Jammin' Jon's spices up the shore

There’s a new ’que in town – but as customers can tell you, this isn’t your typical backyard barbecue. Jon Yanek has a strong passion for the Caribbean islands, and a knack for great food, and he’s found a way to merge them into what’s sure to be a new West Fenwick hotspot.

Coastal Point: Husband and wife Jon and Kathleen Yanek stand outside their new Jammin Jon’s barbecue shop on Route 54 in West Fenwick Island. Jammin Jon’s offers barbecue with a Caribbean flair.Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton
Husband and wife Jon and Kathleen Yanek stand outside their new Jammin Jon’s barbecue shop on Route 54 in West Fenwick Island. Jammin Jon’s offers barbecue with a Caribbean flair.

Only a week after the grand opening of Jammin Jon’s Island BBQ, Yanek had already seen returning patrons who can’t seem to get enough of the tropical flavor.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “People are already coming back a few days after trying it. Some stop in for lunch and again for dinner. The response has already been awesome.”

Yanek and his family grew up in Newark, which allowed a convenient drive to the shore in the summer. After earning his culinary degree in Denver, Colo., and spending time in High Point, N.C., he made his way back to the Delaware beaches with wife Kathleen and four kids in 2005.

“I’ve been all over the place, but this is where I spent my summers growing up,” said Jon.

Setting up the new island restaurant has meant considerable labor, but with the help from the family, it quickly worked itself out.

The menu at Jammin Jon’s boasts a variety of tropical flavor, from beef briskets, pulled pork and chicken, and island ribs, to coconut conch chowder and Caribbean-influenced salads. Their blackened fish of the day and their 2.25-pound smoked turkey leg also boast a tropical feel.

Appetizers, such as the Fenwick clam fritters, cheesy “jalapeno grit stix” and Jamaican patties are some other one-of-a-kind bites, truly unique to this area. And a Certified Angus Burger stuffed with crabmeat and topped with grilled onions and avocado mango cream, dubbed “the Crab Daddy Burger,” has been one of the favorites at Jammin Jon’s.

“Everything on the menu here is unique and different,” he said, “and it’s not just your typical barbecue with traditional sides, like collared greens and coleslaw.”

Homemade cornbread and fried plantains are a few of the side items featured at Jammin Jon’s

Lately, he’s frequented the Caribbean, sailing to Jamaica and the British Virgin Islands, where he and his father, Gene, have turned a hobby into a love.

“We go scuba diving any chance we get,” said Jon Yanek. “It’s amazing what you can see. Between the lifestyle, the food and just traveling the islands, it’s beautiful. I wanted to bring all of that together, here. It’s a lot of fusion cooking with my own touch and flair.”

The menu features plenty of nourishing choices that fit in with today’s growing awareness of healthier eating and healthier living.

“I use all natural meat that is smoked every night, and I get most of it locally,” said Yanek. “Everything is fresh, and most of it’s hand-made.”

The chicken and other meats arrive from Sam Yoder, just outside of Georgetown, while produce is purchased from local farmers when available, too. His food is cooked with zero trans fats, and he’s even gone all-natural with his chips and cookies.

“We offer organic salad dressings and, for our take-out, we’re using more paper, rather than plastic and Styrofoam,” he said. “We’re doing as much as we can and as much as we can afford to do. People appreciate this, and it’s really catching on in this area.”

Jon Yanek is no stranger to the customer-service scene, running a restaurant and catering career in the past. His parents had operated their own shop at the Christiana Mall, just outside of Newark, and they’ve been a great help getting Jammin Jon’s ready for its July 28 debut.

“We’re a local family supporting other local businesses,” said Jon Yanek. “That’s what it’s all about when you’re in this industry.”

Jammin Jon’s is primarily a take-out barbecue stop, but customers can enjoy their meals inside at the tiki bar or out back on the picnic tables, under the tiki umbrellas. A bright décor alongside Route 54 makes Jammin Jon’s hard to miss and an ideal stop for beach-bound traffic. But, lately, the tourists haven’t been the ones frequenting the new establishment the most.

“I’d say around 75 percent of the people coming in are locals,” said Yanek.

The restaurant will be open year-round, perhaps with the exception of the last two weeks of December and the first two weeks of January, allowing for another family trip to the Caribbean.

Their Web site, at www.jamminjons.com, is still in development, although it is nearing completion. Customers have already implemented the call-ahead feature, placing their orders for pick-up.

“Since day one,” said Yanek, “the phone has been ringing off the hook. I had sent out our menus for about a month and a half, and the phone calls have been coming in since we opened.”

By the end of this month, Yanek assures, Jammin Jon’s will have deliveries available, too.

Yanek and his family have done everything to make Jammin Jon’s a one-stop-barbecue shop for any family.

“We sell bags of ice here,” he said, “and we’ve got coolers that can keep your hot foods hot and your cold foods cold. You can just swing by and bring everything out to the beach or on the boat for a nice day with your family and friends.”

Five different packages, feeding any amount from groups of three to five to parties of 80 to 100, can be the perfect touch for a family or office gathering. Gift certificates are available, as well as hats and shirts. Fido can even pick up a special treat with each visit.

For more information or to place orders, stop into Jammin Jon’s at 38015 Fenwick Shoals Boulevard in West Fenwick Island, or call (302) 436-RIBS (436-7427).

“I’m finally living my dream,” said a satisfied Yanek. “Everything happened at the right time. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”