If you’ve ever gone on a Caribbean island cruise, you know that the best food at ports is found way past the diamond dealers and tchotchke shops, and way, way past Señor Frogs. Fortunately for us Bostonians we don’t have to board a ship to find some of the best Jamaican and Caribbean food out there. Jerk, adjacent to Dorchester’s Coppen’s Square on the edge of Upham’s Corner, packs each dish with a wallop of island flavor.

The grilled jerk chicken is slightly charred on the outside then smothered in a spicy but balanced habanero sauce, that perfumes the cozy, casual sit-down restaurant with allspice and clove. The large, half chicken portion is cleaved into manageable pieces that encourage lapping up puddles of the savory sauce and nibbling off every last bit of tender meat.

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My dining mate ordered the curried goat stew that paired the succulent, collagen coated protein with a piquant West Indian curry sauce and sweet carrots. If you’ve never tried goat or shy away from it because you hear it’s tough, you should try this braised dish that yields tender pieces of meat with an inherent flavor mix of lamb and pork.

Each meal comes with your choice of two sides. The collard greens were tender (not gray and mushy), smoky, acidic with vinegar and hot sauce, and sweet from the addition of carrots and red bell peppers. The overwhelmingly large brick of baked mac & cheese had a lovely crust of toasted cheddar on top, but the noodles failed to impress. If the cooks at Jerk offer the same love and care that they show their other dishes (more seasoning and more cheese sauce), that will do the trick. The rice and peas was fluffy and flavorful, and served as the perfect vehicle to sop up the extra curried goat sauce. Lastly, the fried plantains were the perfect sweet bite on which to end this aromatic, satisfying, wallet-friendly meal. Each entree at Jerk ranges from $9 to $14.50, and they offer a lunch special that includes a drink and your choice of white rice or rice and peas for $6 to $7 dollars.

Jerk is located at 310 Bowdoin St, in Dorchester, open Monday (11am to 8 pm) and Tuesday through Saturday (11am to 10pm). For more information call 617-506-7090 or visit www.jerkdining.com.

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