By Rachel Wasielewski
Ja’ Grill, the Jamaican restaurant that opened quietly in Harper Court last month, may be new to Hyde Park but not necessarily to Hyde Parkers. Before the restaurant relocated from Lincoln Park, about 30-40% of its customers were from the South Side, said owner Tony Coates.
Coates noted that he was “thrilled at the chance to be closer” to loyal customers and “to build a state of the art restaurant from scratch.” Ja’ Grill is the latest restaurant to open in a burgeoning food corridor in the redeveloped Harper Court, alongside Porkchop, Native Foods, Red Mango, and Chipotle.
Because the new location was specifically designed for Ja’ Grill, the setup is quite different from the previous location. In the center of the restaurant is one large communal table, with regular-sized tables on one side and the bar on the other. While there is no formal lounge area, the restaurant’s bar is twice as large as the one in the previous location and Coates believes the bar area and communal table will naturally operate as a lounge.
Aside from the different layout, some things about Ja’ Grill remain the same—the fun and festive environment and the expectation for an authentic Jamaican experience. Ja’ Grill’s motto remains "authentic cuisine, spirits, and beats." Specialties include jerk chicken ($12-$14), curry goat ($18), ox tail ($18), “vegan” Ital Stew ($15), and the whole red snapper eschoveitch (market price), where, yes, you get the entire fish. Prices range from $3 for the coco bread appetizer, to the market-priced whole red snapper; the majority of entrees are between $11 and $20.
Ja’ Grill’s drink menu still includes a variety of rums, such as Ja’ rum punch, a customer favorite, along with many Caribbean drinks and martinis. The restaurant features Jamaican music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with DJs spinning reggae and dancehall during dinner hours through closing.
Ja’ Grill’s kitchen is open Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The bar will stay open later.