The Jerk Shack Jamaican Restaurant
By Rachael Mason
Gwinnett Daily Post/Anthony Stalcup
Jerk chicken with rice, salad and plantains is one of the most popular dishes at The Jerk Shack. Meat is marinated for several days in jerk seasoning at the restaurant.
Owners: Claudius and Sonia Richards.
Open since: November 2002.
Hours: The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The Jerk Shack is closed on Saturday.
Location: The restaurant is located in a strip shopping center on Hurricane Shoals Road, between Ga. Highway 120 and Collins Hill Road.
Capacity: The restaurant seats 14.
The name: The restaurant takes its name from the jerk cooking process. In Jamaica, before the days of refrigeration, the jerk cooking process was used to preserve meat, Sonia Richards explained. Today, the flavor is still an important element of the island’s cuisine.
Atmosphere: Most customers at The Jerk Shack order takeout food. The restaurant’s selections are printed on a magic marker board behind the counter at the back of the restaurant. Food is served cafeteria-style from stainless steel containers.
The restaurant has three tables for two. Several stools provide additional seating and two tables sit outside the restaurant.
A huge photo mural of a Caribbean island surrounded by the ocean dominates the dining room.
Thatched sea grass creates an awning outside The Jerk Shack and reggae music plays on outdoor speakers. Another mock roof hangs from the back wall to give the room more of an island feel, Claudius Richards said.
The food: The Jerk Shack serves Jamaican food.
“A lot of people are curious about Jamaican food,” said Sonia Richards. They usually come in to try jerk chicken, which is one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant.
At The Jerk Shack, meat is marinated for several days in jerk seasoning. The most important ingredient is pimento or allspice. The seasoning blend also includes onions, garlic, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and habanero or Scotch Bonnet peppers.
After being marinated, the meat is cooked on the grill. Traditionally, jerk dishes were cooked over pimento wood rather than charcoal, Sonia Richards said. She adds pimento seeds to the charcoal at The Jerk Shack to add more authentic flavor.
After being slowly roasted on the grill, the chicken is topped with a spicy jerk sauce.
Another top seller is the oxtail. This beef, which comes from the tail of a cow, is seasoned, then slowly cooked. The curry dishes, especially the curried goat, are also well liked by customers.
Each entree is served with a side of rice and beans, a choice of salad or steamed cabbage and carrots. The Jerk Shack sometimes offers baked yams with coconut on top as a side dish. Every plate includes plantains, a fruit from the banana family that cannot be eaten raw.
The restaurant prepares two vegetarian entrees using meat substitutes. Sweet and sour chicken and peppered steak are the vegetarian offerings.
Soup is also on the menu. “We make a red pea — kidney bean — soup,” Claudius Richards said. A chicken soup may be added when the weather cools off.
Beverages: The Jerk Shack offers a variety of canned and bottled beverages such as ginger beer and fruit-flavored sodas. A soursop drink, made from the juice of the guanabana fruit, is also available. The fruit, which is pictured on the drink can, is green and covered with spines.
Alcohol is not served at The Jerk Shack.
Things you might not know: Before The Jerk Shack opened, Claudius Richards and his wife dreamed of starting a new restaurant. They were inspired by memories of their families cooking in Jamaica.
“Always, over the years, it was in the back of our heads to open a Jamaican restaurant,” Richards said.
Richards is originally from Kingston, Jamaica. He has lived in Gwinnett for about five years. He thinks of going back to the island, but doesn’t expect to move away from Atlanta in the near future.
“Jamaica is nice. The people are always friendly and warm. It’s still my favorite place,” Richards said.