October 13, 2015 – Get ready for a taste of the Caribbean, mon! The Jerk House Jamaican Grill is set to open in Santa Cruz next week on October 23. “We want to bring Santa Cruz healthy, high-quality organic food that blends the influences of Africa, India and the Caribbean,” says Aaron Bistrin, who co-owns the Jerk House with business partner Tim Buonagurio. The new eatery is a quick-serve casual spot with an outdoor patio and reasonable prices.
The menu includes spicy jerked chicken, blackened snapper, hibiscus glazed pork spare ribs, a grassfed jerked burger and a vegan Jamaican coconut curry, with sweet potatoes and root vegetables. Sides include black beans, coconut rice, sweet plantains and a refreshing mango, cucumber, jicama salad.
Local beers from New Bohemian, Santa Cruz Ale Works and Discretion Brewing will be on tap, along with bottled beers like Jamaican Red Stripe.
“You might call this poorman’s food, but everything has an amazing flavor profile,” says Bistrin, who is sourcing ingredients locally from Lakeside Organic Gardens, Coast Produce, Del Monte meats, Stagnaro’s and Happy Boy Farms.
Sustainability of the project is important to the first-time restauranteurs. Decor is made from recycled barn wood and scavenged corrugated iron. Paint for the walls came from a close-out sale and plants from dumpster diving behind Home Depot.
Although Santa Cruz has legions of reggae music fans, this is the first Jamaican restaurant. And though you may hear Bob Marley playing on the patio, Bistrin insists it’s more about the food than the music.
“We’re not Rastafarians and we’re not trying to piggy back on the reggae culture or the 420 culture,” says Bistrin. “We just want to provide high-quality, accessible food.”
“I couldn’t stand by a project that doesn’t take the moral high ground,” he adds.
The Jerk House is located in the Santa Cruz Gardens neighborhood at 2525 Soquel Drive, near Upper Crust pizza.