This take-out only location serves awesome jerk pork and red sauce. The sides and service this time, not so much.
|Food:||(3.5 / 5)|
|Service:||(2.5 / 5)|
|Ambiance:||(1.5 / 5)|
|Average:||(2.5 / 5)|
- Great main entree
- Spicy red sauce
- Subpar side dishes
- Gruff service
Let’s get the good part of my visit out of the way, right from the beginning. I love the jerk pork from Jerk Hut. It’s perfectly smoked, crusted with the right amount of spices, juicy, tender and savory. Every piece of meat still has the skin and fat attached and it’s all perfectly chewy and succulent and amazing.
The sweet and spicy red sauce perfectly complements the savory pork. There’s enough spice on the pork to evoke a sheen of sweat on my upper lip. Throw on the red sauce and the rest of my face sweats as well. I will drive well out of my way and pay more than I want to for their jerk pork, it’s that good.
I’ve been to the Jerk Hut locations here on Gandy, downtown and on Fowler many times over the years. Besides the jerk pork, the ox tails and the jerk chicken are also fantastic, although I didn’t have either of those on this trip.
I used to live up the street from here a few years ago and I’d stop here every other week or so to bring home dinner. The family would treat me like a conquering hero when I’d walk through the door smelling of jerk pork and rice and beans.
So this week, I’m visiting a friend in the area and there’s my old haunt, the Jerk Hut on Gandy. We’re both hungry so I suggest we get some food from an old favorite.
We arrive at the location, which is take-out only and pull up to the window. I had forgotten how small the building was, its a drive-through only location with a smoker on one side and a window on the other for walk ups. There is no seating.
The attendant at the window and he has not forgotten how small the building is. He doesn’t appear to be happy to be sitting with the window open, next to hot food, in the 95 degree plus weather we’re enjoying in Tampa in the Summer of 2019.
The extent of the conversation is basically: “What’s your order.”, re-stating our order and “Drive around to the other side.” I’m not expecting “Happy, happy. Joy, joy.”, but some basic customer service would be welcome.
We sit for 5 – 10 minutes, talking about music and the fact that Google Home will now play “relaxation noises” on a timer to put you to sleep at night. The food arrives and I’m pulling away when Ruth mentions that the spicy beef patty we ordered isn’t in the bag.
I park and walk over to the take-out window. They’re suitably chagrined that they forgot the patty and they throw in a free jerk chicken patty for our trouble. Extra food is always appreciated!
However, while waiting for the free patty, I make the mistake of looking into the building. It looks like a dungeon. There are two poor guys locked in there making food. The food stations look ok, but the floors look sticky and it is dark and dank in there. I would hate to be stuck in there for 8 hours a day.
We get the food back to Ruth’s and, as described above, the jerk pork is glorious. We also ordered jerk BBQ pork for comparison and it’s the same glorious jerk pork, just covered in a decent in-house BBQ sauce! The BBQ sauce has good flavor, smokier and sweeter than the red sauce, but not as spicy.
The sides, steamed cabbage and rice and beans, unfortunately tasted like they were made the day before. They’re acceptable, just stale.
Also just fine, the spicy beef patty and jerk chicken patty. Sitting around all day let in some moisture and the crust is no longer crispy. They’re still flavorful and they have a kick to them.
The Wrap Up
The main event at Jerk Hut, for me the jerk pork, still holds up, but I feel like the quality has gone down over the years. They do serve the entrees a la carte, so if I go again, I’ll definitely just get the jerk pork by itself.
Jerk Hut Southside Cafe
Tampa, FL 33611
Price Range: $