In 2017, Tramaine Stephens and Quinton Carter began bringing homestyle Caribbean food to Las Vegas with nothing but a truck, a handful of family recipes and a passion for Jamaican cuisine. Think 24-hour marinated jerked meats, fried sweet plantains, velvety curry rice and more.
In April, Stephens and Carter celebrated one year of Big Jerk’s brick-and-mortar location, and now, they’re ready to prove that the restaurant is more than a chicken and rib joint. The pair are masters of seafood, too, and they’re showcasing their skills with a newly available whole-fish fry and other tantalizing Caribbean dishes inspired by the sea.
Chef and consultant Rey Arreola was brought on a year ago to ensure Big Jerk’s family recipes could be made to scale for a quick-serve restaurant. Honed through generations, the flavors are like none other. And dishes like whole snapper, rubbed in a potent blend of herbs and spices and then fried—served, for now, only on Fridays—deliver a different vibe entirely. This is a meal you enjoy with family and friends, savored slowly over good conversation and ice-cold beer.
Stop in any other day and you can still enjoy a fried, grilled or pan-seared red snapper fillet ($17); curried, fried or jerk shrimp ($14); or a 6-ounce lobster tail—plump and juicy with garlic butter, fried or grilled with the same 24-hour jerk marinade Big Jerk uses for the meats. The off-menu brown stew with fried snapper should also be made permanent. The filet comes swimming in a tangy tomato sauce sweetened with brown sugar and served in a bowl of silky saffron-colored Jamaican curry rice.
Big Jerk is the kind of spot you can’t wait to try again and again, whether you’re in the mood for meat or have a hankering for seafood.
Big Jerk 430 E. Silverado Ranch Blvd., 702-427-5267. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.