We’ll be honest: the little spot that The Jerk Shack calls home is not impressive.But anyone who has tasted the food and knew their life wouldn’t be complete until they had more will tell you that looks are deceiving. Or maybe not, because true devotees of the amazing flavors that come out of The Jerk Shack don’t want you to know our secret because we don’t want to share the goodness that lies within.
The Jerk Shack is the little restaurant that could, winning foodies over from the first bite. Serving authentic Caribbean cuisine, with artisan twists that elevate the fantastic island flavors to a new level, it’s an unassuming spot on San Antonio’s west side. And it’s worth the drive from anywhere inside or outside of the Alamo City.
The flavorful brainchild of Chef Nicola Blaque and her husband Cornelius Massey, The Jerk Shack opened in 2018 and the devoted fans, and accolades, began rolling in. It’s been featured by Eater.com as one of the Top 16 New Restaurants in America and GQ Magazine named it as one of its top new restaurants in 2020. San Antonio foodies didn’t need national headlines to tell them what they already knew: The Jerk Shack’s outstanding flavors are undeniable.
A Jamaican native, Blaque has a passion for her roots and for sharing the flavors of home. Everything on the menu is inspired by the flavors of Jamaica and the Caribbean. Chef Blaque and her team have also blended the flavors and techniques of Caribbean cooking with standards like mac and cheese, tacos and more that creates a unique blend of cultures as well.
Caribbean mac and cheese? Just do it. Once you taste the flakes of pepper floating in glorious cheesy goodness, you’ll never consider a box of Kraft again. And some purists scoffed when Blaque introduced tacos to the menu, but these aren’t your abuela’s tacos. These are tortillas piled high with jerk chicken or pork, topped with cabbage slaw, pineapple pico de gallo and avocado crème. They’re an addictive addition to San Antonio’s taco landscape.
Another flavor meld not to miss? The jerk wings. Lightly battered, whole chicken wings fried so the crunch is perfect, with tender, seasoned meat waiting inside each bite. Served with the Jerk Shack’s signature sauces, you won’t want to share, so make sure you order some for everyone. Or treat yourself with the combo of jerk wings and mac. You’ll thank me.
Of course, you can’t bill yourself as The Jerk Shack without traditional Caribbean dishes. And this is where the fantastic flavors of the islands truly shine. Jerk chicken and pork, available by the pound, are the island stars that most people know. Flavor explosions surround tender meat that truly falls off the bone and will make you wish you’d ordered more, so don’t be shy and order big. You won’t have leftovers.
Individual plates of curry chicken and shrimp are enough to share, but again, you won’t want to. The curry coconut sauce on the shrimp deserves a straw and the spice on the chicken? You’ll be glad you have rice and peas and sauteed cabbage to soak it in. Which brings us to the sides: available as singles or as shareables, the rice and peas, and mac and cheese, are available as sides, along with sauteed cabbage and carrots and the best potato salad you’ll ever eat.
A few things to know: due to COVID, the Jerk Shack is to-go only, offering online ordering and family meals that are perfect for pick-up. There can be a wait if you order in person and popular items can be sold out, so order online and order early so you don’t miss out. Once you’re addicted to the Jerk Shack, be sure to visit Mi Roti, the Caribbean concept Blaque created with Chef Lionel “Butch” Blache in the Bottling Department at Pearl in San Antonio. (Dive into our #Foodie Friday to see why you need to go.)
And mark your calendars for summer 2021 when the Jerk Shack will open its second location on the far west side of San Antonio. Featuring the same menu and flavors of the original, the new location will also feature an expanded beverage program with beer, wine and select craft cocktails. We’ll raise a glass, and a jerk wing, to that!
Cover photo courtesy Jason Risner
An award-winning writer and communications expert who runs Tale to Tell Communications, Dawn Robinette loves to tell stories about her adopted hometown of San Antonio. You can read more of her work at Alamo City Moms, San Antonio Woman and Rio Magazine.