Grilled Jerk Chicken Sandwich – Primo Patio, Townsend St, San Francisco, CA

Jerk Chicken Sandwich

Before I get to the sandwich, I’d like to talk about Jerk for a moment. Jerk seems to me to be terribly underrepresented in America’s ethnic cuisine scene. Chinese food is of course ubiquitous, with Japanese restaurants doing their best to keep up. Italian and Mexican are both big time players, with enterprises ranging from your finest neighborhood Taqueria to the Olive Garden. Indian food is the little guy, but any area with any real population density is sure to feature its fair share of Indian restaurants. The same cannot be said of Jerk. Jerk is not going to present itself to you; Jerk must be sought out.

Jerk is a matter of balance. All cuisines are a matter of both ingredients and technique, but rarely are both halves so equally important. The jerk rub is a thick brown paste of allspice, peppers, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, brown sugar and ginger. The mix is too robust to be called delicate, but I assure you too far in the direction of either heat (Scotch Bonnet peppers are no small matter) or sweetness will ruin everything. The cooking must be equally nuanced, with the meat grilled over low, indirect heat, with as much smoke as one can muster. Calling it grilled is almost a misnomer. The smoke mellows the rub, slowly coaxing out the layered flavor and bringing the sweetness and the heat to their perfect meeting point.

You can find Jerk marinades in any supermarket. I have tried them. They are….they are not so good. They contain things like corn syrup, and even if you grill your meat at home, your grill is going to be too hot and not smoky enough. That much sugar and that much heat is the Jerk equivalent of treating a high wire like a diving board. It makes a big mess and it’s going to ruin every one’s appetite. It’s best to leave Jerk to the professionals.

Primo Patio understands Jerk. The chicken sandwich fell apart as I ate it, the connective tissue having been eaten away by the steady but careful application of heat. The flavor was aggressive, the allspice so-very-close to overpowering, brought back by the brown sugar and the cinnamon. It was not as spicy as some rubs, but the peppers let you know they were there. The roll was soft, which ends up being rather important. A hard or even crusty roll would not serve the tenderness of the meat. No one wants to grind away at a roll while the meat is long since gone. This was jerk done right; When one orders a jerk sandwich one runs the risk of getting something that just sits in a marinade before going over a gas grill for 4 minutes a side, and I cannot tell you how pleased I was that this was not the case. Primo Patio gets it, the investment required for proper jerk, the equal parts that must be weighed, considered, and laid in their proper roles. This is a fine sandwich.

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3 thoughts on “Grilled Jerk Chicken Sandwich – Primo Patio, Townsend St, San Francisco, CA

  1. Jerk is very very common in Toronto. There are at least places within a 5 minute walk of my house with prominent JERK signs.

  2. Pingback: Jerk Chicken – Four Cafe – Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA | On Sandwiches

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