The history of the food at a Caribbean restaurant is steeped in culinary mash-ups. It welcomes experimentation but treasures traditional favorites, and it encourages the best attitude from its chefs and patrons. These qualities make the Caribbean food scene indispensable to locals and tourists alike. How can anyone resist the savory blend of soul food with chicken roti? Or Jerk seafood with hand-crafted rum cocktails in NYC? Whether you're looking for cheap eats or freewheeling with your wallet, New York's Caribbean restaurant scene has something just for you.
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Best Caribbean restaurants in NYC
With a head chef hailing from Kingston and a juicing guru bearing serious street cred, Jamaican restaurant Miss Lily's has proved that it's more than a flash in the pan. It's perfect for a brunch of authentic island favorites like ackee, saltfish sautéed callaloo and ripe plantains or for enjoying a nightcap with friends over a pitcher of Lily's Punch (Wray and Nephew rum mixed with pineapple, cranberry and orange juice). The East Village location boasts a stunning interior of sun-kissed colors and easygoing vibes, all seemingly imported straight from the Caribbean.
Head uptown to experience the palette-buzzing delights dished out from the kitchen of Guyana native Marlyn Rogers. Since 1995, Sisters has built a reputation for its unique merging of traditional down-home soul food with Trinidadian staples. Why not try the mouthwatering codfish with a side of vegetable collared greens followed by Sisters' famous pineapple cornbread? Also, Rogers take pride in ensuring each customer is greeted with genuine, unaffected hospitality. It's like going back to Mama's kitchen for a meal.
Brooklyn is home to many fine West Indian food joints, but none are quite as unassuming and filled with savory, slow-roasted grub as the Islands is. Tucked in a slim, intimate space just north of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, its jerk chicken and seafood make for perfect post-garden-strolling meals. Expertly spiced, tender and surprisingly grease-free, the jerk chicken is a customer favorite. And it's a BYOB restaurant, so don't forget your own sixer of Red Stripe for the complete experience.
The Food Sermon's signature bowl is a multicultural masterpiece, appropriate for the most ardent carnivore or passionate vegetarian. The build-your-own menu is coolly efficient, offering just four protein items, two sauces, brown or white rice and chickpeas or red beans. But don't let the lean offerings dissuade you: No matter your selections, your bowl will be chock-full of either succulent braised lamb, halal jerk chicken, panko crusted salmon or pan seared tofu. Chef Williams, a St. Vincent and the Grenadines native, continually seeks to redefine and extend his customers' understanding of Caribbean food.
Nestled in a neighborhood boasting dozens of Caribbean restaurants, its recent transformation from sandwich shop to full-blown dining establishment is a sight to behold. For brunch, you enter a dining room flooded with natural and effervescent light aided by broad windows facing Franklin Avenue. At nighttime, it's the perfect setting to enjoy the Dark n' Slushie, beverage director Shannon Mustipher's dazzling take on a traditional dark and stormy. Dinner-wise, it's hard to bet against the oxtail stew or the smoky, wood-fired jerk half-chicken.
Freda's is a multigenerational, homespun affair on the Upper West Side. Have a seat in the comfortable, brick-walled dining room and chow down on generous portions of Caribbean and soul-inspired dishes that take up your entire plate. Each island-inflected entree includes two ample side dishes, and whether it's the brown stew chicken with sweet candied yams and collard greens or the jerk shrimp with curry potatoes and chickpeas and callalloo, Freda's makes sure you leave feeling satisfied.
Put on your best floral button-up and head to the Door before boarding your flight from JFK to the tropics. Located less than two miles from the airport, this place is known for its rich (and ritzy) Caribbean atmosphere. But don't let the intimate lighting or fine tablecloths intimidate you: The Door is easy on the wallet and the eyes, and it employs a welcoming staff while serving island favorites like curried chicken and escovitch snapper.
Newly opened in 2015, Pearl's has kept Williamsburg's foodie scene buzzing. Go for the boozy bottomless brunch on weekend afternoons, where you can indulge in mango or guava Bellinis in a lush, vibrant setting. (Be sure to arrive early, because the small dining area becomes crowded fast.) Don't leave without trying the Bake and Shark sandwich, brimming with fried shark and tamarind, chadon beni and garlic sauce, pickled slaw and mango chutney. The vibes are sunny, the music loud and the experience unforgettable.
Need some grub in Harlem?
Would you like a side of art with your meal? Every visit to Nha Minh in Williamsburg comes with a dose of the art world, since the restaurant regularly hosts exhibitions for local artists like oil painter Steph Terao and photographer Beth Perkins. Don’t get so caught up in the art on the walls that you ignore the menu of modern Vietnamese cuisine, though. For breakfast, you might order a grain bowl topped with vegetables of the day and a fried egg or two ($10.50 for one egg, $11 for two). Need more protein? Add-ons like asparagus seitan ($2), house-cured salmon ($5) and smoked Vietnamese ham ($5) allow you to customize your bowl to your heart’s content. Other menu items include an adzuki bean tempeh sandwich with hijiki seaweed, pickled carrots, daikon radish and avocado spread on herbed focaccia ($11), a smoked trout bun served with vermicelli rice noodles and vegetables ($13) and scallion egg noodle pancakes ($6).
Venue says: “Vietnamese American Restaurant and Coffee Shop that hosts Art Shows!”