When Food Network called asking to feature Cool Runnings Jamaican Bar & Grill on the show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” owners Janay Henry and Chef Terron Henry had just expanded their southwest Houston dining room and built out their food truck.
“The timing couldn’t have been better because after the show aired, our dining room was packed and the food truck was an instant hit,” Janay Henry said.
That was in 2017 when, on the episode named “Goin’ International,” host Guy Fieri featured “a Jamaican joint knocking it out of the park with their oxtail and curry goat.”
Three years later, Food Network came back, this time with “Triple D Nation,” in which Fieri and his team re-visit favorite spots featured on his show.
“I hear this couple is crushing it,” Fieri says on the latest episode, which aired Oct. 8, 2021.
A customer pointed to Jamaican-born Chef Henry’s wet jerk seasoning base as the “secret weapon” in his cooking. Fieri agreed.
“You could put that (seasoning) on an old army boot and it would taste good,” he said.
During Fieri’s initial visit, Chef Henry said curry goat was not a best seller, though it’s an important dish in his home country.
“That goat is very traditional in Jamaica. Somebody getting married — curry goat. We are having a funeral — curry goat. Somebody is having a party, it’s the curry goat,” Chef Henry said.
Served with rice, steamed cabbage and fried plantain, the curry goat is a unique flavor experience in Houston, and now many more people know it. Since the episode aired, the owners said, they tripled their sales on goat.
“Whenever one of the episodes reruns on Fridays or Saturdays, we immediately know because we get a noticeable bump in traffic,” Janay Henry said. “Also, there are many people who make it a point to visit Triple D-featured restaurants whenever they travel, so we get visitors from all walks of life and from all over the world.”
Cool Runnings Jamaican Grill is on West Bellfort just east of Gessner in the Brays Oaks Management District.
Janay Henry said the name of their original catering company before they opened the restaurant was Jamaica Mi Crazy.
They were providing catering on the weekend for a reggae club that was in the same strip center when a restaurant space became available.
“When we acquired the space, we wanted a different name that would still be recognizable and catchy, and Cool Runnings was at the top of the list,” she said.
In 1988, the four-man Jamaican bobsled team had made its Olympic debut, inspiring a Disney movie, 1993’s “Cool Runnings.”
Though Jamaica has sent other bobsled teams to subsequent Olympics, the iconic four-man sled competed in Beijing this year for the first time since the 1998 Games in Nagano.
And, of course, Cool Runnings Jamaican Grill posted on Facebook: “It’s bobsled time!”
Visitors to Cool Runnings will find the restaurant is offering to-go only for now. But you don’t really have to“go”— you can take and enjoy it in the restaurant’s dining room.
Janay Henry said a staffing shortage, an industry-wide problem, is what keeps the restaurant from offering full dining service.
“We’re currently staffing back up so we can bring full service back into the dining room and re-start Sunday Brunch and live music on Saturday nights, which we paused right before the Omicron variant swept across the city,” Henry said.
Learn more about Cool Runnings’ appearance on Triple D, including recipes from the original episode, by clicking here.
Cool Runnings Jamaican Grill
8270 W. Bellfort
Houston, TX 77071
— by Dorothy Puch Lillig