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The Hungry Black Man Media team (follow us @thehungryblackman) includes a food writer, media guru, editor and a 21-year-old social media content creator who is also my nephew. We all hail from Miami, which has one of, if not, the largest Black Caribbean populations in the United States. It’s easy to locate an amazing Jamaican eatery on just about every corner.
Because of its popularity and flavor, a few months ago our team ate at over three hundred Caribbean eateries throughout South Florida – Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, to create our best of the best list that will be published soon. I give you this backstory as proof that we know a thing or two about good Jamaican cuisine, which brings me to one of our most memorable Jamaican culinary experiences – in Philadelphia.
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard that Philly has a robust Caribbean culinary scene, in particular, this Jamaican restaurant. Well, it’s no longer yours. We all coming now. We visited Kingston 11, a modest take-out spot located at 6405 Woodland Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19142. The space is super small and gets pretty crowded, but please be patient because it’s worth it. Everything about the place is very no-nonsense. From getting buzzed in to ordering, this is very much a “you’re here because you’re hungry and we will feed you type of vibe.” I can dig it, especially after tasting the food.
I ordered the Curry Chicken with rice white rice and mac and cheese. Good God Almighty this food was FIRE! For starters, this Jamaican was able to make mac and cheese just as good as us Yanks! The elbow pasta was neither a solid block nor too soft and mushy swimming in a pool of loose sauce. What you got instead was a beautifully coated pasta with cheddar-cheesy, buttery scrumptiousness. The cheese and milk wove together to create a wonderful balance of sharp and mild flavors, minus the gross artificial flavoring present at some of the other spots we visited.
The main course of Curry Chicken was a real stand out. It was seasoned very well, (some may find it almost a little too seasoned), but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was cooked to a nearly melt in your mouth tenderness and packed with East Indian inspired Jamaican herbs and spices reduced in rich curry sauce that had me doing an unapologetic Philly Bop at the hood of my car. This food was snapping with a kick you in the mouth spice that had me walk to the corner store for an Arizona.
Our next entrée was the most emblematic of Jamaican cuisine, THE OXTAIL! They knocked it out the park. PERFECT OXTAIL. The flavor was winter stew beefy with an almost silky sauce and velvety texture poured over the fluffy rice and peas. Each oxtail was braised to perfection with knee-buckling tenderness. The only thing missing were the butter beans and carrots. I really appreciated that they took the time to remove the excess fat, leaving a deeply rich oxtail flavor. The cabbage was also a star with a bold and robust flavor that made this traditionally innocuous accompaniment another very pleasant culinary surprise.
Last but not least was the Salmon Rasta Pasta came with an exquisitely seasoned fish that I forgot I was eating salmon. The typical fishiness was replaced with a flavorful, tender and buttery bites on top of perfectly spiced and cooked penne pasta with a hot, tasty and rich and slightly cheesy homemade cream sauce. The flavor from the fish and pasta were completely different, but complimented each other in creating a non-fishy, meat of the sea flavor and I can’t compliment the chef enough, I enjoyed every bite.
The restaurant’s reviews show that the owner doesn’t mess around. She knows her food is good and defends it like a lioness. As a fellow restaurant owner, I know how it feels to have customers exaggerate or lie about your eatery.
I was pleasantly surprised to find Caribbean food as authentic and delicious as Kingston 11 in the city of brotherly love. I can’t wait to visit them again. They get a glaring 5 out of 5! You can give them a call at (215) 596-0216.