A new edition to the Howard County food scene is bringing something different for once. Rather than the same iteration of the same song and dance that other “new” restaurants have done, Jazz’s Island Soul (for writing purposes I’ll just refer to it as Jazz’s from here on out) is trying something completely different. Jazz’s combines the element of live music and great Caribbean food to create a dining experience that is very different to the docile environment that many other restaurants have in Howard County.
Jazz’s recently opened in the Harpers Farm village center, near the Maiwand Kabob and the Florence Bain Center. It’s situated within the main village center building, so you wont be able to see if it if you were just driving by in the area.
When I walked into Jazz’s they were preparing for a show all while hosting a large party in their dining area, so seating was very limited. I’d recommend that if you plan on going to Jazz’s especially on a Friday or Saturday night that you make a reservation, it gets packed fast. (They’re not on OpenTable so you have to call ahead)
The live music is a great attraction and folks come in droves to come and enjoy the music on a Friday/Saturday night. Live music in Howard County is not very common, especially not good live music, so Jazz’s Island Soul is an exception to that. Hence the packed seating. I’d like to add that I tried to go a second time to Jazz’s and they were fully booked for this very reason, they fill up fast for live music.
The restaurant seems to still be working out the kinks when it comes to staffing as they always seem to be short staffed, the hostess isn’t prominently situated in a way that’s obvious so patrons often just wait at the front until someone from the wait staff makes eye contact with them. The staff is super friendly so once they do see you they try very hard to accommodate you as soon as possible.
During our visit our waiter seemed to be the only waiter for a good bit of time, but he did a good job making sure everyone was taken care of. Outside of the logistical issues that I think will get ironed out, Jazz’s Island Soul has all the makings of a local favorite for years to come.
The menu is comprised of Caribbean favorites, some American restaurant staples, and comfort food items. My advice is to stick to the Caribbean and comfort food items when you order, you wont be disappointed. We started with the beef patties which I had never had before, but my understanding of them is that they are supposed to be essentially flaky meat hand pies. The patty exterior had more of a resemblance to a Samosa than perhaps a pie crust, but it was still excellent. The crust is buttery and crunchy while the meat was seasoned well so that it was just spicy enough to have the kick you crave.
For the main courses, we ordered the Jerk Chicken and the Fried Chicken. Jerk chicken is a Jamaican classic, its roots come from Africa after slaves who had escaped from Spanish colonists after the invasion of Jamaica by the British in 1655. If you haven’t had jerk chicken before, please be aware that it is very spicy. It’s typically a wet marinade that gets cooked into the chicken and the end result is a chicken that is flavorful, juicy, and often times mouth melting. I’m not usually a spicy food kind of guy, but I couldn’t resist the jerk chicken I had to know if it was good. And I was smart to give in, the jerk chicken is incredible. Jazz’s gives you a very large portion of a whole split chicken breast that has been stewed for hours. The meat is incredibly tender and it pairs perfectly with the array of sides that you get to choose from.
The sides at Jazz’s are a thing by themselves, we tried the fried plantains and the mac & cheese for both our meals and we were not disappointed. The mac & cheese may be one of the best that I’ve ever had eating out at a restaurant. It’s everything you want in a good mac & cheese, it has the perfect ratio of gooey cheesiness to creaminess without being either too cheesy or flavorless but creamy. Meanwhile, the fried plantains are the perfect compliment for the spicy jerk chicken with the perfect combination of sweetness to starch.
If melt your face off spicy is not your thing, I would recommend the 3 piece fried chicken as it is some of the best fried chicken that I’ve had in a while. It’s slightly on the spicier side of the seasoning scale, but that’s to be expected. The crust is flaky and crunchy while the chicken itself is juicy and delicious. I highly recommend getting this, especially if you go for your first time.
The portions at Jazz’s are very generous so you can easily share an entree if you wanted.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the live music. We were seated in the packed lounge as the live music took the stage, my expectations were low but these guys did a great job creating a fun energy in the lounge area. They brought a mixture of soul and funk music which was the perfect compliment to my spicy jerk chicken and fried chicken. I left Jazz’s Island Soul feeling as if I had just walked out of a party that also fed me great food. There’s not much else you can ask for when going out to eat.
Overall: A (with the understanding that some of the kinks will be worked out)
Pricing: Very reasonable
Ambiance: Energetic, obviously very loud if you arrive when the live music has started. It can get stuffy in the lounge area as the A/C seemed to be on the fritz (maybe they’ve corrected it by now)
Staff: Friendly and helpful, they can be short staffed at times so it may take time to get seated or have your order taken (sometimes)
Food: Incredible if you order right, stick to the Caribbean and comfort style foods, you will be very happy.
Parking: Plentiful, the whole shopping center is available to park.