Zest Restaurant (7am-10pm daily), located at The Cliff, is a welcome addition to Negril's food scene, showcasing the creative hand of internationally acclaimed executive chef Cindy Hutson. Try singular starters like the shrimp ceviche with fried plantain and bean dip or mains like sauteed snapper with a side of cashew and jackfruit spiced rice. The dining area is split between a chic interior and clifftop al fresco, with crashing waves as a soundtrack. Reservations are required for guests not staying on property.
Negril has become Jamaica's foremost beach town, evolving over the past decade along with the changing nature of the tourists who come to bask in the sun and adopt the island's pace. Today, world-class restaurants and lodging provide an alternative to the low-key guesthouses and seafood stalls that became the norm during Negril's transition from fishing village to tourist boomtown in the 1970s. What was once Jamaica's secret paradise is today the heart of the island's diversified tourist economy.
Ital Vital (US$1-5) is vegetarian food cart operated by Delroy Clarke, known on the street as 'High Priest', located at the entrance to Cayenne Beach. Dishes include veggies in coconut sauce, ital sip (soup) and turn cornmeal.
Cosmos Seafood Restaurant and Bar (next door to Beaches Negril, 9 a.m.\10 p.m daily, US$5\43) serves excellent Jamaican seafood dishes, including conch soup, shrimp, and fried fish--in addition to other local dishes like curry goat, stewed pork, fried chicken, and oxtail. The beach out front is wide and good for swimming. A mix of Jamaican, expat, and tourist clientele, perhaps even weighted toward the local crowd, is testament to the reasonable prices and tasty.
Chill Awhile (at Idle Awhile Resort, opens 7 a.m.\9 p.m daily) offers free lounge chairs and wireless Internet for its customers. The charming beachfront deck restaurant serves a variety of light food items for lunch including club sandwiches, burgers, fish and chips (US$6\8), and jerk chicken (US$10).
Kuyaba (7 a.m.\11 p.m daily, US$12\27) has consistently decent, but pricey, international and Jamaican fusion cuisine, including pork kebab, brown stew conch, peppered steak, and seafood linguine lobster for main courses.
Whistling Bird Private Club for Fine Dining (7 a.m.\7 p.m, by reservation only) specializes in gourmet five-course meals (US$35) that offer a choice of dishes that include "Grandma's Favourite" pepperpot soup, pineapple chicken, escovitch fish, stuffed grouper, and bourbon rock lobster.
The Lobster House (at Sunrise Club, beside Coral Seas Garden, noon\11 p.m daily) serves Italian and Jamaican food: Dishes range from pasta with tomato sauce (US$8) to gnocchi (US$12), pizza baked in a wood-fired brick oven (US$10\16), and grilled lobster (US$26). Wines are about US$24\26, and great coffee is served.
The Boat Bar (between Rondel Village and Mariposa, 8 a.m.\10 p.m daily, US$10\30) is a favorite that has been serving chicken, fish, shrimp, goat, pork, and steak since 1983. The garlic lobster gets rave reviews. Bunny and Angie are the proprietors. A webcam is set up on Fridays, viewable at www.realnegril.com, to allow fans to keep in touch.
Ristorante da Gino (7 a.m.\11 p.m daily) is a good Italian restaurant managed by Vivian Reid, the wife of the late Gino. He was killed in 2005, allegedly by Italian thugs. The menu includes mixed salad (US$5), spaghetti alioli (US$10), linguine lobster (US$20), grilled lobster (US$25), and mixed grilled fish (US$30). A complete breakfast (US$10) comes with eggs and bacon, toast, fruit, juice, and coffee. Gino's also has a decent selection of Italian wines.
The Hungry Lion (West End, 4\10:30 p.m daily, closed in Oct., US$8\24), under the ownership of Bertram Saulter, who also owns The Caves, is an excellent dinner spot with healthy-sized entrèes. The lobster burritos are delicious. A pleasant atmosphere is created with irie music, carved faces, and mellow tones covering the walls. The Hungry Lion is good value for the money, and the drink special--the Lion Heart, made with mango, ginger, and rum--shouldn't be missed.
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