On Thursday evening the Harvest Room, at 90-40 160 Street, the only large scale event space in downtown Jamaica, hosted “Brew and Chew” to showcase fine eateries from the area. Restaurants from Sutphin Boulevard to 160th Street promoted their specialty foods.
It is the first of its kind event organized by the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) to help energize and increase the revenue of restaurants in the area to fill the need of fine dining. “A growing Jamaica, not only means more jobs, residents and visitors but the need for finer dining and entertainment,” said Hope Knight, President of GJDC. An event organizer disclosed that GJDC received a grant from the Small Business Association to arrange, promote and encourage restaurants to meet the need while at the same time exposing them to the community. She also pointed out Jamaica Avenue is one of the few places where there is no beer garden and this promotion will encourage businesses to start thinking about opening pubs which will bring more people to the area.
Restaurants involved in this exposition included Maima’s Liberian Bistro, Sangria Tapas Bar and Restaurant, Puerto Plata, CitiRibs, Asian Dumplings, Rincon Salvadoreno, A-Churrasqueira Restaurante, Healthy Henry's, and Taste and See. Foods served were Spanish, West Indian, American and Native American and beer was supplied by several beer companies. Attendees were charged a nominal fee for unlimited beer consumption and food tasting. The foods were flavorful, spicy, and appetizing and were attractively presented which made it hard to resist and there was something for each palate. In addition, each person received a black cotton T-shirt with logos advertising various organizations in Jamaica and a small beer glass for their support.
Several officials and organizers from the community attended. Live music was performed by “Prest 4 Time,” an American R&B funk and soul band from Jamaica, Queens. Guests relaxed on the outside patio eating, drinking and soaking up the music which made it another great summer evening.
Meanwhile, at 168th street and 90th Avenue, Jamaica is staging the open air International Food market on Saturday nights until October 31. It’s going into its third week and has received good response to the opening night, according to owner John Wang, who started the market in April of this year in Flushing Meadows. He implied that Jamaica doesn’t have a vibrant nightlife which he hopes he can change while here. The market is modeled after Taiwanese night markets and is supposed to draw people from all over New York City. The space was donated by the GJDC, which is committed to improving the entertainment options for residents and all concerned.
Jamaica residents prefer to support the area’s businesses but the choices are limited although there are several fine local and chain restaurants where families, friends and visitors can find good quality and healthy choices at affordable prices. Perhaps the town’s rising importance is causing the community to have higher expectations after having been long neglected in the area of fine dining. So GJDC has risen to the challenge to find ways to meet the people’s request. A report in 2014, showed hundreds of millions of dollars are lost in unmet revenue for dining and full service restaurants. Fast foods: McDonald, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and pizza shops had been the main choice of people in the neighborhood but slowly it is changing.
Reports have shown 200, 000 people reside in Jamaica and over 50,000 work downtown with a foot traffic of some 86,000 daily. Overall hundreds of thousands of people use the commercial, educational, government and transportation services on a daily basis, providing the critical mass necessary for a thriving retail community (New York City Economic Development Corp.). In addition to Jamaica Avenue, which has a similar pedestrian count to 34th Street in Manhattan, major intersections include Sutphin Boulevard, Parsons Boulevard, and 165th Street. This can all be to the advantage of making the restaurant scene vibrant, thriving, and competitive for the borough but the message must be spread to all and residents should support these events as much as possible.