06/30/20 10:39pm

A Jamaican Double-Header in Queens Village and Laurelton

Smoky jerk chicken and rich chicken foot soup at St. Best.

It’s usually my food photos—Thai steam table treats, tacos de birria and the like—that make my friend and partner in arms in Queens Dinner Club Chef Jonathan Forgash jealous, but recently the opposite’s been happening. Largely because he’s been on a jerk chicken binge for the past two weeks in Southeastern Queens, thanks to recommendations from friends at The BlaQue Resource Network, an online networking and resource community for black-owned businesses in Queens, that has been throwing their support behind Queens Together.

Even though I spent the first two years of my life in Queens Village, it along with the rest of Southeastern Queens is a neighborhood that I’ve been needing to explore more for a long time. I’ve had the pleasure of eating from the  soul food steam table heaven that is R.C.L. Enterprises, but that’s about it.

So on Monday I took the F train to the last stop in Queens and then hopped in Jonathan’s car for the drive over to Queens Village for out first stop, St. Best Jerk Spot. Like many of the best restaurants in Queens, it takes a bit of effort to get to, but it’s worth the trip.

We ordered two small jerk chicken plates with rice and peas—oxtail gravy on the rice natch—and two small soups. Jonathan has been raving about their soups. Monday’s soup of the day is chicken feet and I was eager to try it. We took our meal to a nearby park and dug in. The chicken was nice, smoky and tender with more jerk flavor closer to the bones along the back. I’ve loved the way spice paste gets into the crevices and bones along the back since I first ate my father’s garlic and tomato grilled chicken. The bird paired nicely with the rice and peas that had been enriched by a generous ladle of oxtail gravy. Dear old Dad never made chicken foot soup, but he wasn’t shy about eating Phoenix claws at dim sum. He’d have liked St. Best’s hearty potage, brimming with tender feet and chewy oblong Jamaican spinner dumplings. It was seasoned with thyme and just enough Scotch bonnet pepper to get my attention.

Jamaica Breeze presides over the corner of 232 Street and Merrick Boulevard.

From St. Best we made our way to Jamaica Breeze for some more Caribbean soul food. Located on the corner of Merrick Boulevard and 232 Street in Laurelron, the restaurant showcases its specialties in a stupendous buffet with more than two dozen items. I was pretty overwhelmed by all the offerings, but I think I managed to choose well opting for rice and peas, curry eyed oxtail, greens, mac and cheese, and some sweet plantains for good measure.

Soul food meets Jamaican home cooking in Laurelton.

I saved my plate for a hearty dinner. I’ll be back to try other items and will be sure to share what I find at Jamaica Breeze and at other black-owned restaurants in Southeastern Queens. Do you have a favorite restaurant in Southeastern Queens? Let me know in the comments.

St. Best Jerk Spot, 112-31 Springfield Blvd., Queens Village, (718) 465-1164
Jamaica Breeze, 232-02 Merrick Blvd., Laurelton, (347) 894-8049

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