Flatbush is full of great places to eat jerk chicken. But who has the best?
I asked sources, friends, colleagues, my vast army of Twitter followers and random people walking down the street. They pointed me toward these three spots, kicking off the great Flatbush Jerk Chicken Crawl of 2011.
Almost every chef at the three spots we toured insisted that his spice blend was a secret, but jerk chicken is generally grilled or baked with a spice rub that includes Scotch bonnet pepper and pimento. The name is thought to come from the Spanish word Charqui, which means dried meat or jerky.
The first stop was Peppa’s on Flatbush Avenue between Clarkson and Parkside avenues — which was high on almost everybody’s list.
This spot has been churning out delicious chicken day and night since 2004, said manager Jason Hussey, who pointed me towards a large platter of jerk chicken with beans and rice and salad.
And large it was. I could barely put a dent in my delicious platter of smoky, spicy chicken, topped with jerk sauce. The flavor was great — but the chicken was a tad on the dry side. The rice and beans however, were amazing: simple, but cooked just right and a perfect complement to the spicy chicken.
The next joint, Exquisite Delight, on Church Avenue between Nostrand and Rogers avenues, had — hands down — the best chicken. It literally fell off the bone when I picked it up, and the spices were perfect.
The platter came with the standard rice and beans, but was augmented by delicious fried plantain slices.
Owner Claude Green said the secret is in marinating the meat for two to three days — and grilling the bird instead of merely baking it.
Our final stop was McBean’s Restaurant on Glenwood Road between E. 29th Street and Nostrand Avenue.
The place has only been open since April, but it’s already making a name as a go-to spot for Caribbean fare.
The jerk chicken was good — but couldn’t beat Exquisite Express. The real winner here was the stew chicken, which was succulent and surprisingly sweet, with a hint of ginger.
Also amazing were the rice and beans, which owner Erica McBean said was a family recipe.
“We’re the only ones who make it from Basmati rice,” she said. “The recipe is from my grandmother, who is Dutch.”
When you stop by, try the roti wrap, too.
Exquisite Express [2847 Church Ave. between Nostrand and Rogers avenues in Flatbush, (718) 693-4643]; Peppa’s Jerk Chicken [738 Flatbush Ave. between Clarkson and Parkside avenues in Flatbush, (347) 406-2515]; McBean’s Restaurant (2910 Glenwood Rd. between Nostrand Avenue and E. 29th Street in Flatbush).