Mount Vernon's Jungle Serves up Some of Westchester's Finest Jamaican Flavors
The city’s newest Caribbean eatery feels like an island escape.
The moist, sweet chili salmon is a popular dish at Jungle.
Photos by Sibylla Chipaziwa
After seven months of cooking at home and delivering food from Valhalla to Queens, Jamaican-born Duran Foxton opened Jungle Restaurant in the Fleetwood section of Mount Vernon this past summer. It didn’t take long for his wife, Tahirah Foxton, to leave her job (she was taking orders in the middle of the workday) to join him at their new venture.
Tahirah and Duran Foxton, co-owners of Jungle
Love is definitely part of the equation at Jungle. One of Duran’s first loyal customers, Tahirah, who is also of Jamaican descent, says she was blown away when her husband first cooked for her. “I was not at home, but I was home,” she says. “At Jungle, you are getting a home-cooked meal.”
Jungle gets its name from Duran’s hometown, an area of West Kingston, Jamaica. Growing up, his mother, father and aunt would whip up delicious food, and around age 9, Duran started cooking with his cousin. “We would save our lunch money to buy groceries after school [so we could] cook,” Duran recalls. “We’d go to my cousin’s house, and then share what we cooked with our neighbors, anybody who asked for a plate. Sometimes, there’d be no food left over for us. I just loved doing it.”
Making sure everyone was fed was all the training Duran needed. He has never worked in another restaurant, nor did he go to culinary school. Everything is made to order and you can taste (and smell) the difference. Tahirah recalls a time she brought Duran’s food with her to a hair salon. “When I opened my food, everyone in the place turned to me and asked, ‘where did you get that from?’” she laughs. “You get the real, authentic flavor,” adds Duran in that charming Jamaican drawl. “It can be a bit of a wait, but it’s worth it.”
Curry goat with (what else?) rice and peas
Of course, the usual suspects are on the menu: curry goat, brown stew chicken, oxtail, jerk steak, and escovitch red snapper. You can start your day with Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish, or grab a beef patty during your lunch break. There are even vegetarian options, burgers, and a kids’ menu.
The power of word of mouth and customers posting on social media has definitely helped spur Jungle’s success. “It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy doing it,” Duran says. “Every day, we get new customers. When they leave, they’re always happy.”
9 W Grand St
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