Jamaican Jerk Hut takes root and opens its first dine-in location in town.
For nearly two decades, Rexroy Scott and Colin Russell have been keeping the flavors of the Caribbean flowing through Mid-Missouri. Until early this year, Rexroy and Colin’s eatery, the Jamaican Jerk Hut, was nomadic; they’ve been serving from a food truck since 2003, and they’ve been parking outside Best Buy on Missouri Boulevard and in other locations each week since 2018. But on Valentine’s Day 2020, the partners made a brick-and-mortar commitment. The Jamaican Jerk Hut opened its first dine-in location in Jefferson City at 112 E. Dunklin St., near Three Story Coffee and ECCO Lounge.
“The move has been more than a decade in the making,” Rexroy says. “We’ve always wanted to open in Jefferson City, and we knew that it was going to be a place where we established a restaurant. However, we’ve always been looking for the right location, and we didn’t want to make a bad decision in a space that was not compatible with what we want to do, which is a sit-down kind of restaurant. Most places in Jefferson City were kind of occupied already over the years. We’ve had discussions with different landlords, and all have fallen through for one reason or another. Finally, one came available that matched with what we’re trying to do.”
“We’ve always wanted to open in Jefferson City, and we knew that it was going to be a place where we established a restaurant.”– Rexroy Scott
The duo took over the shuttered Red Sky Chinese Bistro space, and completed an interior remodel that, in design and atmosphere, echoes Jamaican island vibes. Last year, they opened a brick-and-mortar location in Columbia, but the dining room there seats just 10 while the new space in Jefferson City seats 40.
“The menu is a lot more extensive in Jeff City, in part because we started in Jeff City, so our customer base [here] is a lot more mature than the one in Columbia,” Rexroy says.
In addition to ever-popular staples like jerk chicken, jerk pork steak, and red beans and rice, the restaurant also offers lesser-known Jamaican classics like curried shrimp and goat, oxtail, and escovitch fish. These island dishes, and the fact that Rexroy and Colin can cook them well, are not necessarily as unusual as you might guess.
“In the Caribbean, most men know how to cook,” Rexroy says. “It’s just one of those things where it’s fashionable for guys to get together and cook. When you’re growing up on the island, it’s customary to skip school, get together [with classmates], put your lunch money together to buy groceries, and just cook. The fact that we cook and grew up cooking is not unique to us as individuals. It’s kind of an expected thing in the Caribbean.”
The pair first brought these dishes to the Midwest in the ’90s, when Rexroy and Colin arrived in Jefferson City to attend Lincoln University.
“Colin was involved from the inception of the Jerk Hut. He is a founding partner, and went to Lincoln as well,’ Rexroy says. “We have known each other since fourth grade and went to primary school, high school, and college together.”
Missing the flavors of home, they had no choice but to cook them up themselves — and as it turns out, others wanted a plateful, too.
You can currently try some of these flavorful dishes at their new location any day of the week. The restaurant is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and from noon until 6 p.m. on the weekends.
With having two brick and mortar locations up and running, customers might wonder if they’ll still see the original food truck out and about.
“The food truck is how we started, and we intend to keep doing that in some way, shape, or fashion,” Rexroy says. “Now that we have a brick-and-mortar in Jefferson City, we have to be more selective on how we do the food truck, but it’s definitely not going away.”