Jazzabell’s Soul Food
134-24 Guy R. Brewer Blvd., Jamaica
Open every day, except Monday, at 11:30 a.m. Closes at 9 p.m. on
Tuesday and Wednesday; at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday; at 11 p.m. on Friday
and Saturday; at 7 p.m. on Sunday.
The first thing a customer notices about Jazzabell’s
Soul Food, on Guy R. Brewer Blvd. in Jamaica, is how it seems as much
like a jazz museum as it does a tiny neighborhood restaurant.
The second—but not lesser—thing the customer
will notice is how good the food is.
The walls are lined, as the name may suggest, with
big black and white photographs of jazz legends and instruments and
figurines from co-owner Frederick W. Clarke’s personal collection.
Jazz plays in the background.
Clarke, a jazz musician from a family of musicians
who plays the drums, clarinet, saxophone and "fooled around on
the piano," wanted the restaurant he owns and manages with his
wife, Jacqueline Smith, to be unique.
"I’m a jazz fanatic," he said.
"Most minority-owned stores that have a theme have a sports
theme. When we opened the restaurant, we wanted to do something
different. It’s history in here. You can learn from it."
And how about the food? Owners Clarke and Smith,
one of whom is always in the restaurant, serve huge portions of
southern comfort food (but don’t ask for Southern Comfort, or any
other alcohol) like fried fish and chicken, glazed ham, barbecued
ribs, smothered pork chops and turkey wings. All dinners for one cost
between about $7 and $10.
The most popular dishes are the barbecued ribs and
The most busy times at the restaurant are Friday
and Saturday evenings, as well as the Sunday rush right after church.
The food is not as spicy or pungent as Caribbean or
Indian varieties of the same dishes—there’s actually a hint of
sweetness to some of the dishes—but the flavors and textures are
much more subtle. The barbecued and fried chicken from a recent visit
were uncommonly soft and juicy.
There’s a long menu of sides available, from
various salads to candied yams to cream corn, that are mostly very
warm and very filling. The most popular are macaroni and cheese and
The mixed vegetables are fresh and complement the
meats well. The cornbread is fantastic.
You wouldn’t expect it, but a vegetarian could
eat quite nicely at this authentic soul food restuarant.
It’s clear Clarke and Smith bring a lot of love
to their restaurant, its food and its customers. All dishes are made
homestyle, from scratch on the premises, Clarke said, right down to
the french fries. And the two owners, who have been married for 23
years, are as friendly as anyone can be, chatting with all the
customers, even complete strangers.
"We take pride in what we do," Clarke
said Sunday after a busy day serving mostly church-goers. "Our
motto is, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression.’"
The only problem with Jazzabell’s Soul Food may
be that with no seating—food is available as take-out only—such
nice surroundings and warm service can only be enjoyed for a few bars
at a time.
— Shams Tarek