A huge Caribbean community in the shadow of the world’s largest Confederate memorial: Such is the paradox of Stone Mountain. As Atlanta’s Caribbean population has grown tenfold in the last 30 years, newcomers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and beyond have put down roots here—and opened restaurants by the dozen in the strip malls that line Memorial Drive.
Tiffany Parkes grew up in Florida eating her Jamaican mother’s brown stew chicken. Today, as owner of Atlanta’s Pienanny, she makes Caribbean-inspired savory pies from oxtail, goat curry, and jerk pork.
“Jamaican food is a history lesson,” Parkes says, referring to the Indian, Irish, West African, Chinese, and other influences that make up the island’s cuisine. “Jamaica’s motto is ‘out of many, one people,’ and you see that in the food, too.”
Here are some of her favorite Stone Mountain–area spots for delving into that delicious history.
Sunshine Jamaican Restaurant
This casual, mostly takeout spot is popular for those craving a breakfast of Jamaica’s national dish: ackee, a savory fruit cooked to an egg-like texture, and saltfish. At lunch and dinner, the menu focuses more on stewed meats.
Order: The combo plate with curry goat and tender, stewed oxtails, served over rice with a rich oxtail gravy. “Oxtail is the most savory of the savory dishes,” Parkes says. “Always get the oxtail gravy.” Don’t miss the sweet, slightly crunchy steamed cabbage on the side. 5998-B Memorial Drive, Stone Mountain, 404-298-4290
Shrouded in meat smoke next to a gas station on Memorial, Juci Jerk is a no-nonsense rib joint with just one table inside.
Order: The jerk chicken and ribs combo plate, which comes with a side of tender rice and peas cooked in coconut milk. Parkes says a lot of jerk joints in the U.S. tone down the spice in an effort to cater to an American palate. At Juci Jerk, addictive homemade hot sauce adds some welcome punch. 5503 Memorial Drive, Stone Mountain, 404-508-2140
Caribbean Chicken & Fish
Tiny flags from various Caribbean nations garland this roadside jerk shack near Your DeKalb Farmers Market. It doesn’t have an easy-to-spot sign; the spice-scented cloud billowing from the smoker rig out back tells you that you’re in the right spot.
Order: The smoky jerk wings and the plantains, which are fried until the exterior caramelizes. To drink, try the sorrel, a deep red brew made from boiled hibiscus and mulling spices, or the thick, frothy Peanut Punch, which is supposed to be good for virility. “Jamaican drinks are often made for medicinal purposes,” Parkes explains. “Sometimes they’re spiked with rum—the ultimate medicinal drink.” 3358 East Ponce de Leon Avenue, Scottdale, 678-705-3452
Royal Caribbean Bakery
The Stone Mountain branch of the Bronx’s beloved Jamaican bakery is the only one you’ll find outside of New York, selling pillowy coco bread, spiced fruit buns, and “jackass corn” biscuits. Some say these were so-named because you sound like a donkey when chewing on the tough dough; others say it’s for that dense dough itself, stubborn like its namesake.
Order: The beef patty, which is like a Cornish pasty crossed with a samosa: a turmeric-colored curry pastry filled with a peppery ground beef mixture, then baked to flaky perfection. For dessert, get a bag of coconut drops, which are chunks of dried coconut and ginger robed in brown sugar. Looks like peanut brittle, tastes like the tropics. 4859-A Memorial Drive, Stone Mountain, 404-299-7714
Come Take a Bite
As the name implies, this is a friendly little counter-service place in Tucker serving stewed meats and escovitch-style fish in massive portions, loaded with rice, peas, and vegetable sides.
Order: The dish that reminds Parkes of her mother’s cooking: the simple and hearty brown stew chicken. 6330 Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker, 678-395-4098
This article appears in our March 2018 issue.