All hotel restaurants welcome nonguests for dinner, but reservations are required.
The best bread in town emerges, steaming, from the ovens at Coronation Bakery ★, 18 West St. (tel. 876/993-2710), a landmark that the late William Chung established in June of 1953. Owned today by his son Cyril, it's set in the heart of Port Antonio in a 70-year-old all-wood house whose carved columns and graceful lattices support an old-fashioned zinc-roofed veranda on the second floor. Inside, for a picnic or to take back to your villa, you can buy fresh loaves of hard-crusted sourdough, perhaps with the intention of smearing it with the guava jelly that's available at any local supermarket. They also make fresh cocoa buns, a savory version of cornbread, a peppery version of Jamaican patties (dough envelopes filled with minced and heavily peppered meat), and old-fashioned "sugar buns" flavored with Jamaican allspice and nutmeg. Especially interesting are the bulla cakes, a fast-baked, unleavened bread that used to be a cheap staple for agrarian workers laboring away in the sugarcane fields. Many years ago, they were fast-baked at high temperatures (as a means of saving fuel) with very little sugar, whatever flour the homeowner had on-hand, and a small amount of bacon grease or lard. Even today they're known for their prolonged shelf life in hot, humid climes. They sell here for about a dime each; locals maintain they're best consumed with a thick slice of cheese, perhaps as part of a picnic at the beach. The bakery accepts cash only; it's open Monday to Saturday 9am to 7pm.
The Jerk Center of the Universe
Boston Bay Beach is the most famous jerk center in Jamaica, with at least a half-dozen smoky barbecue pits lining the potholed road that accesses the beach. Locals suggest that the jerk is as good as it gets here, in Portland Parish, where the culinary form originally developed. According to local traditions, Maroons (escaped slaves) living in the nearby hills of what is now known as Portland Parish were skilled at killing wild boar. Trading fresh-killed pork for spices from British or Jamaican merchants, they elevated the art of seasoning and slow-cooking pork, and later, chicken, fish, or whatever, over green pimiento wood into the art form as it's known today. According to Jamaican aficionados, Portland Parish is still the home of the best jerk food in the world. Sometimes residents of Kingston drive all the way up here just to stock up on these tasty, carefully seasoned bits of slow-cooked meat.
The jerk sauce is made from little rounds of crenellated red and yellow peppers grown in the countryside. After sampling one of these sauces, you'll surely agree that your favorite Texas red-hot sauce tastes like a cool glass of V8; the hot sauce is so hot that many visitors claim it's hallucinogenic. You can also purchase cans of the sauce from various vendors.
More adventurous jerk fans go for the pig or goat heads, cow feet, or chitterlings. All parts of the animal are cooked here -- and, really, after enough of that hot sauce, you won't know what you're eating anyway.
All the stands are good, but if hard-pressed to name our favorite jerk stand here, we'd give our vote to Mickey's, which occupies a painted concrete shell on the left, the first of the jerk stands you'll see as you navigate your way along the bumpy and potholed road leading towards the beach. You'll recognize the place by the rows of wooden skewers cooking pork and chicken over huge barbecue pits. Fish is also smoked here. You can also order "sides" of roast baked yams or roasted breadfruit.
The downing of this peppery food will give you a reason "to put out the fire," as the locals say, and that means downing one Red Stripe beer after another.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.