Hours: Sunday through Friday, 10 a.m. until midnight; Saturday, 10 a.m. until 1 a.m. Prices: Entrees du jour: about $5.95 to $7.95. Cards: None; cash only.
As seductive as those Raj-in-the-West Jamaican tourist board commercials can be, you may have temporarily expended all your available green on St. Patrick's Day, leaving you high and dry 1,500 miles from that emerald island.
But in the apex of the District, in the crescent that lies east of the Walter Reed sprawl, there's a little Jamaica in the air that can be smelled (and often heard).
It's a one-block miniarchipelago, in fact, that includes a record store back-beating with Third World rhythm, the Montego Bay grocery, and the Hummingbird, known until recently as Carib II.
Despite its fluorescent marquee and the phrase "Supper Club," which often discourages walk-in clientele, the Hummingbird is a small and simple Adams-Morgan-sized diner that serves swiftly and simply around the clock.
Jamaican culture has a disdain for pretension that elevates (and equalizes) the individual and simplifies the environment.
There is a full bar up front, and a maxi-screen television leans above the bar. The walls are hung with paintings, posters and a small blackboard chalked with the day's menu.
It's a fairly short list, maybe five or six entrees. Jamaican cuisine is basically simple, though flavorful; and it rarely includes the multiple courses some diners have grown to take for granted.
Salad at the Hummingbird, for example, is homestyle to the max: iceberg lettuce and slices of tomato, with two bottles of commercial dressing (French and Italian) brought to the table.
Soup, on the other hand, comes with the market, like the rest of the menu, and can be a wonderful adventure. "Mannish water," as it is called, is not the island equivalent of moonshine but an aromatic, sweet-curried soup stock made from goat tripe and freshened with onions and carrots.
The goat has another glorious incarnation as curry, exquisitely cooked and fragrant, but not too spicy (a bottle of pepper sauce is provided).
The goat, like most other meats here, is cooked on the coarsely cleavered bones to release as much flavor to the stew as possible. It is perfectly acceptable -- in fact, probably unavoidable -- to use both hands, fork in one and two fingers of the other, in the effort to remove all the succulent meat.
There's a slight inscrutability that adds fillip to some indigenous dishes such as gingery beef and red snapper. That makes for the darkest, most flavorful pan-juice sauce ever served on a piece of roasted poultry.
Main courses are served with a bowl of red beans and rice that seems bland alone. Under curry sauces, however, the texture turns creamy and soothing.
Although you may linger, service is so swift it could give a whole new meaning to fast food along the Walter Reed strip. And while Noel Coward's hilltop hacienda may be tonier than the Hummingbird, this is one Jamaica you can afford to make your own.