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The Dish: The Jerk Shack

The Jerk Shack

1002 Duluth Highway, Lawrenceville 678-407-0243

Open since: The Jerk Shack has been at its new location for six months.

Location: The restaurant is located in the leftmost space of a shopping center just off Duluth Highway in Lawrenceville.

Owners: Married couple Paul and Sonia Richards.

Hours: The Jerk Shack is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The restaurant is closed on Saturday.

Atmosphere: While not exactly a "shack" per se, this Jamaican restaurant is a quaint, modestly decorated dining spot with an interior painted in shades of red and green.

Seating is limited to the left side of the restaurant, while the right functions as a market, featuring foreign food items you probably won't find at your local Publix.

The atmosphere is friendly and casual. Customers place their orders at a walk-up counter with a stone facade, behind which the food is prepared. A steady stream of regulars come in to grab take-out orders, while others hang out longer, some even playing chess on a board they brought themselves.

Menu: The most widely-known part of Jamaican cuisine is, of course, jerk chicken, and thus jerk chicken is, not surprisingly, the most widely-ordered menu item at The Jerk Shack. Try a plate of this popular poultry, with its spicy, peppered skin, along with a side of crunchy carrots and cabbage, a warm pile of rice and beans and a few sweet slices of fried plantain.

The second most in-demand menu item, according to co-owner Paul Richards, is the brown stew chicken: fricasseed fowl smothered in a dark, deliciously savory sauce.

The word "oxtail" might sound a little intimidating (It did to me, anyway), but the slow-cooked meat around these bones, stewed with butterbeans, is nothing to get all worried about. In fact, its slightly salty taste and pockets of caramelized fat are reminiscent of pot roast.

Beverages: On the market side of the restaurant is a refrigerated cooler filled with chilled Jamaican ginger beer, coconut milk and imported sodas in sugary-sweet flavors like pineapple and Kola Champagne.

Desserts: Another sweet treat can be found in a freezer by the counter, stocked with cartons of rum raisin ice cream.

Things you might not know: The Jerk Shack's Jamaican market also includes mango jam, oxtail stew seasoning and plantain chips.