Negril–DC

Soulful, spicy Jamaican flavors.

From June 2006 Cheap Eats

You'll find soulful renditions of sweet-spicy jerk chicken, robust oxtail stew, and other Jamaican specialties at these friendly, order-at-the-counter dining rooms. Assertive spicing and flavors make them hits with the Caribbean community and dependable stops for anyone trying to recapture the flavors of an island vacation.

The DC and Silver Spring locations are smaller and do more takeout, though there are a few tables; Mitchellville and Gaithersburg have roomier dining rooms. In all of them, the cooking rings true, from the floral-tasting house-made sorrel juice (sorrel is a member of the hibiscus family) to the spicy goat curry (watch out for the bones).

Roti, a roll-up of crepelike bread filled with curry–we like the coconutty chicken–makes for a filling meal. Pattie, a flaky turnover with different stuffings, is another pick-up-and-goer–the spicy beef version is tops. For Caribbean heat, try the "escoveitched" fried whole red snapper smothered with tomatoes, onions, and mild and hot peppers. Oxtail stew, a few notches down in spiciness, is robust, the meat tender enough to cut with a fork. Need a reminder of what jerk chicken should be? Negril's is authentically pungent. Buttery coco bread and coconutty rice and peas round off most meals. Slabs of banana and rum cake make for a sweet, islandy finish.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.