The Jamaican Dutchy… a Midtown Cart on Island Time
“The Arepa Lady”. “The Dosa Man”. “The Dragon”. New Yorkers love their street food… and while most carts toil away in anonymity, there are a few street food vendors that have achieved legendary status. Singled out by magazines, posters on Chowhound and the Vendy Awards, these “destination” carts draw people across borough lines for some of the best food the city has to offer. Like most of the great food in New York, most of these special carts are outside of Midtown, but there are a few we can brag about. Hallo Berlin, Daisy May’s BBQ, and of course the Famous Chicken & Rice Cart on 53rd St. & 6th. (The one with the line at 2 in the morning.)
Now, we have one more to add to that list. The Jamaican Cart. While it may take a lot of time for most carts to build up a following, there was a line 15 people long on the second day The Jamaican Cart appeared. Serving up jerk chicken, and stewed meat, word spread quick and the lines never seemed to go away. Unfortunately, it didn’t take a genius to realize the lines were more from the slowness of the service, than anything else… but it was still a line. And if people are willing to wait 45 minutes for food from a cart, then it must be good, right!?!
What they serve, food porn and a +/- after the jump…
It took me awhile to figure out exactly how the ordering works, but here it is. The menu rotates every day, but they seem to always have Jerk Chicken, Stewed or Curry Chicken, Curry Goat and Oxtails. Then there are specials that rotate each day, like escovitch and Sweet & Sour Chicken. A regular order of meat comes with either Rice & Peas or Jamaican Dumplings, fried plantains and steamed cabbage. This costs $7 to $9 depending on what kind of meat you want (Chicken dishes are usually $7, Goat is $8, Oxtails are $9).
If you want double meat then it is more expensive. $10 to $12 will get you a choice of two meats, with all the same sides. Two chicken dishes will run you $10, more expensive meats will be more.
The picture above is the combo with Jerk Chicken and Sweet & Sour Chicken (a special). The sweet & sour was whole pieces of chicken stewed in a sweet but spicy filled sauce until it was fall off the bone tender. I really loved it, and it provided a great contrast to the spicy jerk chicken.
Everything I’ve tried from the Jamaican Dutchy is delicious. The jerk chicken is spicy and packed with flavor, the stewed meats are fall off the bone tender. The rice and peas have definitely gotten better as the weeks have gone on. There are a few drawbacks for picky eaters. This is not a light lunch, and if you don’t like picking bones out of your food, then this authentic homemade Carribean food is probably not for you. Also, don’t drop the curry chicken on your shirt, it stains. (What can I say? I’m a fat man with no class).
But those little things pale in comparison to the noticeably bigger problem. The service couldn’t be slower. The first week the cart was open, it was almost laughable how slow they were. I say almost because when it takes 45 minutes to serve 10 people, person #11 isn’t laughing. In fact, person #11 would usually wait 5 minutes and leave, only to be replaced by a new person #11, who would then leave after 5 minutes and continue the cycle. Every day this would go on.
I asked them why it took so long, hoping they would realize that they were losing business by forcing people to wait so long for their food. They blamed it on ”the rice not being ready” or ”not making enough food”, but it was pretty obvious why it took so long… they had no system! A popular food cart is usually a well oiled machine. Have you ever seen the guys on 53rd St. & 6th Ave. during the 2am rush on a Friday night? They’re not screwing around.
The Jamaican Dutchy… not so much. The guy who was making the food, also took the orders, plated the food, put the food in the bag, took the money, gave you change. Each person in line took about 3 to 5 minutes to serve, making it pretty easy to do the “how long is this going to take” math. (Answer: Never less than 30 minutes… even at 11:30am.)
It’s now almost two months later and they have improved a little bit. The main guy still takes your order, and dishes out all the food, but they send you around to the window on the left hand side of the cart to pay and pick up your food from a different person. They also have a wide selection of Jamaican patties, and if you just want a patty- you can go right to the side window.
It still takes a long time (5 people were ahead of me on Monday, and it took about 15 minutes), but it is a little more manageable now. And it’s to be expected. When I told my Jamaican co-worker about the cart, and how long it took- she was not surprised at all. “Of course it takes a long time. It’s Jamaicans. They’re on Island Time!”
All in all, if you love Carribean food, and don’t mind waiting for it, The Jamaican Dutchy is a great place to eat. Plus it’s got all the makings of a destination cart. Buzz, unique food and of course- long lines. Go now, before the word gets out to people outside of Midtown.
The + (What someone who likes this place will say)
- Great Jamaican food at a decent price
- The Stewed meats are fall off the bone tender
- They’ve got dumplings! I love dumplings…
- They’ve got Jamaican patties! I love Jamaican patties…
- The only cart I’ve ever seen with a flat screen TV so you have something to do while you wait in line!
The – (What someone who doesn’t like this place will say)
- Too slow! I don’t care how good it is. No food at a cart is worth waiting that much time for.
- The food is heavy and greasy
- I don’t like bones in meat! (The stewed meats have bones, and the jerk chicken is whole bone in pieces chopped up to order, so there’s little bones all through it- making it tougher to eat)
- It’s expensive for what you get. $10 to $12 for the two meat combo is too much to pay for food from a cart.
- The jerk chicken is too spicy.
The Jamaican Dutchy, 51st btw. 6+7th. (closer to 7th on the North side of the street)