Mr. Brown's Lounge brings a bit of Jamaica to the Loop

In the 1970s, Bob Marley and the Wailers’ set some Jamaican lore to music with their song “Mr. Brown”. The song tells the tale of a duppy, or ghost, traveling the island on a three wheeled coffin in the company of three John crows (vultures). It seems that one of the crows could speak, but only kept asking for a Mr. Brown.

After visiting Mr. Brown’s Lounge in the East Loop you, like that crow, will keep on asking for Mr. Brown. Executive Chef Chris Douglas brings some of the best, most authentic Jamaican cuisine in Chicago to a new spot in the East Loop with the recent opening of Mr. Brown’s Lounge at 81 East Wacker Place. Chef Douglas made the long journey from Jamaica to Chicago and brought the family recipes with him. Joined by Chicago native, brother Terry Meghie, and his wife Carrie, a partnership was formed to launch the first Mr. Brown’s Lounge in 2009. 

Now a whole new community can experience Mr. Brown’s Lounge with the opening of the second location downtown in the East Loop. Adjacent to the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago, the new Mr. Brown’s showcases an authentic Jamaican vibe with a modern twist. Black bamboo, a framed record album wall and Rasta hat art pieces enliven while greens, gold and creamy white hues warm the space.

I was recently invited to check out the menu. One of my favorite foodie friends joined me and we sampled our way through some of the best Jamaican food I have had outside of Jamaica itself. Even the cocktail menu brings in a Jamaican flair, highlighting drinks like:

  • MBL Mule (Pimm’s Cup #1, Appleton White, Jamaican rum, Apricot liqueur, ginger beer, fresh lemon juice, Jamaican bitters, Yellow Chartreuse
  • N’ Fashion (Jim Beam, pineapple juice, bitters, MBL Jerk Sauce, filthy black cherry)
  • The Wailer (Wray & Nephew Jamaican rum, honey syrup, fresh lime juice, pineapple juice, fresh mint, Jamaican bitters)

For appetizers, you will not want to miss out on:

  • Jamaican Patty (lightly-crusted turnover served with Coco bread – either beef, chicken or veggie) First of all, the Coco bread is excellent – slightly sweet and fluffy. The star of this dish, however, is the wonderful turnover – crispy, full of flavor, and a perfect “carrier” for the excellent fillings. We tried the beef but other diners let us know that the chicken and veggie were equally wonderful.
  • Island-Style Mac & Cheese featuring a “top-secret family recipe” including five types of cheese. My friend and I are both Southern, so we are hard sells on Mac & Cheese. We both agreed that this was some of the best we have ever tasted in Chicago. Somehow, the secret recipe reminded us of traditional Southern pimento cheese, but the other layers of flavor kick this up several notches. Order this . . . you will thank me later.
  • Jamaican Jerk Wings  – Of course, you cannot come to a Jamaican restaurant without trying the jerk seasoning. Warning! If you are not a fan of heat, then ask for the sauce on the side. The wings alone, without the sauce, are wonderfully flavorful and just spicy enough for a wimp like me. They are also juicy and tender – nearly falling off the bone. My friend, however, loves hot food and she couldn’t get enough of the jerk sauce. In my opinion, this is the most authentic jerk seasoning you will find in Chicago.

The entrees also offer some delightful, traditional Jamaican fare, most accompanied by Mr. Brown’s excellent grilled plantains:

  • Oxtail – The meat is fork-tender, but the only easy way to eat oxtail is to just pick it up and suck the meat off the bones. Yes, it’s messy, but absolutely worth the mess. The dish is superb and the brown sauce adds a perfect flavor to the tender oxtail.
  • Curried Goat – The bone-in goat is surprisingly tender. The curry, unlike the yellow curry you find in other world cuisines, if more focused on Caribbean spices and does not bring excessive heat to the dish. Rather, the flavors are subtle and perfectly married with the meat.
  • MBL Island Jerk Chicken – According to the staff, this is the most requested item on the entree menu. Just like the wings, it can be hot so order the sauce on the side. Otherwise, prepare yourself for a taste treat – juicy, tender, plump and flavorful.

Normally, I stay away from dessert but they tempted us with the intriguing Banana Pudding (banana bread, fresh banana, caramel, plantain). Unlike many banana pudding recipes, this one doesn’t waste time or space on things like vanilla wafers. It is surprisingly light and fluffy, and the additional of grilled plantains gives an unusual and delightful twist.

Top all of the superb food with some of the friendliest service you will find anywhere in the city and you will come away feeling like you just had a short, happy vacation on the islands. Mr. Brown’s Lounge is located at 81 East Wacker Place. Contact them at 312.334.6760. You can also get more information on their website or by following their social media conversations on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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