Matthew Bent doesn’t mind being known as the “jerk” of the Freeport Nautical Mile.
He wears the label with pride as the co-owner of “Jerk on the Water,” the waterfront Jamaican spot that he and his wife Katherine opened in late May.
“I actually do call myself the jerk on the water,” said Bent, 36, who grew up in Elmont and Dix Hills. “Ideally, I want to get a boat and call it ‘Jerk on the Water.’”
From jerk chicken to jerk pork to jerk lobster tail, there are plenty of savory Jamaican jerk dishes on the menu at the Woodcleft Avenue business, which is one of the newest additions to the Nautical Mile, the strip of restaurants, bars and shops along the Freeport waterfront.
“We’re local Freeporters and it’s a place I always used to go to as a kid growing up,” said Bent, who is of Jamaican descent and whose father and uncles worked in Jamaican restaurants in Brooklyn. “The thought of opening a restaurant is a lifelong thing I’ve always wanted to do.”
How it started
The shift to co-owning an eatery came after a decade-and-a-half in the wireless communications industry, where Bent worked as a leadership trainer for entry-level managers and C-suite executives.
“I’m pretty much taking my corporate experience and applying it to my own business — I love both,” Bent said. “Just working for myself gives me the autonomy to do different things and I knew I had to pull the trigger at some point if I was going to do this.”
That moment finally arrived a few months back, when Jerk on the Water opened.
“It feels like a quick little lunchtime escape from reality, you kind of feel like you’re in the Caribbean for however long you’re there,” he said. “We play classical reggae music, bring that island vibe.”
Bent said the island vibe extends beyond traditional Jamaican cuisine, with a team of chefs working to create “fusion” menu items.
“They come with years of experience cooking all types of cuisine — from Jamaican to American to Asian to Indian cuisine,” he said. “We’re experimenting in our kitchen every day, pretty much putting our flair on the food, whatever it is.
“It’s one big boiling pot.”
The takeout window on the two-story building at 165 Woodcleft Ave. is in a location that Bent and his wife hope will attract those on the water.
“It’s a nice little pull-up spot if you’re a boater,” he said. “You can pull your boat right up to the docking spot and walk up.”
The couple also hope to build a strong local following as well as one online, where social media posts and videos are sometimes signed “Your Local Jerks.”
“The summertime, we’ve been bumping, it’s a summer nighttime spot,” said Bent. whose place is open from noon to 11 p.m. daily during the warmer months. “What we’re really trying to do right now is focus on our local traffic and get a following from the community for great, quality food.”
If you go
“Jerk on the Water” is at 165 Woodcleft Ave. in Freeport. It is open Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 9 p.m. and on weekends from noon to 10 p.m. During the summer, it’s open daily from noon to 11 p.m.
Top: The owners of Jerk on the Water, Matthew Bent and his wife Katherine, tinside their new restaurant in Freeport. (Credit: Instagram)