The sweet smell of chicken over hot charcoal is floating down Flatbush Avenue. Follow it. Down the block past the Jamaican bakery and the nail salon and into Peppa's, a tiny cash-only takeout joint with bright green and yellow walls, and a comically giant fan in the corner that does not spin.
At noon on a weekday, a mom chats with her kids while they wait for their food alongside a nurse in turquoise scrubs and one very old man with a white beard and a pitch-perfect whistle. Workers join the line, hard hats in hand.
Peppa's menu includes rice and peas and escovitch fish, but almost everyone is here for the exquisite, tender, spicy jerk ($6 to $13). "Chicken!" They shout cheerfully to the guys at counter. "Make it well done!" Without that last instruction, it might be a bit pink at the bone.
Glorious drumsticks and thighs finishing up [Photo: Tasting Table]
As the vinegar-washed meat is grilled in the cluttered kitchen, the jerk seasonings that cling to it—allspice berries, habaneros, ginger, cinnamon—smoke and toast. The colors and flavors deepen. The skin gets crisp. Then the Peppa's crew smashes each glistening piece of chicken with a cleaver, splitting them into manageable pieces (and making plenty of grooves for you to fill with the hot jerk sauce, burning with chile peppers, that you'll find on the counter).
It's almost too hot to touch, but in a minute or two it'll be just right, so carry your chicken a block away to Prospect Park and find a shady spot in the grass. The wimpy plastic fork in the bag won't do you any good—go at it with your hands.
The fried dough known as festivals. Use 'em to soak up the hot sauce [Photo: Tasting Table]
Peppa's isn't the only jerk game in town. Here are a few new places that play with the classic jerk flavors that came to New York by way of Jamaica:
Hometown Bar-B-Que, Red Hook: Half a rack of tender oak-smoked baby-back ribs that have soaked up a hot and sweet jerk marinade ($15). They're finished on charcoal.
Miss Lily's 7A, East Village: A Japanese-Caribbean hybrid ramen, made with jerked pork belly, shoyu-marinated ackee and a fermented scotch bonnet paste ($15).
Maroon Sausage Company, Smorgasburg, Dumbo: Chicken thigh sausages seasoned with jerk spices plus smoked salt and pineapple.
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