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It’s not just the great flavors that transport you south at the 876 Jamaican Grill. Owner Yvonne Campbell and her staff provide the atmosphere as well.
When you think of Jamaica, what images pop into your head? Sandy white beaches? Bright blue water? Bananas hanging from trees on the side of the road? How about a shopping plaza off Starkey Road in south Roanoke County? Not what you were thinking? OK, I wasn’t either, but when I walked through the door of The 876 Jamaican Grill in The Forum, it all began to make sense.
Nestled into a shopping plaza next to Carilion Wellness Roanoke, the 876 Jamaican Grill is a breath of fresh air to the neighborhood. In the space that formerly housed Mill Mountain Coffee and Froth, the 876 carves out a spot all its own with the warm burnt umber walls, potted plants, and bright flowers on every table. It’s an inviting space with warm and homey service—Yvonne Campbell, the restaurant’s owner and her employees offer up attentive and friendly service, along with advice on what possibly new-to-you dish you’d like to try.
Fully aware that Jamaican food isn’t familiar to the American palate, Campbell crafted a menu that appeals to all eaters—adventurous and non. For those looking to stick to the safer, more familiar palate (but with a twist), several sandwiches hit the spot. The Jerk Chicken Salad Sandwich comes with all the trappings of a traditional southern chicken salad—mayonnaise, sliced tomato, your choice of whole wheat or white bread, crispy crinkle fries—but the flair lies in the just spicy-enough-but-not-overwhelming jerk chicken. Likewise, the Jerk Burger offers a non-traditional take on an American staple by marinating the beef patty lightly in jerk seasoning, then grilling and serving it with a bright mango & avocado relish.
Interested in trying what can only be described as the Jamaican version of Chipotle? Then absolutely order one of the Bowls. Much like Mexican fast-casual chain, at 876, you take your pick of rice (go with the pumpkin rice—the diced chunks of soft winter squash are colorful and a sweet addition), meat (the fish is a lighter yet salty choice), and toppings (throw them all in, especially the gungo peas, i.e pigeon peas, a small, snappy dried pea reminiscent of lentils). Be sure to ask for some of the house-made hot sauce if you’re looking to pack a punch—but beware, the scotch bonnet relish is potent; you’ll probably only need a dab here and there.
If you’re ready to hit the pepper sauce, though, then you’re probably ready for the “best of” at the restaurant—the Jamaican food that Campbell is quickly becoming famous for. First up: the meat patties. Flakey, curry powder-laced pastry envelopes a mix of ground beef, curry, and other spices to make a super snackable, very craveable pre-dinner treat. Another tasty small bite is jerk chicken wings. While you could order a big dinner portion of the jerk chicken, all that garlic, spicy goodness is condensed in the wings.
Must-try dinner options include the Curried Goat, the Oxtails, and the Blackened Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple. Goat, an often maligned meat here in America, shines at the 876 Jamaican Grill with its exceptional tenderness (no knife needed) and perfect balance of curry and spice. Served with rice and beans and callaloo (vinegary greens), it’s the perfect introductory dish to the rest of the world’s main red meat.