Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. till 7 p.m. Prices: A la carte entrees $3.50 to $4. Cash only.
In this era of superdupermarkets that bring the butcher, the baker and the chocolate truffle maker together, it can be easy to overlook the small specialty kitchens, those modern-day street stalls where vendors dole out hot and fragrant pasties and sticky buns.
At Negril, a little lilt of Jamaica amidst the Adams-Morgan Babel, the menu covers only the barest essentials -- two or three hot entrees, an equal number of savories and sweets -- but, as one of their better-known competitors would say, they do chicken right.
Negril's curried chicken is closer to a tandoori version than the chicken curries most Washington restaurants prepare: whole pieces baked under a cumin-heavy sauce and served still whole, rather than stewed or sauteed morsels mixed with vegetables like a casserole.
Accompanying the chicken is a generous mound of spiced rice dotted with meaty red beans and doused with more sauce. It is a tickly-hot curry but not too strong; but the dishes at Negril are full of aromatic spirit and served steaming hot from a stainless steel cabinet, in a sort of limbo between kitchen and counter, a luxury in these days of casual lukewarm.
An even heartier entree is curried goat, an extravagant pile of finger-sized morsels of that lean and mysteriously hard-to-find pot roast, still on the bone, but cooked so thoroughly it slides off into the teeth. Served the same way, over rice and beans, this $3.85 dish could probably serve two for lunch. (There are variations, including a rather free-style mixed vegetable stew, which appear from day to day on the overhead board.)
In the steam cages are savories: two-fisted meat-filled pasties understated as "meat loaf"; fragrant "vegetable loaf" dumplings for herbivores; and a crisper, saffron-yellow turnover with a spicy meat filling, a little larger than a South American empanada, that would make a fine strolling lunch.
The bakery's sweet offerings include sticky buns made with a crusty, breadlike or "short" dough rather than the yeasty, yielding vending-machine variety, but dripping with caramel and raisins; cakey turnovers dusted with more of the coconut that flavors the filling; and immobilizing squares of doughy bread pudding that, with a dose of brandy or hard sauce, could easily weigh in for traditional plum pudding.
There is also a variety of unusual drinks, ranging from carrot and sorrel juice bubbling on the counter to watermelon sodas, unfamiliar colas and ginger ales.
The most astounding creation in the place, however, is a cold drink called Irish moss -- a thick, milky nog heavily flavored with nutmeg that is actually made from boiled seaweed. Besides its innate soothing qualities, which make it an ideal match for the rest of the menu, it is absolutely delicious and addictive enough to suggest a financial investment in algae futures.