Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 25, 2022

JBee's Jamaican Me Crazy delivers strong flavors but steep prices

By ISABEL THOMAS | April 5, 2022

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COURTESY OF ISABEL THOMAS

Thomas samples JBee’s Jamaican Me Crazy's Jerk Chicken Bowl, which she found delicious if overpriced. 

An upscale version of a food court, Remington’s R. House features an eclectic mix of cuisines. Here, you’re able to enjoy both familiar fare like burgers, pizza and salads alongside more hard-to-find flavors of New Orleans soul food, Hawaiian poke bowls and Korean barbecue. An 11th stall called The Pop-Up serves as a launchpad for newcomers in the Baltimore culinary scene, with chefs taking over the space for about a week or month. This month, Pop-Up returner JBee's Jamaican Me Crazy has graced the food hall with its mix of authentic and innovative Jamaican cuisine.

I first learned of JBee's in the fall, when occasionally a bright green food truck would park for a few hours on North Charles Street and beat out the Jordanian Halal Food Truck for a prime location. My first thought? What a power move. My second thought? I’ve got to try something from there.

Unfortunately, the semester only got busier, and I had to table my plans until at last, on March 30, I convinced a friend to accompany me to the Pop-Up for my first Caribbean food experience. And let me say, what an experience it was.

For context, I grew up on American or Americanized foods interwoven with cuisine from Kerala, India. When I’m away from home, I crave the rice-based dishes; the fiery spiced meat; the pickled vegetables; the million types of തോര൯ (thoran), coconut-based vegetable sides that can star bitter gourd, red spinach, cabbage, basically any vegetable under the (Kerala) sun. I was highly anticipating this new experience, purposely setting up a lunch date with my friend after an exam so I could both recover and indulge. After perusing their menu, I prepared to gorge on the Jerk Chicken Bowl, lunch-portion sized.

When I walked up to JBee's, the cashier immediately greeted me with a warm smile and took my order. I had seen a menu off to the side with the prices, which were significantly higher than what was listed on the website, but I think I mentally closed myself off to accepting I’d have to give up some extra coin. That was my fault, so I shouldn’t have been so shocked when the bill came out. Instead of $13 for the lunch bowl, served from 12 to 4 p.m., the meal was $17. Tax and tip turned the total into an exorbitant $20.06 for such a modest portion, and I decided not to purchase anything else.

When I clarified the price with the cashier, he told me that the website is not updated for R. House prices — the $13 lunch size and $15 dinner size are only available when the team is working out of their food truck. At R. House, the prices are raised and there is only one size, that of a rectangular microwavable container. This is 8.75 inches long, 6.25 inches wide and 2 inches high, or similar.

In comparison, my friend went to Amano Taco and got a shrimp taco ($4.25), a chicken taco ($3.75) and a side of guacamole ($0.75), with tax adding it up to $9.31. I was slightly shocked that I could have doubled her order and still come in under what I paid at JBee's. Although food is my love language and I value quality over quantity, at some point I can’t justify the prices. With that kind of bill, I was expecting some nirvana-level flavor and my tastebuds to burst into flames and rise anew like a phoenix.

And to be fair, JBee's delivered exceptionally, but not so much that I am willing to come back while they’re at R. House or to justify what I spent.

The Jerk Chicken Bowl features boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat on a bed of rice with peas and curry cabbage. It can come mild or spicy; I chose spicy. And let me just say, the curry cabbage was phenomenal — sautéed and seasoned with curry powder, it reminded me of the cabbage thoran my grandmother would make and was the first part of the meal I honed in on and finished. I actually don’t recall if there were peas; it must have blended in so well as part of the cabbage in coloring and seasoning that I wasn’t able to distinguish it. To be fair, though, the meal definitely was not spicy to me, but I tend to have a high spice tolerance.

Then there were the main parts of the meal. In my opinion, rice texture can be extremely hard to balance so that it’s neither chewy nor mushy, but the rice was fairly cooked, albeit slightly firm. It had also absorbed some of the rich, vibrant flavoring of the jerk chicken, which was cubed, tender and moist. Although I’ve had thyme, turmeric, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and other spices together before, something about this jerk seasoning, whether due to ingredient ratio or other elements of the spice mix, was unfamiliar and defining. Altogether, I would say my favorite parts of the meal were the jerk chicken and the curry cabbage.

I highly encourage you to try jerk chicken or other Jamaican classics if you have the opportunity. However, if you need to be careful with your budget, I don’t recommend visiting JBee's while they are at R. House until April 15. Try visiting them when they are operating out of their food truck or consider other Jamaican options. Overall, I would give JBee's four out of five stars, with its food compensating for the price in part but not in whole.

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