Jerk and Good Vibes Shine at Miami’s Dukunoo Jamaican Kitchen

Finga lickin’ good jerk, oxtail, and more.

6 minutos de lectura

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“Come fi di food and stay fi di vibes” — that’s the motto at Dukunoo Jamaican Kitchen in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. Since opening its doors in September 2019, this vibrant Jamaican restaurant is like nothing else you’ll find in the Magic City.


The owners, husband and wife Rodrick Leighton and Shrusan Gray, M.D., are both of Jamaican descent and originally hail from New York.

“New York has the highest population of Jamaicans outside of Jamaica,” says Gray, “and we are big and bold in New York City.” In contrast, South Florida has only a few takeout and quick-service Jamaican restaurants.

The couple decided they wanted to be the ones to bring a true full-service Jamaican experience to South Florida. Gray recalls: “We wanted to be part of that community, to give a taste of the Caribbean, where guests could not only enjoy our food, but also the vibes, culture, and music for a little short while — to know that we are here and part of the city.”

It helped that neither owner was entirely new to the restaurant business. Gray’s mom owned a Golden Krust (a popular Jamaican fast food franchise) for a decade, while Leighton’s family owns and operates restaurants and nightclubs in the Northeast. “Both of us were familiar with the business, and we knew we had the ability to create something special that incorporated our culture in a way that showcased more than just our food.”


Knowing that location is everything, Gray and her husband looked all over South Florida, but one place stole their hearts. “We took one look at a space in Wynwood and I said, ‘This is it,’” says Gray. “I knew I was ready to claw and fight my way into the area because it was worth it.”

Around the time Gray and Leighton started poking around, Wynwood was finding its footing as the place to be. Filled with street art, cool bars, galleries, and just a few restaurants, the couple saw promise in the neighborhood. A few short years later, Dukunoo is perfectly positioned on one of the busiest streets in the city’s buzziest neighborhood.

“We have so many locals that spend a lot of time in Wynwood, and it’s such a diverse crowd, which we love to see,” says Gray. “It used to seem too far for those in suburban areas, but people from way out there are making their trek more often because they like what we have to offer.”

The restaurant serves hearty Jamaican classics, like the Lik Yuh Fingas Oxtail, and several vegan menu items as a nod to Rasta culture, which focuses on organic and meat-free cuisine. A few fusion dishes like the Caribbean jerk burger and the Rastaman pasta act as a starting point for those who aren’t familiar with Jamaican cuisine. 

The real draw, though, is the jerk stand outside the restaurant, which serves up jerk chicken, ribs, and pork by the quarter, half, and pound paired with sides like slaw and fried plantains. 

“We had to have a jerk stand. It was one of the things I stood steadfast over,” says Gray, who recounts having to convince the landlord and the city to get the proper permits for their smoker, which pushed their opening date by several months. “I wanted true authenticity, and this was the only way to do it. A lot of mom-and-pop shops don’t have the ability to house a jerk stand, so their jerk chicken is baked with jerk sauce, which can be delicious, but it’s not true jerk,” says Gray. “Jerk is more than the sauce and the seasoning; it’s how you do the jerk — it’s got to be on an open flame, so you get that smoky flavor paired with the crispy outside and the juicy inside and that perfect coloration.”


The fight for the jerk stand proved worthy; people come from all over to try it. ”I feel like I really accomplished something by making that happen,” she says. “I have such pride in it.”

But one step in the door at Dukunoo Jamaican Kitchen, and you’ll immediately realize it’s not only about the food.

“We’re committed to creating a vibrant atmosphere, so there’s always a DJ and irie vibes,” says Gray, using the Jamaican term for all things cool and happy. “We want everyone to feel like they can dance and sing — we call it ‘freestyle dining,’ and we look at it as a way to showcase our welcoming and happy culture. We’re here to show off our island.”