Whether you’re seeking some cold weather comfort or planning a beach day with friends in the middle of the summer, jerk chicken is the ultimate year-round food. This classic Jamaican dish can be sweet, smoky, or pungent - with a huge punch of heat courtesy of Scotch bonnet peppers. Many of LA’s best and oldest Jamaican and Caribbean restaurants are centered around S. La Brea Ave. in Inglewood, but the fact is, you can find good versions of jerk chicken all over town. Here are 12 spots to check out first.
Located directly across the street from the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Blessed Tropical is a Jamaican restaurant that serves jerk chicken worth driving long distances for. The portions are massive, prices are affordable (especially their weekly lunch specials - Wednesday is jerk chicken), and the sauce itself has that perfect balance between sweet and spicy. No matter how good the jerk chicken is though, let us be clear - you should definitely be ordering other things on the menu, too. Whether it’s marinated oxtail that falls off the bone or a spicy goat curry we’ll happily eat alone in our car, this is some of the best food in the neighborhood.
The jerk chicken at Karuba’s Yardy in Inglewood has a unique sweet-smokiness that frankly keeps us up at night. But unlike the many other factors that contribute to our chronic insomnia, this is one we highly recommend getting involved with. You’re definitely going to want to get the combo, which, at $12.99 for a small, is easily good for two meals. Be sure to throw in a few curry chicken patties on the side as well.
Serving the Mid-City area for over 35 years, Natraliart is one of the oldest Jamaican restaurants in LA - and also one of the very best. The menu is stacked with tremendous dishes like oxtails, saltfish, and curry shrimp, but for us, the jerk chicken will always be the star of the show. Unlike many spots on this list, Natraliart doesn’t lean on a heavy marinade or sauce to carry the dish - it’s the chicken itself that does the talking here. Tender, perfectly cooked meat with a smoky-spice flavor that’ll stay on your lips for hours, the jerk chicken at Natraliart should be on everyone’s priority list.
Open only since August, Box Food is easily the newest spot on this list, but there’s no downplaying the fact that this Melrose street vendor is churning out some incredibly special jerk chicken. The weekend-only pop-up is essentially just a grill and a few tables at Melrose and Gardner (right in front of the CVS), making it a tremendous on-the-go lunch option if you’re in the area or heading to the Melrose Trading Post on Sundays. In terms of ordering, the name of the game is the “Box Food” - a $15 lunch box containing rice and peas, charred sweet corn with cotija, plantains, and some of the best jerk chicken you’ll find north of Venice Blvd. Or south, for that matter. Follow them on Instagram for the latest details.
Ackee Bamboo is one of our all-around favorite Jamaican restaurants in LA. Located in downtown Leimert Park, we recommend getting both their jerk chicken and brown stew chicken combos to-go (trust us, you need both in your life), picnicing at Leimert Park Plaza around the corner, and then spending the rest of the afternoon exploring the downtown Leimert Park and the tree-lined neighborhood that surrounds it.
Caribbean Gourmet is a fantastic food stall that pops at both the Crenshaw and Atwater Farmers Markets on the weekend. While the crab soup and oxtails are arguably the stars of the show here, don’t skip the jerk chicken either - it’s fantastic. Much like Natraliart, Caribbean Gourmet’s version doesn’t depend on a sauce or marinade. Instead, it’s all about the cook of the chicken. Perfectly charred with a nice balance of sweet and heat, this is the kind of jerk chicken you order and plan to share, but end up hogging it all for yourself. Bonus: They also do at-home deliveries on Fridays - follow them on Instagram for more info.
Country Style is one of the newest Jamaican restaurants in Inglewood, and it’s also one of our favorites. The jerk chicken itself is a perfect blend of spicy and salty, but it’s the balance of the whole combo plate together that sticks out most. The sweetness of the plantains cuts through the heat of the chicken, while the potato salad and festival bread on the side are among the best you’ll find in the neighborhood. If you’re looking to truly feast, the oxtail and curry chicken are also excellent.
If you’re like us and prefer your jerk chicken unabashedly spicy, then Little Kingston is the place for you. Located just north of Inglewood in Windsor Hills, Little Kingston has converted its strip-mall space into a to-go window, allowing for easy, contactless pick-up - and even more time for you to sit in your car and take down an entire plate of wings on your lunch hour. If you aren’t feeling a full combo plate though, you can also just get a side of jerk chicken for $7, which by the way, is still a very good-sized portion.
Hungry Joe’s has been around for decades and is a classic Jamaican restaurant in the heart of Inglewood. We love the uniquely tangy bite that the jerk chicken has here, but frankly, it’s the rice that takes Hungry Joe’s version to a completely new level. With a sweet, coconut-y profile and a plump texture, it balances out the intensity of the chicken without taking away any of the flavor.
Starting as a food truck in 2014, Taste Of The Caribbean now has two separate locations in South LA, plus a robust catering service. The owner and chef, Bernard James, is originally from Guyana and brings a slightly different flavor profile to his jerk. It’s sweet, citrus-y, and outrageously delicious. While you’re definitely getting the chicken, be sure to pick up some curry shrimp, jerk salmon, and Carribean roti as well. Cash only.
The Jerk Spot is a Culver City standby and an excellent option if you’re in the neighborhood, short on time, and craving some very solid Jamaican food. The standout element of their jerk chicken is the spicy sauce that comes on the side with every order. Honestly, if they sold it by the bottle, we’d buy it in bulk. And yes, we’ve asked. They also give you the option of ordering their jerk chicken with just white meat or dark meat. Whatever route you end up going, just make sure you order some reggae bread - you won’t regret it.
Cha Cha Chicken is probably best known for their tropical patio and having one of the best BYOB policies in all of LA, but the fact is, the food at this order-at-the-counter spot in Santa Monica is good, too. We love their classic jerk wings, which come coconut battered and smothered in sweet and spicy pineapple jerk sauce, but if you’re hungry (or looking for leftovers to carry you through the week), just get a whole roast jerk chicken instead.