As promised to GG, my favorite Jamaican/Caribbean spots:
PEPPER POT on Blue Hill Ave about 2-3 blocks down from Grove Hall heading towards Boston. Seriously, I can't get past their fish soup. My friend goes for barbequed beef. They're the one Jamaican restaurant I've found that doesn't often run out of beef patties early in the day. Usually it's no problem getting parking right in front.
FLAMES is the new spot for Jamaican food. You drive down Blue Hill Ave towards Mattapan and when you get to the police station at the corner of Morton (I think) you go right. It's just up around the corner on the left. I tried it out last week and it was off tha hook - Fantastic! I hear there can be really long lines, but there were only about 4 people in line on a Wednesday night around 6:30-ish (it got longer before we left). Parking can be difficult. I got stewed chicken, rice and peas, steamed cabbage, friend plantain. A medium was $6.35 with tax, piled really high with food and provided two very filling meals. The chicken was sweet and tender, a mix of thigh, leg, wing and breast pieces. The gravy was fantastic over the rice and peas, which were the perfect texture and cooked traditionally with coconut milk. The cabbage was still crunchy, although not spicy which I prefer. I wondered, being the only 2 non-Caribbean customers at the time, if the overflowing portions were just a little extra generosity, but I will surely have a chance to test that hypothesis on a return visit soon. Regardless, service was friendly and accommodating. My friend had the stewed oxtail--great big meaty pieces in a dark gravy--and got the left over ackee and saltfish to go. It looked pretty good, the ackee was cooked down well (it tends to resemble scrambled eggs a bit) and everything looked well seasoned. The food is prepped in the back and then served from a steam table/counter in the front. I like that you can see everything in order to choose what you want. They had at least 2 fish options one steamed and the other stewed I think (kingfish and snapper?). Everything looked really fresh and seemed to be replentished often. We asked if they prepared rundown on the weekends and alas, no. We're both thankful that for us (in Cambridge) Flames is way across town because otherwise I'd be packing on the pounds, seriously. They probably have the best/most extensive Jamaican menu in Boston - including breakfast options like ackee and saltfish and dangerous favorites like festival (those long, slightly sweet fried dumplings) and I might have even seen bammy on the menu (fried dumplings made out of sweet cassava.) This place is worth the trip, I promise. Go now!
GARDEN OF EDEN on Norfolk Street just outside of Codman Square used to be my favorite spot for Jamaican food. It used to be called PARADISE. From Blue Hill Ave you go down Talbot Ave and right before you get to Codman Square you take a right on Norfolk. It's on the left next to the car repair place. They've expanded into space on the left and right, so now instead of a little room with bulletproof glass, they've got a dining area with patio style tables on the left and on the right, not quite finished, looks like it could turn into a little ice cream bar or something. Another customer told me that it's different owners but the same cooks. Stewed chicken, curried chicken, stewed oxtail - all good. You get a delicious little fried dumpling (like festival) tied in a knot, along with rice and peas and steamed cabbage. Their jerk chicken will burn your face right off. They often have soups like cow foot and goat head. You can get patties there with coco bread and cheese, too. The only bad thing, service can be strained, adequate and somewhat friendly at best, so don't be shy about ordering exactly what you want. Believe it or not, they used to have a sign up years ago that told you to check your food before you leave. I bet it's still not a bad idea.
There's an ice cream place called P&R that's on Blue Hill Ave, but I forget at what part exactly. I'm pretty sure that it's well before you get to Talbot Ave. So if you're heading south, it's on the left hand side near Taurus Records, I think. Choose Banana or Grape Nut ice cream--I guess grapenut is pretty traditional for Jamaicans. They might have bakery items too, I can't remember.
Also, for Trinidadian food there's always Ali's Roti on Blue Hill Ave, too, at the same intersection by the police station/Mobil (Morton Street.) You'll see all the cars double parked. They're pretty good, I've posted about them before. It's definitely better than the one that's on Washington (or is it Tremont?) nearer to the South End. In my personal experience, the women at the front can be a rather indifferent, but if the owner/boss is there, you've got a better chance of getting decent service. Curried shrimp roti with extra vegetables (steamed cabbage, carrots) is my favorite. Ask for "pepper" on the side unless you're really brave. It's burning hot and will come in a tiny little plastic container. It's really all you'll need. Trinidadian hot sauce always seems to be the absolute hottest to me. I recall seeing that they had other things like pelau (the rice/meat dish kind of similar to Cape Verdean jag or even jambalaya) but I've never had it there. The best roti place of course is the secret one in JP. You have to email me directly for that info. Besides, I think they might close down during the winter months.
GG -- for a vegetarian you have to be careful because sometimes rice and peas (among other things) is cooked using salt pork (cooked with the beans) so you might want to ask. You can always ask if it's Ital -- cooked with no sugar, no salt, no meat -- the rastafarian diet, then you'll be safe.