If you think you’re bummed about how long it’s taken for this Chicago spring to actually spring, at least you don’t bank on it. “We just do better on nice days and really don’t get much business on colder days,” says Tony Levy, chef-owner of Evanston’s Jamaica Jamaica. Maybe it’s the Caribbean cuisine and blended fruit cocktails with names like Island Breeze and Negril Sunset that are behind associations of Jamaica Jamaica and warm weather. But whatever the cause, Levy says business has really taken a dip since the initial round of diners the restaurant saw when it opened last fall. Early reviews and online buzz confirm that Levy’s family recipes for jerk pork shoulder, curry chicken and braised oxtails yield intensely flavorful dishes worth a try, but the fizzling economy coupled with a student-heavy clientele that doesn’t (or can’t) drop dough on cocktails hasn’t helped.
Levy and his wife, Lenice, recently rolled out a few promotions to get people in the door: Students always get 10 percent off, second entrées are half-off on Tuesdays, and a Monday through Thursday happy hour from 4:30 to 6:30 offers all appetizers for $5 and $5 glasses of wine with purchase of any app. While the couple is willing to make a few pricing adjustments to stay afloat, the one thing they say won’t change is the quality of the food. “I have to set us apart from other restaurants, and I do that with my herbs and spices, which I bring back from Negril with me 170 pounds at a time every six months or so,” Levy says. “It does cost me more, but we believe that people can taste the difference, and that is what we need to survive.”—Heather Shouse
1512 Sherman Ave, Evanston (847-328-1000). El: Purple to Davis. Bus: 205; Pace 208, 250. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $13.