I’m not going to say that Jamaican cuisine has ever been among my top favorites, but I will say this — as a native New Yorker who has previously sampled some well-known Jamaican restaurants in Manhattan, there are a number of dishes I’m going to keep going back to the new Hummingbird Jerk House to enjoy.

Owner Patrick Murrel, a Hunter’s Green resident, and his family invite you to sample truly some of the best Jamaican cuisine I’ve had the chance to try, especially in Tampa.

The Hummingbird Jerk House, located in the space previously occupied by Dairy Queen, on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. in North Palms Village (next to Oakley’s Grille), features everything from authentic meat patties to items I’ve previously never (and still haven’t) tried, such as cow foot and butter beans (with dumplings) and what is billed on the menu as the Jamaican National Dish called ackee and saltfish.

According to Hummingbird’s website, Patrick is from the Westmoreland province of Jamaica and grew up in the town of Sav-la-mar, next to Negril. The website says his “mama teach him to cook,” and from the items I’ve sampled so far, I’d say she taught him well!

The Best Fried Chicken?

Chicken is obviously a staple of Jamaican cuisine, based on the Hummingbird Jerk House’s menu. And, not surprisingly, three of my favorite dishes are the jerk chicken, the brown stew chicken and some of the best fried chicken I’ve had at any kind of restaurant in Tampa. The fried chicken is super-crisp, but still tender and served on the bone, with a side of Patrick’s signature and super-tasty brown stew sauce, plus sides like white rice or rice and peas (beans), plantains and veggies, which are usually either sliced carrots or carrots and cabbage. I’d love to see some additional veggies on the menu, but the sliced carrots are particularly tasty.

Jerk chicken dish.

Lead video editor Gavin Olsen and I both also enjoyed the jerk chicken at Hummingbird Jerk House, although it doesn’t have quite as much kick as some jerk chicken I’ve sampled. Even so, it is full of flavor and there’s always a couple of different hot sauces on the tables, if you need a bigger jolt from your jerk. There’s also BBQ and curry chicken on the menu, but I hadn’t sampled either at our press time.

Speaking of the brown stew sauce, for those who crave sauce all over their chicken, there is a brown stew chicken on the menu, which is basically similar to the fried chicken but covered with the sauce. The brown stew sauce also is tasty on Patrick’s whole snapper, although he’ll warn you that the whole snapper does have bones, so it’s a little bit of work to enjoy this zesty dish.

From what I’ve seen during my multiple visits to the restaurant, the more popular snapper seems to be the escoveitch, which is available bone-in or as a filet (which is likely how I will try it in the future). The snapper is fried and then covered in onions, sliced carrots, scotch bonnet peppers, pepper and vinegar. There’s also jerk salmon on the menu, although I don’t usually enjoy salmon other than smoked and on a bagel.

Meat patties are a popular item at the Hummingbird Cafe.

I haven’t yet sampled the ackee (a Caribbean fruit) and saltfish (cod), but many of the Hummingbird Jerk House’s regulars rave about it. I did, however, sample the Japanese coco bread with saltfish, a doughy appetizer which is slightly sweet from coconut milk. 

Other Jamaican staples I’ve sampled at the Hummingbird Jerk House include the oxtail and the curry goat.

I’ve never been the biggest curry fan (although Jamaican curry is different than Thai or Indian curry) and I don’t go out of my way to eat goat, but I really enjoyed the oxtail. It is “stewed down” with Jamaican herbs and butter beans in a savory brown sauce and is very tasty and tender. It does take a little work to get at all of the available meat, but trust me, it’s worth it. I definitely also plan to try Patrick’s beef stew — which is only available Thur.-Sun. Other menu items include Rastaman vegetable stew, soups (including Manish-Water, or goat soup), chicken wings and roti skin sandwich wraps with curry chicken or goat, jerk chicken or veggies.

Breakfast, Too?

Patrick is proud to have recently announced that he is now serving authentic Jamaican breakfast favorites on Sat. and Sun. mornings (8 a.m.-11:30 a.m.). Among the breakfast items are salt mackerel, ackee and saltfish with cooked green bananas, dumplings and more, plus porridges of cornmeal and oats. 

And of course, any time you walk into a place and the music of the great man himself — Bob Marley — is playing, you’re bound to feel good. And, at the Hummingbird Jerk House, you’re also likely to leave satisfied.

Hummingbird Jerk House (17631 BBD, Unit F) is open 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sun., and every other day 11 a.m.-10 p.m., except it is closed on Mon. For more info, visit HummingbirdJerkHouse.com or call (813) 512-2558.   

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