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Negril brings jerk chicken, Caribbean eats to J Street

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Jamaican food from a longtime Sacramento restaurateur is now available in Midtown, at a new spot that is replacing Luck’s BBQ on the corner of 25th and J streets.

Negril, owned by Cleve Geddes, is named after a resort in Jamaica, and Geddes said his goal is to serve Jamaican food – but not quite as spicy as it’s done in the islands.

“I do jerk chicken, and I named it after Negril because that’s where they have the jerk chicken festival,” Geddes said Tuesday.

The restaurant opened Oct. 14, and Geddes said it fit the bill for what he was looking: a small space with a fully functional kitchen that would allow him to smoke meats and fish, serving food for dine-in or takeaway.

Meats are smoked in an electric smoker with a rub that has a Caribbean hint, Geddes said. Fish such as salmon and sturgeon is brined in-house and then vacuum-sealed, ensuring it’s fresh when opened, he added.

Ribs are available with jerk seasoning or traditional barbecue sauce, in half or full racks.

The menu includes items such as a pulled pork sandwich with a side for $7.50, a quarter of a chicken with two sides for $7.50 or half a chicken with sides for $12.

Sides include sweet potato fries, coleslaw and beans.

For dessert, Geddes said, he wanted to incorporate something that is widespread in the Caribbean – Tortuga rum cakes. The cakes, priced at $7.50, are served in the original rum flavor as well as chocolate, key lime and coconut.

Geddes’ parents are from Jamaica, and he was born in Panama, he said, adding that he came to Sacramento in 1985.

Geddes has a history in the Sacramento food scene, from owning Cleve’s Place BBQ at Northgate and Garden Highway to managing restaurants such as Chanterelle, Blue Cue and The Virgin Sturgeon.

“I wanted to open my own place again because I want to offer something different,” he said. “I like being in a happy place where I can see people come in smiling and have it be casual, and have it be a place I don’t have to stay up too late.”

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. It’s closed on Sunday.

The décor in the 1,000-square-foot space consists of tropical-themed tablecloths and a series of photos from Sacramentan Gilbert Lagunas, a restaurant consultant who has been a friend of Geddes’ for more than 20 years.

“The photos are from my trips to Mexico and Costa Rica and Brazil,” Lagunas said. “He wanted something to give it a tropical flair.”

Lagunas said he thinks the location is a good one, with a significant amount of vehicular and foot traffic.

“I think people will really catch on to the concept with the smoked meats,” he said.

Geddes echoed Lagunas’ sentiment, adding that he wants to keep prices low while providing quality food.

“We’re all about having good food and a fun time,” Geddes said. “We just want you to leave with a smile on your face.”

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