A Taste of Jamaica In the Heart of Duluth
Spicy, mouth-watering Caribbean cuisine is served up with pride in Chef Tony O’Neil’s kitchen at his popular Jamrock Cultural Restaurant.
O’Neil was born in Miami, lived in Jamaica for a few years as a young boy, and then moved back to Miami. “I get my love of cooking and many of my recipes from my grandmother who also moved to Miami. I would watch her prep and cook and found that cooking authentic Caribbean dishes was something I was really passionate about,” O’Neil said.
After attending college at the University of North Dakota and playing Arena League Football, he moved to Duluth. While working a few other jobs, he started manning the grill outside of Duluth’s Aces, cooking up jerk chicken, cornbread, and mac and cheese.
Word of mouth spread, and seeing that his food routinely sold out, O’Neill went in search of another place to cook and serve his food. In Superior, he worked out of the Business Center and at Average Joe’s.
Deciding to come back across the bridge, he set up shop in the location of the former Pak’s Green Corner, and he has now made his home at 319 W. 1st Street in the Duluth Building.
Working with a team of five, he has a full menu of unique dishes, from starters to desserts, to give patrons a true culinary adventure every time they return. O’Neil says, “Everything at Jamrock is always fresh, never reheated, never cooked and frozen to reheat and serve later.”
On the Menu
Jamrock’s customers love to start with some of his delectable sweet, buttery coco bread, grilled Bob Marley jerk seasoned wings, or his spicy beef or jerk chicken in a golden pasty crust. Another starter favorite is his jumbo Carnival shrimp dish with jerk seasoning and mango chutney and relish.
His sandwiches include reggae jerk, blackened tilapia, chicken breast, and jerk pork leg. Some of Jamrock’s seafood delights are whole red snapper, salmon, and tilapia.
For entrees, diners have a potpourri of choices: shrimp, (jerk, curry, scampi, or Carnival), jerk or curry chicken, lamb chops, curry goat, Jamaican pepper steak, and his legendary oxtails.
O’Neil says that his most popular dishes are jerk chicken, loaded fries, pepper steak, and Mac and cheese. “I am really proud of our Gouda Loaded Mac n’ Cheese. People say it is the best mac and cheese anywhere,” he said.
Other sides to choose from are butter green beans, cabbage, plantains, potato salad, cornbread, and Jamaican street corn.
Specials also pop up on the menu frequently from the inspired Chef Tony who might whip up jerk ribs, beef brisket and polish beef, or loaded brisket street tacos.
He has wowed his customers with his specials of shrimp po boys with a Cajan aioli sauce, a chicken and andouille sausage pastalaya with loaded crawfish bread, and stuffed jerk ribeye made with King crab, gouda, onions and peppers.
For desserts, O’Neil works with Chef Paul Lukens, a local pastry chef, who has the Scarlett Pie shop. Mostly on weekends, Jamrock has some of Chef Paul’s cheesecake and French blueberry syrup, banana pudding pie with tropical jam and coconut filling on top, or his rum cake.
Jamrock offers dine-in, take-out, and delivery with Food Dudes. Many patrons like to keep up on specials and new menu items on Jamrock’s Facebook page that O’Neil updates daily.
“I love being a chef. It doesn’t feel like work,” he noted. “When I look out at my customers and see them putting fork to mouth and enjoying their meals, it really gives me a good feeling. I am also proud of providing jobs for my employees and working together with them to make the restaurant great.”
He added, “Our food offers a different option for diners. It is not your standard menu. I call it a cultural restaurant because we are not just providing wonderful food, but also giving people a diverse taste of another culture.”
Happy diners give their testimonials on Jamrock’s webpage at jamrockculturalrestaurant.com. “Absolutely the best food in the Twin Ports, hands down.” "Amazing food and service and an upbeat atmosphere. I love that Tony wants to serve his community and strives to put out the best product possible.”
Jamrock is also available to cater a variety of events: holiday parties, grand opening celebrations corporate events, weddings and more. They bring Caribbean flair to any event.
Chef Tony says on his website, “At Jamrock Cultural Restaurant, we have three main goals. We want to share good food with the community, bring people together to bond over a meal, and create a go-to spot for fun times.”
Jamrock’s hours are: Open Tuesday through Saturday from noon until 9 pm. Closed on Sunday, available for special events, Closed Monday.
On June 3, O’Neil is having a Jamrock Summer Groove party where people can dance, drink, eat and have a good time. Chef Tony will serve up jerk chicken on the grill, cornbread, and more. A DJ will provide the Afrobeats, reggae, and hip-hop music to keep the party vibe going from 10 pm to 2:30 am.