Whenever I go back to Maryland to visit family, I always go to lunch with my friend Heather at least once during the trip. Early in the week we went to Marathon Deli, one of our favorite places right off campus. Our friend Kevin often goes with us too, but he couldn’t that week. So I met him Friday for lunch.
Kevin played FB at Maryland, was one of Barry Sanders’ linemen at the Lions, was a sports agent, got out of that dirty business, and came back to work at Maryland Football. Before he came back to Maryland I knew him only as a letterman who came back and played in the annual golf outing. But once we worked together, and spent almost every day together during football season, we became really close. He listens, doesn’t judge, gives good advice, and I know I can tell him anything in confidence. That’s the mark of a great guy.
Kevin said he goes to The Jerk Pit with friends quite often on Fridays because they have a great buffet. I don’t remember if it was there when I worked on campus. But I do remember seeing it a few times when I was back in town.
It’s located on Route 1, about a mile North of campus, just off Greenbelt Road. It’s in a house, and you park around in the back. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but I was confident Kevin wouldn’t lead me astray. And besides, if he eats there regularly, it’s got to be good.
There’s no question this is a Jamaican restaurant, besides the obvious name. There’s Reggae music playing in the background, all the staff has a very strong Jamaican accent, and the colors of the sign outside are of the Jamaican flag. The restaurant is separated into several smaller dining rooms. You walk through one room to get to the counter to order. They have a few barstools there so you can eat right there too. Across from the counter is where the buffet is set up. It’s 2 8′ tables with footed chafing dishes on it. They use disposable plates and utensils which is quite convenient. They really need a larger trash can because I noticed the staff kept having to empty it because it wasn’t very big.
Kevin suggested that I check out the buffet and see if I would want that or something off the menu. The second dish I uncovered was baked mac & cheese…that’s all I needed to see. Sold. They have drinks in a stand-up cooler behind the counter, and those are your only choices, and the water bottles are small. I wish they would invest in a fountain machine or at a minimum offer free water refills.
The AC wasn’t working, which was a big negative considering Maryland was in the middle of a major heat wave. I’m not sure if they even have AC or not. They do have ceiling fans in each space so that helps a little bit. With how hot it got in there I felt like I had to ration my water to make it last my whole meal.
For my first plate I got rice with veggies, peas & rice, mac & cheese, and saltfish fritters.
I’ve had saltfish before, but never done as a fritter. It’s basically a fried salted cod cake, and I love cod. It was really good. Both rices were delicious, but the mac & cheese was definitely the star of that plate. Growing up my mom always made baked mac & cheese. Pretty sure I’ve only ever had the boxed kind once or twice in my whole life. My mom’s theory was it takes the same time to cook the macaroni, so you might as well use real cheese. The baked version does take more time so I don’t make it a lot, but it’s well worth the effort.
For my second plate I got more mac & cheese, fried chicken, jerk chicken, and escovitch fish and chicken.
The fried chicken was outstanding. The jerk chicken was very good, but my piece was a little dry, which is very odd considering it was a leg. It had a little kick, but not too bad. Kevin said his pieces had more spice, and his mouth was burning. I had never had escovitch anything, so I was fully unprepared for the super tartness. Apparently the marinade is vinegar, allspice, onions & chile peppers. You know when you bite into a sweet tart or a really sour candy and your mouth gets all puckered up? That’s what it was like after one bite. The meat and/or fish that it’s served with is fried. So I’m wondering if it gets marinated first for a while and then fried. Regardless, I liked them better than the veggies, because I think the frying toned down the tart slightly. On the plus side for the veggies, they were tender crisp.
When we had arrived the place wasn’t very crowded, with maybe about 10 people. By the time we were leaving, the line was almost to the door. So clearly we picked a good time to get there.
Will I go back? Of course! It’s definitely on my to-do list whenever I go back to Maryland. The food was excellent, and the place has a great atmosphere…well, except for the lack of AC.