It’s no surprise that West Indian food (Caribbean fare), which is heavily influenced by Chinese restaurants, West African grub and Indian restaurants’ cuisine, boasts some of the most flavorful dishes this side of the equator. If you’re looking to satisfy your savory tooth with a handheld beef patty snack or a mountain of tongue-tingling curry, thankfully, you won’t have to travel too far to find them. With West Indian enclaves throughout Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, it’s fairly easy to find restaurants, steam tables and lunch counters dishing out the city’s tastiest curries, stews and roti—you just have to know where to look to treat yourself to a Caribbean-style staycation.
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Best West Indian food in NYC
No visit to the Brooklyn Museum would be complete without a trip to the Islands—the restaurant, that is. Specializing in hearty Jamaican fare, this pint-size BYOB restaurant is lauded by locals and interlopers alike for its colossal portions of rich, creamy curry goat, savory-sweet calypso shrimp and a showstopping fall-off-the-bone jerk chicken so well spiced it’ll leave you wondering how you ever survived a day (or hangover) without it.
Crowds flock to this Crown Heights mainstay for authentic (and inexpensive) Trinidadian eats. Take the ubiquitous buss-up shot (aka Paratha)—a light-and-flaky layered roti that resembles a busted-up shirt, hence the colloquial “buss-up shot.” Gloria serves her buss-up with any menu item of choice, from pumpkin to oxtail, but you can never go wrong with the classic starch-laden comfort that is potato and channa—an aromatic mass of curry-spiced tubers and chickpeas for a jaw-droppingly cheap $5.50.
With three locations spanning the city, it’s safe to say that Miss Lily’s has officially graduated from Manhattan scene to NYC institution. While the juice bar and cafe offer tasty, West Indian staples like hot pepper shrimp and Blue Mountain coffee, when it comes to Big Apple dynasties, nothing beats the flagship. Head to West Houston Street and treat yourself to a Caribbean-style staycation, indulging in mouth-tingling goat curry, crispy festivals, toasted coconut cake and a gorgeous staff to boot.
This corner sandwich canteen turned Caribbean hot spot boasts a simple yet well-seasoned menu appealing to meat-lovers and vegans alike. Carnivores delight in the bold smokiness of chef Michael Jacober’s wood-fired Jamaican-spiced pork, celebrated as one of our 100 best dishes in NYC, while vegans feel the heat from allspice and chili-rubbed jerk seitan. Whatever your pleasure, be sure to wash it all down with a Cuban-inspired Canchanchara rum punch sweetened with passion fruit, honey syrup and lime.
Although the name may fool you, Freda’s is more Caribbean than soul. The proof is in the pudding, as menu favorites include a requisite West Indian plate of aromatic oxtail, coconut-y garlic-charged callaloo and fried sweet plantains. Just make sure to call ahead, because once Freda sells out, Freda closes shop.
No need to change your morning routine—despite its name, this Trinidadian counter serves up pan-island eats until 10pm (and until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays). Come hungry, and fill up on buttery soft house-made roti overflowing with succulent curry goat and turmeric-tinted potatoes. Just reserve some roti to mop up the ever-anticipated eruption of smooth curry.
The Food Sermon Kitchen encourages you to treat your body like a temple, slinging its signature Island Bowl—a highly customizable macrobiotic layering of protein, rice and beans that’s been smothered in your choice of creamy coconut ginger or lively spiced tomato sauce.
This Bed-Stuy stalwart specializes in two things: bake and (you guessed it) doubles. The former is a handheld fried dough bun stuffed with salt fish or fried sand shark and topped with a tangy-sweet tamarind sauce. And the latter? Well, let’s just say doubles are the best buck-fifty you’ll ever spend. These Trinidadian snacks are built on a base of deep fried dough, or bara, wrapped around a savory potato-channa curry. Don’t forget a side of extra napkins.
Tucked away just off the hustle and bustle of Church Ave, you’ll find a pocket-size storefront marked by a counter lined with thick glass windows where women dole out some of the tastiest bakes in Brooklyn. Although special bakes change daily, the bake and salt fish, or buljol, is a common feature. A squeeze of sweet tamarind and a dab of pepper sauce add a zippy kick to the chopped cod-onion-cilantro mixture.
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“Brazilian” and “pizzeria” aren’t two words you would normally hear next to one another, but together they make the perfect descriptor for Casa Theodoro in Woodside. Though the restaurant does offer Italian pizzas such as margherita ($15 for a small, $18 for a large) and prosciutto and arugula ($15 for a small, $20 for a large), let’s be honest: You’re here for the more novel Brazilian options. Try the carne seca pizza with jerk beef, onions, tomato and cream cheese, the a moda de casa with cheese, ham, corn, bacon and cream cheese or the strogonoff with cheese, chicken, pink sauce, potato sticks and mushrooms (each $12 for a small, $19 for a large). The menu also includes Brazilian appetizers like dadinhos de tapioca, or tapioca-cheese squares ($8), and calabresa acebolada, a smoked sausage and onion dish ($6), in addition to classics like chicken fingers ($5) and garlic knots ($2). Finish the meal with a dessert pizza topped with Nutella and marshmallow or condensed milk, coconut and nuts (each $12).
Venue says: “Call now to place your reservation or delivery order!”