News & Politics

Cheap Eats 2013: Rare Birds

Our quest for Jamaica-worthy jerk chicken ended at the Sweet Mango Cafe.

Photograph by Scott Suchman

There’s jerk chicken, and then there’s jerk chicken from
Petworth’s Sweet Mango Cafe (3701 New Hampshire Ave., NW;
). Jamaican native George “Lenky” Beckford has been cooking up
the moist, expertly spiced birds since the no-frills eatery opened 23
years ago and has the method—a variation on a family recipe—down to an

First, the poultry gets a quick cleaning in a rinse of citrus
and vinegar. Then comes the main event: a thick, barely wet rub that
includes garlic, ginger, pimiento, Scotch bonnet peppers, and lime juice.
Pieces of white and dark meat marinate overnight before getting a turn on
the charcoal grill. The result: smoky, lightly charred chicken, redolent
of the jerk shacks of Jamaica. You can order it as a dinner spruced up
with gravy and rice, peas, and cabbage, but we like it road-food style on
“hard dough,” which despite its name is a pillowy, lightly sweet

This article appears in the August 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.