Food Truck: Jerk Pan
Sighting: 46th and Park
I had it in my head today to visit a deli food truck I’d seen today at 47th and Park to pick up a hot pastrami sandwich and a knish when on my walk I saw this intriguing truck at 48th.
That’s right, it looks like a food truck but it’s completely devoid of any signage or markings other than a big Jamaican flag on top.
Whenever I pass by this truck I usually notice a line of people there so I was intrigued. Ironically, the minimalist approach worked for them–having zero signage probably did more to get my attention than if there’d been giant neon signs.
It turns out the truck is named Jerk Pan; the only way I could tell is by the paper brochures they were handing out in the front of the truck. I’m going to guess that their signage is still in the shop or something.
My first encounter with Jamaican food was when my roommate in college cooked some amazing jerk chicken. Since then I’ve always been on the lookout for good Jamaican food. Little did I know I’d find it in this nondescript truck.
It looked like most of the people on line were regulars, but I had no idea how to even start ordering. I looked in the brochure and saw that they had two sizes for platters–medium and large, ranging from $8-11 and $10.50-13 respectively. There was also the option of a lunch special size called “mini” which ranged from $6.50 to $8.50.
I figured that since the average price at food trucks I’ve been paying has been about $10-12, I’d splurge and get the “large” platter. Famous last words. You can see a picture of what I got below but needless to say, there was enough rice here to feed a few armies. It’s definitely one of the better values among all the food trucks.
You can choose from several meats–jerk chicken, curry chicken, brown stew chicken, curry goat, oxtail, and fried chicken. For me the choice was obvious–the jerk chicken.
The ordering process was the worst nightmare for someone like me who likes to understand the rules upfront. I ordered the platter and the woman behind the windows asked me what rice I wanted. I had to ask and it turns out the options were white and rice & beans. I got the rice & beans.
Then, she asked whether I wanted steamed vegetables or macaroni salad. Because of the street noise and the noise coming from the truck I had to ask her to repeat it a few times. I chose the steamed vegetables.
Then she asked me what kind of sauce I wanted and rattled off a long list of them which I couldn’t follow. I did hear the word “oxtail” and since I’m partial to oxtail I chose that one. But in all these cases it would have been nice for these choices to have been listed on the truck or in the menu. She was relatively patient with me, but I can’t imagine the stress levels if there’d been a long line behind me.
The food came pretty quickly. When I got back to the office, this is what I opened the styrofoam box to:
As I said, the large is really, really large. I will likely be foregoing dinner tonight.
The taste of the chicken was excellent. It was perfectly seasoned with just the right amount of kick and that classic spicy and smoky jerk flavor. The black coloring of jerk chicken isn’t necessarily charring but the colors of the spices.
If there’s one expectation you need to set before ordering this, it’s that it’s very authentic in that the chicken isn’t going to be in recognizable form, like a breast, leg, thigh, or McNugget. You’ll get chunks of chicken chopped up that include bone and bone shards. While some may not be accustomed to eating chicken this way, it’s fairly common in Carribbean and Asian cuisines. I like to view the shards of bone as speed bumps on the road to pigging out–they make you slow down the shoveling just enough so that you don’t end up choking or damaging your dental work.
The steamed vegetables is an interesting combination of cabbage and carrots with a small amount of peas, corn, lima beans, and green beans thrown in. I was dreading that it might be mushy from being over-steamed but to my surprise the cabbage still had a nice crunch to it.
Overall, I was really impressed with the food, the service would have been there too if it was just a little easier to order. But if you’re in the 48th and Park area, it’s definitely worth it just to be able to escape to the Caribbean for an hour.
4 of 5
Price I paid: $11.00
Line: 5 minutes
Tricks for fast ordering: Study the menu and be ready to answer questions quickly. What sides do you want (steamed vegetables, fresh vegetables, macaroni salad, rice and beans, white rice, plantains, patty, coco bread)? What sauce do you want (evidently you can get sauce of any meat, regardless of the actual meat you order)?
What to order if you’re a newbie: Medium Jerk Chicken Platter
On the Web:
Jerk Pan Jamaican Food Truck on Facebook