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$20 Dinner

Make Your Way to Flatbush’s Yaadman Thing for NYC’s Best Curry Goat

Jhenell and Kemar Nelson's first restaurant serves up some incredible homestyle Jamaican food.

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Jhenell Nelson was born and raised in Jamaica, in the parish of Portland. When she moved to Brooklyn four years ago, she brought with her a partner—namely, her husband Kemar—and everything her grandmother ever taught her back home about cooking: an array of Jamaican classics like jerk chicken, curry goat, and callaloo.

The couple spent their first few years manning sidewalk grills at various Church Avenue corners (Church and Bedford, Church and Rogers, Church and Albany), and built up enough of a local following that at the end of 2021, the Nelsons opened their first ever restaurant, Yaadman Thing, on Church and 39th Street. 

Outside of Yaadman Thing. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

"If you're from Jamaica, and you're real about it, you're called a yaadman," Jhenell told Hell Gate. "And since everything in here is authentic, we call it a Yaadman Thing."

Yaadman Thing is a modest space. "Dining in," for instance, means grabbing one of only two stools at the counter in the front window; the side windows were bricked over years ago; and, other than a fresh paint job, there's little to distinguish it aesthetically from any of the dozens of other jerk joints in this part of town. 

Ah, but last week, I got a tip about Yaadman from my boss's mom at my other job, who told me that the jerk here is the best in Brooklyn. Sold! One 5 train ride from the city later (there's a Citi Bike dock right on Church and 38th too, which I used to get home to Bushwick), and I was scarfing down an enormous serving of fatty, juicy, heavily seasoned, wonderfully saucy, hacked-up pig.  

Medium-sized jerk pork dinner with rice and peas and cabbage, $13. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Seriously, this is some excellent jerk. There's also jerk chicken here, of course, as well as jerk ribs, jerk shrimp, and—for you $45 Dinner ballers out there—jerk lobster. Jhenell said that they're in the process of producing a line of Yaadman Thing jerk sauce, and I would have definitely brought a bottle home if they'd been ready. 

The jerk combo meal comes in three sizes—my $13 "medium" weighed like five pounds—and comes with white rice or rice and peas, plus a side dish like coleslaw, macaroni salad, or steamed cabbage. It's all great stuff, and super filling.

Even better, though, is Jhenell's curry goat, my go-to at Jamaican spots and, here at Yaadman, maybe the best I've ever had. The meat was tender and funky, the sauce delivered a good amount of fire, and it made a perfect companion for my side of gooey, crusty mac and cheese. 

Small-sized portion of curry goat, $11, with mac and cheese, $4. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

With these portions, you don't need any extras, but the festivals, a deep-fried sweet dumpling, are so good—freshly fried, slightly crisp, and just the right amount of sweet—that it's a pleasure to overindulge. My Yaadman list for my next visit includes oxtail, doubles, whatever soup Jhenell's got going on (apparently she does a goat's head on the weekend), and maybe the roast conch. 

Festivals, three for $2. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

It all vibes very homemade, like if you were invited to a barbecue or something at the Nelsons' house. "This is my kitchen," Jhenell said. "We use natural herbs and spices, we cook on the grill, and we keep it Jamaican." In other words, it's absolutely a Yaadman Thing.  

Yaadman Thing is located at 3901 Church Avenue, at the corner of 39th Street, and is open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. (have some ackee and saltfish for breakfast!) to 9 p.m., on Friday and Saturday to 10 p.m., and on Sunday from 8 a.m to 7 p.m. (347-365-3315) 

Co-owner and chef Jhenell Nelson helps a customer. (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
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