What Not to Do at the Jerk Pan Jamaican Food Truck

On my wanderings for Midtown Lunch, I kept passing by this unmarked truck that always had a line. What were people lining up to eat? One of those times, I noticed the Jamaican flag flying above the truck and finally pieced it together. I’m not sure why it’s now unmarked, but this was the Jerk Pan truck that ML last reported on in 2011… and I learned some very, Very Important Lessons about lunching from a truck (or cart).

Strangely, a week after I noticed it on the corner of 48th and Park Ave, this happened – a fruit cart started parking right in front of it, blocking part of it. Maybe the cart was on vacation the week I noticed the Jerk Pan truck and just came back? I just thought that was weird.

In any case, during my research prior to going to the Jerk Pan, I discovered that they offer fried chicken. For roughly $5. What? Some of you may not know this, but my first ever post for Midtown Lunch was about fried chicken. I consider myself a fried chicken expert. And I’ve been obsessively looking for fried chicken from a cart/truck for a few months now. Yes, I was EXTREMELY excited about this. This may have been the root of all my folly.

The truck has no posted menu, but there’s a small container attached to the side with paper menus. It listed the fried chicken in sizes; $5.50 for the small. However, when I got to the window after waiting on a short line that moved a little slowly, I blurted out “fried chicken please” only to be told that they didn’t have any. I immediately panicked and recalled dimly that my research had shown fish as an option — and it was a Friday, during Lent, so… fish Friday? Okay. I asked for fish, and the guy showed me a pan that had whole fried fish in it, covered in a bunch of veggies. I said okay and he said “are you sure?” which I thought was weird, but brushed it off and ordered it.

Without asking me about any of my sides or whatever, he scooped a bunch of rice into the container, some veggies, and then plopped the fish on top. He did, however, ask if I wanted any sauce, so I agreed and told him to “give me your favorite, the most delicious one” and he obliged without telling me what it was. My friend, more observant and less excited than I, told me it was from the jerk chicken pan sitting there. Then, the guy in the truck handed me my container of food and told me my total.


Mistake #1: panicking when my item of choice was unavailable and failing to ask what the price of my new choice was. $15 freaking dollars for lunch from a truck (which is against everything I believe – unless I know without a single doubt that I will thoroughly LOVE something, I don’t care to pay that much for lunch from a truck). I silently handed over my $20, tipped the guy, and waited for my friend to get his dish.

***It’s a little hard to tell in the picture, but that fish IS roughly 8″ long. It’s not small by any means.

Brown stew chicken over rice, $8 for the same size container as mine. A slight heat, but nothing unbearable, meaty and tender chicken, some bone chunks in there but nothing tiny or unnoticeable. Thoroughly enjoyable and tasty, and filling, satisfying for $8. My friend with the large appetite was happy with his meal…

Me? Mistake #2: popping what looks like a green bell pepper laying on top of my fish right in my mouth while vaguely thinking “I didn’t think bell peppers were part of Jamaican cuisine.” Guess what? They’re freaking NOT. Not only are they NOT part of Jamaican cuisine, if y’all are familiar with me as a person or a food writer, I don’t take too well to spicy foods. So whatever the eff kind of spicy pepper that was made me immediately start crying hysterically at a public atrium, tears springing to my eyes then streaming down my face. I broke into a hot sweat, cursing viciously under my breath, wishing I hadn’t done that.

Side note: when I first sat down, the atrium was pretty full so I asked a guy on the phone if I could share his table. He wasn’t eating. When I opened up my container and began photographing the whole fish, he gave me the dirtiest look he could muster, got up and walked away. Since my food didn’t smell very strongly, my guess is whole fish offended him. Whatever!

Of course, minutes later, mistake #3: the fingers I’d used to pluck that pepper up and pop into my mouth traveled across part of my face to attempt to stem the flow of tears mixed with sweat, and grazed the delicate skin under my right eye. Seconds later, this was apparent as my face lit on fire, signaling that some of that wonderful capsaicin had decided to linger on my face. Yes, my right eye area turned bright red, causing people to ask me the rest of the day if I was alright.


But more specific to why y’all are still reading: the fish wasn’t crisp, was cooked just this shade of overdone, but actually had a lot of flavor from the pickled peppers and onions that’d been scattered across the top, allowing their very spicy marinade to soak into the skin of the fish. I managed to power through the heat (unusual for me, since I’m a wuss when it comes to spice), and, alternating bites of the fish (watch out for bones; yes, it’s a whole fish, complete with bones) with bites of the incredibly bland rice, was able to eat my entire lunch. The rice soaked with the jerk chicken sauce (not all of the rice had sauce) was actually pretty spicy as well, but super flavorful and honestly, I will get jerk chicken next time. That sauce was slammin’ – he chose well.

Overall, I was super stuffed after eating about 80% of the fish and all of the rice/veggies. Was that worth $15 though? Unlikely, unless you really really want to eat a whole fish with those traits attached. Otherwise… you’re better off sticking to the incredible jerk chicken or brown stew chicken.

I’m pretty sure mistake #4 is sharing this experience with y’all, but oh well. Let this be a lesson: don’t order things without knowing the price ahead of time if the price matters to you, don’t stick things in your mouth without knowing 100% what they are, and don’t rub your face when spicy things are involved.

The most important lesson, though, is go to Jerk Pan for huge inexpensive portions of really yummy Jamaican food.

Jerk Pan, Southeast corner of 48th & Park Ave


  • this truck is one of the best food options in midtown, period. you did take a fumble with that fish though.

  • I sure do miss the Jamaican Dutchy now…

  • This episode of Confessions of a Highly Neurotic Food Blogger was brought to you by Alka Seltzer, Bausch & Lomb Eye-Wash and the National Chicken Council

  • That plate looks ahmaze….you’ve just eaten ESCOVITCH FISH!! Likely red snapper (hence the pricetag). This is one of my most favorite dishes that I regularly make at home with pickled veggies. What looked like a green pepper was actually a green pepper but so infused with vinegar and scotch bonnet pepper it tricked you! More sugar in the marinade gives a little balance.

    • Ohhh! Thanks for enlightening me about the pepper because I tried Googling Jamaican peppers and all that came up were Scotch bonnets and those don’t look anything like the green bell up there. So my eyes didn’t trick me!! It was tasty but just a shock to my system, haha!

    • ohhh. marinating bells with scotch bonnets sounds like a great thing to do. I don’t like the taste of scotch bonnet peppers by themselves but could use that bell to boost.

Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.