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Dec 9, 2008 10:40 AM

Mediocrity thy name is 'The Islands'

Drove into Brooklyn to try this place that many CH'ers love, including some I highly respect (like JFores). Well, it was really not that good. Not terrible, but maybe slightly below average. I wanted to like it, but reality won out.

I had a jerk chicken with rice/peas and cabbage. The jerk had zero smoke. It was ordinary broiled chicken with a liquidy sauce of chicken juices and pepper. Maybe if that sauce was cooked down it could be alright, but it had no bite and no substantiality to it. It certainly had no real interest worth driving all the way to Eastern Pkwy. The cabbage was similarly bland, with cooked to hell and back vegetable pieces in it. The rice and peas was a standard coconut job, respectable, but far from noteworthy. All in all a bit below average fare I wouldn't cross the street for, let alone the county.

Due to the aforementioned respect for CH'ers, I must conceed I might have ordered the wrong dish. OK. Correct me. If it seems like I made some blunder I will try again, but somehow I doubt it. From the scene there I think I got an accurate read on the place. But tell me what you think!

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  1. Awwww :(

    I've never liked their jerk chicken, btw. On the other hand, their curry goat, mac and cheese, and lemonade are all must haves whenever I'm back in town. They do some seriously good shrimp dishes when they've got shrimp in as well.

    For jerk I've been sticking mostly to Peppa's lately. Their quality has been sort of penduluming over my last few visits, but it's still better than any alternative I know of.

    12 Replies
    1. re: JFores

      I have been on a mission for years to find real oil drum smoked style jerk, with no luck. It seems like that is something people do not do around here. I would settle for broiled, if the sauce was really great. Around 15 years ago Vernon's in the Bronx was quite good, but it has gone downhill and is not worth trying now.

      Got the address of Peppa's? I'll try it!

      1. re: NYJewboy

        believe me, they do the drum smoked jerk. when we had the jerk tasting a few years ago, we had quite a number of specimens. I havent been out in search of this in recent years, since the ladies at my church pretty much satisfy my desire for caribbean style cooking - anyway, I prefert he more stew-like styles of caribbean cooking (think brown chicken, think cook up rice, stuff cooked by women) to the jerk, which to my taste is oftenoverspiced (to the extent of tasting like chemicals) and smoky. My favorite in that tasting was Cheffy's which I think is still over there on Nostrand in N. Crown Hts. I need to check out them again, and the Islands, soon.

        1. re: jen kalb

          I had it once a while ago, made by some acquaintances in their backyard in Crown Heights. I have been looking to re-create that taste for years. I'll look up Cheffy's.

        2. re: NYJewboy

          jerk-a-rama, mckenzie's, and jerk city are our favorites at the moment. having had all 3 recently, i can say that i like them much better than peppa's (which isn't bad by any means, mind you).

          1. re: wleatherette

            Jerk-a-rama! It's fantastic jerk. 704 Rogers ave Btw. Lenox and Clarkson.

            1. re: wleatherette

              i will look those up, as i think peppa's has really fallen off lately. I also like the jerk at ram's, tho it's cooked on an indoor grill and not on an oil drum. only available in the evening.

              1. re: missmasala

                Try them and report back! :)
                I'm not really into the food at Peppa's. Ram's is one of my favorite places in the neighborhood--I had some really delicious okra there the other day, I don't love okra but it looked really fresh so I took a chance and it ended up being super. A "small" veggie roti is only $4.50 from there but of course it's very large. I like Ram's jerk chicken but you can tell it's not made in the drum smoker like they do at Jerk-a-Rama.

                1. re: bolletje

                  the veggies at ram's and the roti skins are excellent. it may be my favorite place around for those things. agreed that the jerk could be better, but i do like it better than peppa's chicken.

              2. re: wleatherette

                McKenzie's burns their chicken too much. And Peppa's is way overrated.
                Will have to check out Jerk-a-Rama, Ram's, and Jerk City.

                Ah ... the memories of Vernon's, NYJB.

            2. re: JFores

              yup, ditto their shrimp dishes. SOOOOOO good but they cook to order so it can take a while.

              1. re: JFores

                Agreed. Not a huge fan of The Islands' jerk chicken, or their veggies.
                But their jerk lamb, now that's a whole 'nother story!
                (But if you're specifically looking for oil-drum smokiness or high-drama spiciness/burning, you will still be disappointed.)

              2. I'm going to try Jerk-O-Rama today (if I can find it). Sounds promising. I'll chime back in afterwards.

                4 Replies
                1. re: NYJewboy

                  I went to Jerk A Rama today. While certainly better than Islands, it still was wanting. The smoke element helped a lot, but still seemed to be not enough. I would definitely like more smoke, and a deeper marinade. I think the sauce was weak. The stuff they have in those squirt jars just seemed like commercial grade junk. If they could only make a better marinade with a better sauce for basting and dipping...then it might have something. In the end on a scale of 10 I would give it only a 5 or 6.

                  1. re: NYJewboy

                    I'm surprised you didn't think it was better than a 5 or 6--maybe the weather wasn't optimal? Are they still cooking it outside in front of the restaurant? I was last there in the fall, they were cooking the chicken outside and it smoked up the whole block and I thought the chicken was really good and flavorful. If you try any other places be sure to keep updating the thread. There's so many restaurants in Flatbush it's hard to know which ones are the best.

                    1. re: bolletje

                      I think they didn't make what I ate that way. Maybe sometimes they do it, but what I had seemed grilled in a rather ordinary way. If it was smoked, and it could have been, I would like more of it. I was mostly disappointed with the sauce. The rice and peas and veggies were nothing special either.

                      The standard to which I judge all jerk places is the old Vernon's Jerk Paradise in the bronx. In its day, that place did it all.

                      1. re: NYJewboy

                        i agree that the sauce they squirt on at the end isn't very good. however, the chicken we've had has been perfectly cooked and smoky as hell, just incredibly flavorful. can't comment on the sides as we never get any. a large container of chicken to go is our standard order.

                2. Did you see this?
                  Maybe its time to have another Chowhound Jerk-Off. Heres the report on the last one - I cant believe it was in 2001. Id be willing to get involved again.

                  It seems as though there are plenty of places we arent even discussing that ought to be in the mix. East Flatbush is a huge area with tons of jerk places.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Seems like its up to you to start the jerk-off thread. Love the name.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      I've read that article and been meaning to hit the places mentioned. I'm all for a jerk-off. Jen, want to organize one?

                      1. re: missmasala

                        sad to hear about the Islands, strangely enough I always went to the Island Village the spin off that had one of the original chefs. Their jerk was hot and tasty. I think they're closed now :-( it was a great place with actual seating and BYOB