Mandeville and the South Coast

Food

The parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, and St. Elizabeth make up the south-central part of Jamaica. It's the place to get away from the tourist hubs and see some of the country's farmland and less-frequented coastline. Locals in these parishes are less dependent on tourism and accordingly less pushy in soliciting business. While the region doesn't boast grandiose or glitzy resorts, the accommodations often make up for it with their rootsy charm, and there's still plenty of comfortable lodging options, especially in Treasure Beach, where villas and cottages range from rustic to unpretentious luxury. Languid fishing villages dot the St. Elizabeth coast, the most popular of which are found in Treasure Beach, and farther east in Alligator Pond, which straddles the St. Elizabeth\Manchester border. High above the plains, the cool air of Mandeville has been a draw in the heat of summer for centuries and is often referred to as the "retirement capital of Jamaica" for the number of repatriating Jamaicans who settle here. Over the past 50 years the bauxite industry gave Mandeville a strong economic base, while the 1970s saw the flight of many of the town's gentry during the Manley administration, when the prime minister's socialist lean drove fear into the wealthy class. The old moneyed families in Mandeville were somewhat replaced by an influx of nouveau riche, some allegedly owing to drug money, who have arrived over the past few decades to fill uptown neighborhoods with conspicuous concrete mansions. A lull in Jamaica's bauxite industry hit Mandeville especially hard after half the country's production ceased in early 2009. As the global economy recuperates and the world market price of aluminum rebounds, so too will Mandeville's economy. Independent of cash-flow considerations, the town's temperate climate and relatively well-developed infrastructure make it easy to forget you're in Jamaica. Mandeville boasts several noteworthy restaurants, making it a worthwhile place to stop for a bite on trips between Kingston and the South Coast. Other than that, it's not a place that keeps many tourists for any length of time, which makes it an attraction in itself for those seeking the "normal" Jamaican experience, not found so readily in Negril or Ochi where tourism dominates the economy.

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Fyah Side Jerk

Fyah Side Jerk (Toll Gate, 10 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-11 p.m Sun.) serves jerk roadside just past the Bridge Palm Hotel. It's a buzzing local hangout and has grown its clientelle steadily with consistent food and ambiance that mixes loud dancehall, good food, bar and gaming machines.

In: Jerk

Bloomfield Great House

Bloomfield Great House (noon-10 p.m Mon.-Sat.) is one of the most beautiful colonial-era houses in Mandeville. Bloomfield opened for business in 1997 following a two-year restoration by Aussie Ralph Pearce and his wife, Pamela Grant, whose father became the first Jamaican to own the property when he bought it in the 1960s. The panoramic view over Mandeville is spectacular, and food is excellent, albeit a bit pricey. A good bet is the local snapper, which is prepared in typical Jamaican fashion with onions, pepper, and okra.

In: Jamaican

All Seasons Restaurant Bar and Jerk Centre

All Seasons Restaurant Bar and Jerk Centre (8 a.m.-11 p.m daily) is considered by many to be the best jerk spot in Manchester, with other typical Jamaican dishes served as well. Perched on the steep slopes of Spur Tree Hill, All Seasons commands an impressive view of southern Manchester and St. Elizabeth, down to where the sky meets the sea.

In: Jerk

Bamboo Garden Restaurant

Bamboo Garden Restaurant (35 Ward Ave., tel. 876/962-4515, noon\10 p.m Mon.\Sat., 1\10 p.m Sun., US$7\30) serves Chinese food ranging from sweet and sour chicken to butterfly shrimp to lobster with butter and cola. The restaurant is located upstairs from Cash & Carry Supermarket.

In: Food, Asian

Andrea's Seaside Restaurant

Andrea's Seaside Restaurant and Steakhouse (US$20-50) is an open-air restaurant at Marblue, where Andrea's award-winning chef husband, Axel Wichterich, creates dishes of local and international inspiration.

In: Food, Meat, Seafood

Little Ochie

Little Ochie (9 a.m.until you say when daily, US$10-30) is a seafood paradise, serving a wide range of dishes like jerk and garlic crab, fish, and lobster. Over 75 seafood recipes are utilized on a daily basis, with lobster cooked 15 different ways, the best of which could very well be the garlic lobster. Everald Christian, a.k.a. "Blacky," is the founder who built the place in 1989 in a rustic style reminiscent of the good old days in Ocho Rios on the North Coast.

In: Seafood

Jack Sprat

Jack Sprat (adjacent to Jake's, tel. 876/965-3583, 10 a.m.\10 p.m) is a favorite for fried fish, conch soup, pizza, and Devon House ice cream.

In: Jamaican, Seafood

Atlantis Seafood

Atlantis Seafood (Main Rd. just before reaching Junction, next to Lunie's Hot Spot, which is plastered with Heineken posters) serves the best seafood in Junction, with fish, lobster, conch, and shrimp (US$7\1700/pound) on the menu.

In: Seafood

Scott's Cove

One of the best road stops along the South Coast, Scott's Cove on the Westmoreland/St. Elizabeth border has several stands with friendly competition between vendors of fried escovitch fish, bammy, conch soup, shrimp, and lobster. Check Ras Collie-Bud for an excellent cup of conch soup or any of the vendors for escoveitch-style fried fish and bammy.

In: Jamaican