Joe James Gallery & Lobster Bowl Restaurant
I first visited the Gallery Joe James – Lobster Bowl Restaurant in Rio Bueno probably in the 1990s and the experience never left my mind. And, if you love art and good food, it won’t leave yours for a very long time either.
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The Joe James Experience … where art and food dine
“Hidden Secret … Had my best lobster dinner for 2018/2019. If you love art work, great food then this place should be on your to go list.” – TripAdvisor reviewer, January 2019
“Amazing food with a view … The lobster was perfectly cooked and the ambiance is amazing. 2 Adults, 1 teen and 1 child for dinner. Prior to main meal you receive soup and baked fresh hot bread that tasted so good. Ample amount of food with side dishes being served family style. Highly advise sitting outside to enjoy the view and the fresh breeze off the bay.” – TripAdvisor reviewer, January 2019
Imagine entering a rustic building brimming with history and overflowing with art.
The art is largely by Joe James, an internationally acclaimed artist who started the business in 1966, and who sadly passed away in 2018.
There is something about the space that simply stirs the soul. The art pieces which include oils, acrylics, and sculptures are both for display and sale.
Once you tear yourself away from the art, you will find yourself in a bar and indoor dining area which opens into an outdoor door terrace directly on the glorious Rio Bueno Harbour.
How did they come up with the concept for the Lobster Bowl Restaurant?
Like with many great ideas, it started by happenstance.
As it turns out, Mr. James studied art in England and was off the island for about 10 years.
He had such a fantastic reception on a return visit to Jamaica that he decided to stay. He was committed to bringing Jamaican art to areas outside of Kingston and so he settled finally in Rio Bueno.
Initially, he had a bar at his studio and art gallery. Many chefs and managers from the hotels in Ocho Rios used to stop in for drinks and the James’ would serve corned beef sandwiches.
One day, someone asked if there were any other offerings. Mrs. James made some conch soup and that was still not enough.
So, Mr. James got out five lobsters, a T-bone steak, and one 5-lb snook (fish).
Mrs. James prepared them and the rest is history. In fact, Mrs. James is still the main chef.
We visited the week before the end of lobster season in 2019. So, of course, we had to try the lobster.
We enjoyed the curried lobster, which was light and flavorful. Darrian, who could win the prize for World’s Pickiest eater, just raved about the grilled snapper fillet.
The seafood was very fresh. The restaurant supports the local fishermen who reward them with their daily catch of fish and lobster.
Everyone talks about Negril’s sunsets; but, just wait until you see the moon rise over the hills to the east casting a wonderful golden glow as it hovers over the bay.
Insider tip: If you go there for dinner, time your visit to see the rising of the moon.
Now imagine light music in the background. Hear the sound of the sea brushing against the restaurant, listen for the cooing of bald plates and ravens nesting in the nearby trees, and feel the gentle breeze as you sit outside enjoying the whole experience.
There is an indoor section of the restaurant; but, for me, sitting outside directly on the harbor is a part of the allure of the Lobster Bowl.
The restaurant remains family run by Mrs. James and her two sons. And it is clear that they are dedicated to continuing with the family’s legacy.
So, if you want to experience a little bit of authentic Jamaica, make a stop at Joe James Lobster Bowl. Even if you don’t have a meal there, the art is sure to leave you inspired.
Be sure to tell the James’ that Sherry, Darrell, and Darrian from Mais Oui Villa across the bay said hi. They will take good care of you.
They hosted the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin.
They also won the Parish Jem Award for Trelawny by the National Observer in 2015.
Questions You Might Have about Joe James Lobster Bowl Restaurant
How much did our meal cost?
The lobster was $48 and the grilled fish was $28 in March 2019. Prices are in US dollars and of course are subject to change without notice.
Where is the Lobster Bowl Restaurant?
You will need to turn off the main road and enter the town of Rio Bueno. There is a single road going through the town so you won’t get lost. The restaurant is immediately beside St. Mark’s Anglican Church, which has a distinctive light blue color.
How far is the Lobster Bowl Restaurant from Montego Bay and Ocho Rios?
Expect that it will take about 45 minutes from the Montego Bay area and about 40-45 minutes from Ocho Rios.
Are reservations required?
You may call ahead but reservations are not required.
Do they only serve seafood?
They specialize in seafood but also serve steak and chicken. As the name suggests, they are known for their lobster.
Do they serve lobster year round?
No they don’t.
Lobster season in Jamaica is open between July 1 through March 31st and closed between April 1st through June 30th.
Lobster is therefore not available in Jamaica between April 1st through June 30th annually. This period coincides with the traditional breeding season for the Caribbean spiny lobsters in Jamaican waters. The closed season is part of Jamaica’s efforts to preserve and support the lobster population in the island’s waters.
For similar reasons, conch season is closed between August 1 through December 31st. So, conch is not available during those dates.
How can you reach them with further questions?
Easy! Call them at 876-954-0048 or 876-483-9862. Contact them through Facebook. They typically respond very quickly. They have an Instagram feed as well – @thelobsterbowlja
Read this blog post to learn more about things to do in Rio Bueno, https://blog.makeitjamaica.com/rio-bueno-jamaica/
If you are visiting Jamaica and are looking for a large villa in Ocho Rios Jamaica region, look no further than the 8-bedroom Mais Oui Villa in Discovery Bay, offering the best of both worlds – close to not only the attractions of Ocho Rios but also to those in other nearby regions like Rio Bueno-Falmouth, 30 minutes closer to Montego Bay’s airport than Ocho Rios, but without all the crowds and hustle and bustle of a large town.
‘Til next time.
Think and dream Jamaica!
Sherry, Darrell, and Darrian
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