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Bernie’s Jerk Kitchen brings Jamaican flavor to community

Nestled on Joliet’s east side is a restaurant that may be easy to miss, unless people know where to look for it.

Bernie’s Jerk Kitchen, 312 Manhattan Rd., has been open for about a month, and owner Joshua Betts said it has already developed a devoted following.

“We’ve been trying to open up this place for a while,” Betts said.

It’s truly a family affair, with Betts setting up the restaurant thanks, in part, to the inspiration of his stepmother who died in August 2014, and who inspired him to open his own kitchen.

“We always talked about restaurants and cooking,” Betts said. “She was a cook. She showed me different things how to cook. She’d always tell me … she had a vision we’d open up a chain of restaurants, having faith in me of being my own business owner and not working for no one.”

Opening up a restaurant has always been part of Betts’ vision.

“I took some college courses on business management and hospitality/restaurant

management,” Betts said who runs the place with the help of his cousin. “That’s always been my goal.”

Betts decided on the Manhattan Road location in part because there are no restaurants like it, and also because of his roots in the area

“We grew up here,” he said.

Unlike some jerk chicken recipes, which traditionally can be a mixture of either spicy Jamaican-style dry rubs or marinades, the chicken at Bernie’s is prepared without added salt. Betts said the flavor won’t overwhelm those who are averse to spicy fare.

“The taste of it is not spicy,” he said. “We don’t make the food spicy,” which he said is a misconception people have when they think of jerk chicken.

After a month in business, ribs and catfish seem to be the bestsellers so far, he said. The two menu also includes salads, sides and specials, in addition to the chicken and seafood.

Betts said his stepmother taught him how to make lasagna, and it’s become a favorite among his customers, as well.

“People don’t do that at jerk places, and [the customers] love it,” he said of the reaction.

Bernie’s Jerk Kitchen is closed Mondays and open 12-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 12-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 12-9 p.m. Sundays. For more information, search Facebook for “@berniesjerk”.

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