Jerk Pan Truck Gives the Jamaican Dutchy Cart a Run For Their Money
With the Vendy Award nominated Jamaican Dutchy cart on vacation for another two weeks, Midtown Lunch’ers are being forced to get their jerk chicken fix elsewhere these days. Caribbean Spice (on 46th and 6th) has always been an ok substitute, but I thought it might be time to suck it up and brave the line at the Jerk Pan cart on 48th and Park. Much like the Dutchy when they first opened back in 2007, Jerk Pan popped up back in July and instantly had a line that seemed to move at a snail’s pace. The menu (and wait times) were clearly meant to be modeled after the Dutchy, but is the food as good?
I finally got a chance to check it out on Monday, and boy am I glad I finally did.
I actually tried to hit up the Jerk Pan cart last week but it had disappeared because of some “legal issues”, which I can only assume had something to do with their cart because on Monday they returned with a full blown truck. Their menu structure will look familiar to anybody who has eaten at the Dutchy before, with small, large and “mini” portions. The mini is just meat plus rice and peas, and comes in a small styrofoam container (prices range from $6 to $6.50). The “small” is not small at all, with meat, rice and peas, and your choice of one side dish (prices range from $7.50 to $9.50). A large is just the same thing, but more of it. For meats you get your choice of jerk chicken, oxtails, curry chicken or goat, brown stewed chicken, or fried chicken. They also have fish on fridays, plus patties, daily soup specials, and festival (a sweet cornmeal fritter.)
If you want a combo of meats, they’ll do it but the price varies depending on the meat. Normally they’ll only do 2, but I convinced the guy to give me three so I could try more stuff. (It was clearly over the ML price limit, but it was for “research”!)
Here it is dish by dish…
The jerk chicken. Just like the Dutchy, Jerk Pan tops their version with a jerk chicken “sauce”. It’s more spicy than sweet (always a good thing), but has a nice tang. Off to a good start.
The oxtails. Jerk Pan’s oxtails are tender, but not fall off the bone tender (for my taste they could have been stewed a tad longer.) But the meat and fat were tasty enough, and the sauce completely knocked it out of the park. Thick and complex, the oxtail sauce has this great sweetness that I think might come brown sugar (the guy in the truck wouldn’t tell me.) They know it’s good too… of all the things I ordered, he chose the oxtail sauce to pour over my rice and peas.
Curry goat. Also delicious, the goat was fall off the bone tender and the curry was really flavorful. For those of you who don’t like bones in your lunch, I’d avoid the goat- or most of the stuff from this cart for that matter. (Although you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Bones is where all the flavor is!)
We also tried a side order of their fried chicken, which they offer to top with a sweet and sour sauce. Fried chicken from a truck is a double edged sword. Fry it to order, and the already long wait times would likely triple. Fry it advance, and it’s tough to keep it crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Their version is fried in advance, so the skin isn’t as crispy as it could be and the white meat was a little dry… but the flavor is delicious. I can’t even imagine how good this fried chicken would be if it was hot and fresh! Even dry, and lukewarm it was still totally worth it.
The brown stewed chicken was fine, but the mild flavor was no match for the punch of the other dishes.
Finally, I forgot to take a photo of the patties- but they were really spectacular. They don’t skimp on the flavor, and the moist and spicy beef filling provided the perfect contrast to the flaky crust (which was also not dried out.) Don’t know if it was just a lucky break, or the fact that I was there on the early side… but either way. Patties = highly recommended. (They also have spicy chicken, but I didn’t try those.)
With so many mediocre options in Midtown, it’s always so exciting to try a new spot where you just take a bite and immediately think “this is awesome.” No need for excuses, or a +/-, or trying to justify a place as being “only good for Midtown”. Jerk Pan, like the Dutchy, is just damn good Jamaican food. If I worked on the west side, would I walk all the way to Park Ave for it? Probably not (unless the Dutchy was on vacation.) But for all of you who work on the East side, your long walks to 7th Avenue for good Jamaican food from a cart are over! Jerk Pan is the real deal. I pity the fool who works directly in between. I don’t know what I’d do.
Jerk Pan Truck, SE Corner of 48th & Park, menu