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Sauce Magazine – After a rebrand, Jerk Unlimited continues the legacy of Jerk Soul – with plans to expand to the Delmar Loop

After a rebrand, Jerk Unlimited continues the legacy of Jerk Soul – with plans to expand to the Delmar Loop

We reported on June 10 that Caribbean restaurant Jerk Soul had closed at 3108 Cherokee St., with founder Telie Woods having relocated to Ghana. We’ve since learned that while the name Jerk Soul has indeed been retired, the restaurant is still in operation under a new name, Jerk Unlimited. Trevoy Woods, Telie Woods’ cousin and chef-owner at Jerk Unlimited, is operating the restaurant with new partners, Dee Miller and Candice Woodring. The Jerk Unlimited team plans to open a second location in the next couple months in the former Pi Pizzeria space at 6144 Delmar Blvd., in addition to launching a new bourbon and cigar lounge, Smokin’ Mirrors in the Loop, in an adjacent space.

Jerk Unlimited can claim to be the successor restaurant to Jerk Soul in all but name. Trevoy Woods said he purchased the business from Telie Woods in April 2021, with Telie relocating to Ghana soon after. However, Telie retained the Jerk Soul name and branding rights, as well as ownership of social media accounts. Ultimately, that sowed the seeds for the rebranding that got underway in recent weeks.

With the name change, the Jerk Unlimited team can move past the confusion that has hung over the restaurant’s future. “The rumblings about Jerk Soul being closed have been in the air for four months or so,” Trevoy said. Customers were showing up to buy one last Jerk Soul meal, only for Trevoy to insist the restaurant would remain open. “I’ve been fielding that question for four months, five months. Are we closed? My answer was always no.”

Trevoy’s involvement in Jerk Soul dated back to the restaurant’s earliest days. A career chef with a background in fine dining, Trevoy said Telie Woods had reached out to discuss menu ideas for the nascent Jerk Soul as early as 2016. That led to Trevoy’s involvement in recipe development and eventually the kitchen virtually since Jerk Soul opened in 2018 Trevoy had started to make plans to launch his own Caribbean concept under the Jerk Unlimited name, but he put those plans on hold when Telie told him about his planned move to West Africa and the opportunity to purchase Jerk Soul arose.

For now, the menu at Jerk Unlimited is essentially still the old Jerk Soul menu. However, changes are afoot. Woods said the plan is to phase out some of the more fusion-type dishes – jerk nachos, for example. In their place, Woods will be doubling down on traditional Caribbean dishes – expect to see Jamaican brown stew chicken and curry shrimp alongside existing favorites like the jerk chicken and oxtails. Woods said the changes reflect customer inquiries. “Especially because it was my first year operating the restaurant, customer feedback was extremely important so that we know what they want,” Woods said. “I’d go out of my way to try to provide that.” New signage is already in place at the Cherokee location reflecting the name change, with some other cosmetic changes to follow – paintwork, flooring, windows.

The Jerk Unlimited team also announced that they will be opening a second, more upscale dine-in location in the Loop. “It won’t be a fine dining establishment, but it’s definitely going to be close to an upscale experience,” said Woods. The new Jerk Unlimited will occupy the 4,000-square-foot former Pi Pizzeria space at 6144 Delmar Blvd., with a separate menu highlighting the contrasts between the culinary traditions of different Caribbean islands like Trinidad, Haiti and Jamaica.

“My vision for Jerk Unlimited when I first came up with the concept was to be more Caribbean island-driven, where you can eat from different parts of the Caribbean as you go through the menu,” Woods said. “All of those islands provide us a plethora of seafood, a plethora of different spices… I want to bring some greens, things like callaloo, I want to bring curried mussels, picadillo from Puerto Rico, Jamaican curry, Trinidadian curry, saltfish and ackee, Trinidadian pastries.”

The restaurant itself will have its own full bar, serving signature drinks including Caribbean cocktails and coffee-infused cocktails. One partner in the project, Dee Miller, said the restaurant is partnering with NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo’s coffee brand, Mutombo Coffee. The large space is expected to allow for around 100 diners inside, with outdoor seating adding to the capacity.

Adjacent to Jerk Unlimited in the Loop will be Smokin’ Mirrors in the Loop, a members-only bourbon and cigar lounge. The cigar lounge will occupy a space that connects to Jerk Unlimited. Candice Woodring, another partner at Jerk Unlimited and the company’s chief financial officer, is the driving force behind Smokin’ Mirrors in the Loop, bringing over 35 years of experience in hospitality and hotels with brands like Marriott and Hilton.

Woodring said that after studying the Loop market, she feels there’s an opening for what she calls an elegant, intimate cigar lounge. “There’s a lot of hookah in this area, but there’s no cigar lounge,” Woodring said. “The only two cigar lounges that are close by to us are Brennan’s in Central West End and then Ritz-Carlton in Clayton.” Woodring added that the location will be ideally situated for guests at the Moonrise Hotel.

Smokin’ Mirrors in the Loop will feature a walk-in humidor, and will serve upscale bourbons, Scotch, gin and other spirits. The venue may also offer a small plate menu, but Woodring said that he has yet to be decided. While the cigar lounge will be membership-based, diners at Jerk Unlimited may also be offered one-time passes to get a taste of what the lounge has to offer.

Miller, who has a background in the sports and entertainment industries, said he plans to leverage his existing relationships with athletes and celebrities to give Smokin’ Mirrors in the Loop a “destination spot” atmosphere. “Who knows who you’ll see?” Miller said. Adding to the Mutombo Coffee partnership at Jerk Unlimited, Smokin’ Mirrors in the Loop plans to launch a series of spirits in collaboration with high-profile athletes. Already in the works is a cigar line by NFL star BJ Bello, while Miller said bourbons and scotches will follow.

As for the cigar selection, Miller said it would largely mirror what’s in his own humidor at home. “I like the Dominican flavored cigars, which fit perfectly into what we’re doing with the Caribbean-infused food and drinks,” he said. Miller said there will be a blend of heavier flavors, mild and sweet cigars, and even a house cigar, which he’s looking to have produced by a minority-owned cigar maker in Minnesota. “His stuff is fabulous,” he said.

Woods, Miller and Woodring said that once they are able to move in to the Delmar space, work on new Jerk Unlimited should be completed in under 60 days. That could point to a late July or early August opening, with a launch for Smokin’ Mirrors in the Loop expected to follow around a month later. Follow Jerk Unlimited on Instagram for updates.

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