In the Neighborhood: Ja’ Grill
Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood is in the process of getting a face lift. New retail shops and restaurants have opened in the Southeast historic neighborhood.
There was a time when this neighborhood was characterized predominantly by independent small businesses that were unique to this area. Today, Hyde Park houses national brands next to independent establishments.
The change has been like drinking a cool drink of water on a hot summer day for me without being able to get a refill. With the good, came the bad. The benefits for me has been an increase in the number and the variety of restaurants that are less than a twenty-minute walk from home. The bad has been a few of my favorite restaurants were casualties for the name of improvement and are no longer open.
The number of restaurants on the south side of Chicago does not nearly rival the number of restaurants on the north side. But with the transformation of Hyde Park, south side residents do not have to travel to far to enjoy a sit down dinner.
One restaurant made the bold move from the north side to the south side. That restaurant is named Ja’ Grill. Ja’ Grill is located at 1510 E. Harper Court along what I have dubbed restaurant row.
At first glance, Ja’ Grill is not like many south side Chicago restaurants that sell Jamaican cuisine. A friendly hostess meets you at the door and sits you at an available table. If you do not wish to sit at a table, feel free to sit at the bar. You may be saying to yourself, “That sounds like any other restaurant.” It may sound like any other restaurant; but Ja’ Grill’s service is refreshing and something of an anomaly among Jamaican restaurants on the south side of Chicago.
I started my experience with the Jerk Honey Wings. The meat was tender and fell off the bone. The combination of jerk seasoning and honey provide for a sweet wing with a subtle heat that didn’t over power the taste. For my Chicagoans, keep in mind that the wings are wing pieces and not the whole wing.
For my entrée, I ordered the Jerk Shrimp. It was accompanied by plantains, cabbage & carrots, and rice & peas. Ja’ Grill did not skimp on the portion sizes. With each bite, I could tell that each item was well prepared with fresh ingredients. My only disappointment was that the flavors did not knock me out of my chair. The Jerk Shrimp was good; but it didn’t have the ‘nom nom’ factor. In order to kick up the rice & peas, I requested brown stew gravy and that did the trick. With that said, I will not be letting go of my favorite neighborhood Jamaican restaurant anytime soon.
I didn’t order dessert because they had run out of the Caramel Apple Bread Pudding by 5pm on a weekday. I could have ordered Rum Cake; but since I make a pretty awesome rum cake, I took a pass on dessert.
Even though Ja’ Grill had a few missteps during my visit, I will be back in the near future. I am on a mission to try the Caramel Apple Bread Pudding and get a picture of the vibrant mural that resembles Bob Marley reigning the accent wall. When I return, I will roll the dice with a different entrée. Ja’ Grill may just be my first 2 part review 🙂
NOTE: At the time of this post, Ja’ Grill’s website was under construction.