at a picnic table in the back. I definitely like that there is Ting. And I love the jerk chicken and the incredibly hot (dipping, not pouring) sauce.
No doubt about it, there will be many drives to Maryville this summer for Rocky’s Jamaican jerk chicken. I also want to give the pulled pork and jerk ribs a try, too. And I gotta have more Ting!
“One love, one heart, let’s get together and EAT ALL NIGHT.” (My rewrite.)