07 Jul A Taste of the Islands: 10 Caribbean Restaurants to Visit in New York
In a city as wonderfully overflowing with restaurants as New York City is, which quintessential cuisine defines the area? People often mention pizza, bagels, or Chinese food, which are all valid, coming from kitchens from distant lands. A little more local would be the Caribbean. The movement of folks to the NYC metro area from places like Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad has a long history going back hundreds of years and still going strong. As they set up their communities in the five boroughs, they also add their heritage culture to the area — and that includes the food!
Caribbean kitchens have been popping up all over this town for decades. Tantalizing aromas waft from these restaurants and food trucks, drawing salivating palates to savor the unique blend of native spices gracing everything from tropical produce to fresh fish. Their impact on New York’s culinary culture is unmatched. You can find everything from Creole to Dominican to Jerk Chicken spots on every corner. In a word, Caribbean influence has made these gastronomical customs a staple in the Big Apple.
With Black Restaurant Week upon us, it’s time to highlight many of these Black-owned eateries in New York and take our taste of the bountiful bequest being served upon our bellies! While these magical chefs always have access to the authentic ingredients of their Caribbean homelands, keep an eye out for the innovators who are leveling up their menu items by mixing modern creativity with the soul of their foods. Ready to take a bite out of the islands? Then check out these 10 amazing NYC Caribbean hotspots!
About a block away from the Wyckoff House Museum in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood, Yolie’s has been serving Haitian dishes since 2009. Enjoy breakfast Monday through Saturday featuring cornmeal only or saltfish, cow foot, and beef liver. Main courses include stewed chicken, fried pork, stewed vegetables, fried goat, and stewed fish, all served with rice, plantains, or salad. You’ll also find conch, okra and beef, pumpkin soup, fried dumplings, and fried plantains.
A proud “gem on Restaurant Row,” Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine specializes in recipes from Dominica, Jamaica, Antigua, St. Thomas, and Trinidad — all cultivated through generations. The patties (veggie, chicken, shrimp, or codfish) come with a side of sweet chili sauce, but you can pad these starters into a meal with a side of callaloo, coconut rice and peas, jasmine rice, or sweet plantains. The full menu includes coconut shrimp, coconut salmon, curry chicken, Escovitch, Jerk chicken, and more. Passing through the vibrant entrance with a mural of teal, green, and yellow definitely puts you in an island mood.
Head over to Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood for a toast of the islands featuring wines, craft and bottled beers, and creative signature cocktails, such as the Spicy Meg, a blend of Mount Gay Eclipse Rum, pineapple liqueur, pineapple juice, orange juice, cream de coco, and nutmeg. Other names to note are Ella, which mixes The Botanist Gin, rosemary syrup, lemon juice, and hibiscus syrup; Junelee, with Hennessy Cognac, all spice dram, pineapple juice, orgeat, coconut cream, and lime juice; and the Zombie, with D’USSÉ Cognac, BACARDÍ Reserva Ocho, Banane Du Brésil liqueur, demerara syrup, and lime juice.
This Caribbean restaurant in Brooklyn combines “nostalgia, libations, and music” just steps from Bushwick Inlet Park and the waterfront. Diners rave about the reggae oldies, chic decor, large wine list and portions, and outdoor dining. Brunch features unlimited mimosas for 90 minutes on Fridays and bites such as oxtail flatbread, sweet plantain pancakes, Caribbean spiced lamb, and a fried fish sandwich with spicy pickled cabbage slaw. Dinner offers vegan jackfruit tacos with refried beans, coconut curry mussels, a coconut-lime salmon filet, and an Angus beef “Calypso burger” with gruyere and grilled pineapple. Reservations are recommended because this place is hopping.
This Afro-Caribbean fusion restaurant in Midtown East celebrates the cuisine of West and East Africa, along with “our compatriots” in the Caribbean and the Americas. The menu is full of aromatic combos, such as coconut fried rice cooked in coconut milk with coconut oil and vegetables, full red snapper in a tomato and onion stew, and fried yellow or green plantains.
Established in 2016 in the Rosedale section of Queens, Breezes has an extensive menu of tropical tastes. Sample the codfish fritters with homemade dipping sauce or empanadas stuffed with curry shrimp, oxtail, or pineapple Jerk chicken. Move on to Breezes Famous Jerk Berger, lobster mac and cheese, or Jerk shrimp and grits; or dive into heartier fare such as sweet chili chicken, “meat lovers” oxtail, curry goat, or Escovitch snapper. Leave room for desserts such as sweet potato pudding or Breezes fruit cake. Toast a new week at Sunday brunch, with unlimited rum punch alongside the chicken and waffles.
Peppa’s has been cooking up Jerk chicken, Escovitch fish, and other Jamaican favorites in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood since 1995. Drop by for lunch specials such as Jerk chicken, curry chicken, or stew chicken, or settle in for dinner featuring oxtail, curry goat, Jerk chicken, curry chicken, Escovitch fish, and more. Round out your meal with authentic sides such as rice and beans seasoned with coconut milk and scotch bonnet peppers, festival (sweet fried dough), fried plantains, mac salad prepared with mixed vegetables, steamed cabbage, or French fries.
Caribbean food fuses with Asian cuisine in this lively Brooklyn restaurant near Kings Highway in Flatbush. Sample the Bao Buns filled with Berry Jerk short rib, mango habanero shrimp, or orange-Thai chili-grilled chicken. Move on to the Saki-braised oxtail or the Marley Medley, a vegetarian dish of chickpeas, pumpkin, sweet potato, and mixed vegetables in a red curry sauce. Don’t miss the weekend seafood brunches featuring salmon cakes, sweet porridge cooked in coconut milk with blueberries, rum raisin French toast, and fried lobster with waffles.
Head Chef Sherman Grant, who was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago serves up delicious Caribbean flavors at this Brooklyn cafe. Savannah Cafe offers a warm and friendly atmosphere, indoor and outdoor dining, with a variety of dishes from the twin island of Trinidad and Tobago. Try the Calypso Shrimp-Grilled for a seafood dish that is drenched in a sweet and spicy secret sauce and served over mashed potatoes. Pair it with the Zesser a delicious sorrel rum punch that will surely have you feeling like you are at carnival.
Named after community cultural spaces in Haiti, Lakou’s colorful and funky ambiance is warm and inviting. With loads of vegan options like the Jerk Jack sandwich or meatball favorite Vegan Boulette Plate, this is a place that welcomes everyone. Or you can stick with traditional items like Epis Roasted Chicken and Kreyol Shrimp Plate.