Flavor from the Island
Jul 03, 2018 07:31PM ● Published by Andre Velez
Jammyland co-owners Danielle Crouch and Allan Katz love the Caribbean. They especially love Jamaica, the birthplace of reggae, the incredible beaches, flavorsome food, and delicious cocktails. That love inspired these restaurateurs to create a Jamaican bar and kitchen concept in the heart of the arts district in downtown Las Vegas that transports you to the islands.
Inspired by Katz’ love of reggae and the original Jammyland (the renowned New York City record store he once patronized), Jammyland in Las Vegas blends music, food, and cocktails to create something unique. When the owners of the NY record store were told what Katz and Crouch wanted to do in order to honor them, they gave their blessing to use the name. In true fashion, his menu is original. The menu is more like a liquid lyrical as each drink has a song to match. On the cocktail menu they write: Please don’t try to drink the whole playlist in one sitting and enjoy the Spotify mix we made you by loading the app, going to ‘Search,’ clicking the little camera icon, and aiming your phone at this nifty code.”
When creating their menu concept, Crouch and Katz created their cocktail program with an encyclopedia of recipes called “the playlist”. While they do serve some great wines, the focus is on their cocktails like Damn Close Mai Tai and The Reckless Abandon.
Damn Close Mai Tai exemplifies what Jammyland offers in terms of its beverage program. Made for connoisseurs who appreciate classic cocktails, this drink is not some concoction offered to tourists in the casino. It’s prepared according to the original recipe using Appleton Estate 12 YO Rum, Rhum Clemént VSOP, lime, in-house made curaçao and Katz’s orgeat. The song that goes with it?
“Among the Dead”, performed by Tim Armstrong. The Reckless Abandon is one of its specialty drinks made with Smith & Cross Navy Rum, lime, Sangue Morlacco Italian Cherry Liqueur, Amaro Cio Ciaro, and pineapple. All that’s missing is the crystal blue sea. Paired with “Reckless”, sung by Pepper, it adds to the intrigue of the volcano-inspired libation.
Chef Bubba Grayer incorporates his varied and eclectic culinary background with staples from Jamaica while adding his twist. Touches of New York; Naples, Florida; San Diego; New Orleans; and Portland come out in different dishes.
“Very few dishes are from Jamaica, and that is what we like. Food has become its own thing by everyone who has passed through the island,” explains Chef Grayer.
From influences of Asian, Indian, and even British culture, the cuisine here is developed utilizing Chef’s travels and his research. The blending of different cultures creates an experience.
While the British brought pastry to the islands, the Jamaicans spiced up the dishes including its patties. The beef choices are grass-fed, and grain finished from Utah, seasoned with curry spice blend, chiles, and cilantro sauce. The veggie option combines seasonal squashes, zucchini, red bell pepper, turmeric pastry, fresh ginger, galangal, cayenne, and kaffir. Both are served on a turmeric pastry.
African comfort food becomes a bar snack with Ugali sticks made with polenta, coconut, and Applewood-smoked clover honey. Black pepper Shrimp & Porridge combines a quintet of prawns in a vibrant pepper sauce with corn porridge and fried okra.
One side is Sweet Mash, often called by its Indian name, Batata. This nutritious side dish pairs perfectly with ribs, sweet potatoes, coconut milk, honey, brown sugar, bananas, and oranges.
Pulling from their previous time working together at Fatty Crab, Chef Grayer, Katz, and Crouch worked together on the menu.
“Jamaican food is an unexplored cuisine, and we are excited to bring food along with our love of cocktails. We also included some of the Fatty Crab specialties,” says Crouch. “We get to work with one of our best friends [the chef] who is so talented.”
Art is also an integral component. “When Jammyland was my teenage pipedream, I just discovered Jim Mahfood’s work with 40 oz Comics and his self-published books,” explains Katz. One sketch incorporated two-tone art created during the time Jamaican influences were brought to London and mixed with punk.
Years later, while operating someone else’s restaurant (as part of his plan to open one of his own), Katz attended a party for Mahfood and told the artist about his dream. Today Mahfood’s art embellishes the walls. “It is about the culture and the connection between music and food, which are my two favorite things,” Katz says.
“It is a wonderful time to be alive. Music has never been more accessible and culinary culture in America is having a watershed moment. People want to eat and drink better.”
“It is also the oneness of it and the inclusiveness of our motto, ‘Out of many we are one.’ We embrace the philosophy of one love, which for me is the same as the philosophy of hospitality,” adds Crouch.
Before opening Jammyland, she lived in Las Vegas, worked on the Strip, and discovered the downtown community. She wanted to create a space where people come, feel good, and have fun. Crouch finds delight in seeing guests having a good time.
Resident DJs, Knocksteady Soundsystem with Josh Coutts and Joseph Guadamuz, are what Katz calls “my nerd soulmates.” He discovered them on an indie radio station and, appreciating their playlist of obscure tracks, invited them to share their love of music on Friday nights. (A stage is also being constructed for other live performances.)
The interior design reflects the history of makeshift pubs, or shebeen, spread from Ireland to Africa to Jamaica. What was once a parking lot has been transformed into an inviting patio facing the street. Lights twinkle above, and two beautiful murals on the north and south walls entice pedestrians. The music invites everyone to enter this tropical enclave in the middle of the desert.
“The beautiful thing about reggae is it touches all cultures in all languages. I am lucky enough to meet people from all over the world that share the same passion.”
JAMMYLAND brings a taste of the islands, expression of music and art, the serious experience of the cocktails, and a front-row view of the burgeoning urban downtown Vegas scene.
1121 S. MAIN ST
DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS