CIA-trained chef Nigel Spence, who previously worked with celebrated chefs Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, and Mario Batali, presents a short menu of easy-on-the-wallet Caribbean tapas including jerk chicken quesadillas and codfish spring rolls, as well as generous portions of island fare (roasted or grilled snapper and Kingston curry goat). Wine tastings, art shows and a wait staff made up of freelance sculptors, photographers, actors and set designers add to the jazzy, hip vibe. Dinner 5 pm to midnight weekdays and 2 am weekends. Closed Mon.
Best Jerk Chicken 2008. Nigel Spence's Jamaican eatery has become a destination simply for his super-tender, wood-smoked jerk chicken, served as an entree, in a quesadilla, and in a salad. 'All three use the same exact chicken; we don't change the recipe of the chicken for the different dishes,' says Spence, whose cozy, eclectic bar and restaurant was once both a community theater and a candy store. What sets Ripe's fragrant jerk chicken apart is its special mix of seasonings and aromatic spices, including the incendiary Scotch bonnet; one of the hottest chilis in existence; and culantro, a Caribbean herb that's similar to cilantro. 'We do everything from scratch, including the dry rub and the wet rub we use on the chicken. We use the same ingredients used in Jamaica,' Spence says, ensuring patrons eager for the real deal don't get jerked around.