Owner expands Jamaican food business with truck

Jamaican D’s opened a truck in front of the engineering building.

Jamaican D’s opened a truck on campus this fall semester. Owner Dave Dawes already operates out of three other trucks and one restaurant in Philadelphia. | Sash Schaeffer TTN
Jamaican D’s opened a truck on campus this fall semester. Owner Dave Dawes already operates out of three other trucks and one restaurant in Philadelphia. | Sash Schaeffer TTN

One new truck on campus isn’t the first business venture for the owner, Jamaican-born Dave Dawes, who operates out of three other trucks and one restaurant in Philadelphia.

Jamaican D’s, located at 12th and Norris streets near the College of Engineering, specializes in traditional Jamaican cooking and has attracted students during its first semester on campus.

Dawes moved to the U.S. in 2002, and shortly afterward decided to open a restaurant on Chelten Avenue in Germantown.

After the success of his first business venture, Dawes decided to open a food truck at the Community College of Philadelphia, and two others at 3rd and Spring Garden streets and Temple soon after.

Jamaican D’s employee Mark Gordon discussed the business and its accomplishments.

“There was a lot of demand for the food in the area and there weren’t that many Jamaican places” Gordon said. “[Dawes] learned to cook when he was at home in Jamaica, and people really like it.”

Gordon said that he and his boss have been happy with the response from the Temple community so far.

“We wanted to see what Temple was like,” Gordon said. “People were always asking why there wasn’t a truck here. A lot of the kids at CCP end up coming to Temple and we have a lot of customers there, so we came up here.”

Jamaican dishes are influenced by the Spanish, British, Portuguese, Chinese and French, using chicken, shellfish, peppers, allspice, bananas and beans. Gordon said the most popular dishes are the curry chicken, curry shrimp and jerk chicken. There are also plenty of sides to choose from, including mashed potatoes, collard greens, plantains  and macaroni and cheese.

Gordon, who cooks at the Temple truck, said he enjoys coming to work and assuring that the customers are satisfied.

“What sets us apart from other trucks is our food,” Gordon said. “No one else makes Jamaican foods, and I think the chef here is quite good. I like cooking and meeting all of the people who come.”

For those new to Jamaican cooking, Gordon recommends the jerk chicken and any of the available sides.

He said that their business is steady on a day to day basis, something he considers a good sign for the truck.

The truck also has an option called Text2Order, which gives customers the option to order their food while on the go, in class, or if they just don’t feel like waiting in line. Students can send the text to the truck’s number 215-645-4060 and include the name of your preferred dish and “TempleJamaicanDs.”

“We’re the only Jamaican truck that’s around so we get a decent amount of people, but it works,” Gordon said. “Having various businesses helps to spread business around.”

Jamaican D’s is not only a frequently-visited truck at Temple – the other trucks and restaurant all get similar reviews raving about the service and food. For Jamaican food in the Philadelphia area, Jamaican D’s is ranked first on Yelp, a search website that allows consumers to rate and comment on businesses.

One user, Verna S. from Philadelphia, talks about the easiness of parking and getting her favorite dish now that there are more locations to visit.

“Since they added the second truck, and then a third at Temple, there are considerably less headache parking issues than the one on 17th and Spring Garden [streets],” she said. “I come just about every two weeks.”

Pat Pendergast, a senior geology major, frequently visits food trucks around campus and said he enjoys Jamaican D’s.

“I eat at food trucks a few times a week, and [Jamaican D’s gives] large portions,” Pendergast said. “I come to eat here about once a month.”

Gordon said he takes pride in providing quality food at his place of work, and enjoys seeing students return to the truck.

“All of our food is homemade, and we just want people to try it and see what they think of it,” Gordon said. “Jamaican food is the greatest. Everyone should experience it.”

Ariane Pepsin can be reached at ariane.pepsin@temple.edu.

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