Jerk on Wheels
Address: 1533 Merivale Rd, Ottawa
Hours: 4 – 8pm (Mon – Sat); closed Sundays (hours may vary during/after the pandemic)
Website: Nope, but check out their Instagram stories to see if they’re open
Green factor: Styrofoam containers, garbage bin on site
A couple of years ago, a bright-red food truck took over the former location of Caribbean Cruiser on Merivale. That truck was Jerk on Wheels, and while they’re still there today, they’ve also expanded to a second location in Old Ottawa South.
My first time trying them out was at the original location, after a long, hot bike ride there. Unsurprisingly, their menu is heavily focused on what’s possibly Jamaica’s most famous food – jerk chicken. Jerk on Wheels has just about every iteration of jerk chicken you could want – in a sandwich, wrap, salad, poutine, tacos, wings, and breaded bites. There’s even a beef burger that’s been jerked!
It’s hard to say no to anything in taco form, so I went with the jerk tacos for my inaugural visit and made it a combo ($14, or $11 on their own).
Jerk on Wheels’ tacos are quite the culinary cultural mix with the Tex-Mex-style tacos, and the Jamaican jerk chicken. The flour tortillas had some nice grill marks that added flavour from that char, although corn tortillas would be superior. I really enjoyed the slices of jerk chicken breast, which had a rich jerk flavour and a reasonable hit of spice, but weren’t overcooked. Lettuce, tomato, and a jerk mayo rounded out the tacos.
The hand-cut fries that came with my combo were a bit on the dark side and could have used a blanching before hitting the fryer, but it didn’t affect the flavour too much, and they were wonderfully crispy.
After using the True North Eats trailer in place of their red truck for the winter, JoW officially expanded in the spring of 2021 to a second location at the bottom end of Old Ottawa South. Luckily, I was able to hit them up here before they were unceremoniously kicked out because of Ottawa’s archaic by-laws that gave nearby chain restaurants Tim Horton’s and DQ veto rights over a local, Black-owned business.
This time around, I ordered the jerk chicken sandwich ($11, $14 as a combo). Jerked grilled chicken breast features once more (where’s the dark meat?!), along with coleslaw, and jerk mayo. Both the bun and the chicken had some great love from the grill, which paired well with the spice and earthiness of the jerk seasonings. The coleslaw brought some textural contrast and the jerk mayo layered on the heat. I’m glad JoW doesn’t pull any punches with the spiciness, and the tingling lingered well after I was done my meal.
Jerk on Wheels is putting out some great food with big flavour, and with a little more polish, could easily take their game to the next level.