With endless rice and peas and a constant stream of tunes from home, our local mom-and-pop Caribbean restaurants will always be on speed dial. But across America, a new generation of Caribbean-American chefs are taking our cuisine to new (and delicious) heights, from epic rum bars to fine dining meccas. These talented chefs are interpreting traditional dishes and ingredients from your grandmother’s kitchen in ways that are unexpected, but always authentic. For your dining pleasure, we’ve lined up some of our essential picks for creative Caribbean cuisine in America.
Kith and Kin – Washington D.C.
This fine-dining spot proudly describes their menu as Afro-Caribbean, offering an inventive mix of flavors and ingredients that spans the diaspora. Tapping into his cultural roots in Jamaica, Trinidad, Nigeria and Creole Louisiana, it’s a natural fit for Chef Kwame Onwuachi, who rose to fame on Top Chef, and recently shared his talents at the famed James Beard Foundation. Caribbean foodies will find familiar dishes, from fierce oxtail stews to artfully curled escovitch fish, plus plenty flavors that will take you back to the motherland.
Food Sermon – Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn has long been the hub for neighborhood Caribbean eateries, with food that’s always authentic and affordable. Hailing from St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Chef Rawlston Williams offers that same community feeling at his Brooklyn spot, with a modern and healthy twist on Caribbean fare. True to classic Caribbean joints, you pick your own fixings, like whole lamb shank, rice and peas and a bounty of beautiful veggies that would make any Ital eater joyful.
Negril Village ATL – Atlanta, GA
Something’s always happening at Atlanta’s hottest Caribbean hotspot, helmed by Jamerican restaurateur Sim Walker. True to its surroundings, the menu mixes island spice with southern comfort – think jerk chicken and waffles or cornbread with guava butter. Their stunning bar is also packed with imaginative cocktails like sorrel margaritas. Special marks also go to its beautiful interior – a restored 1907 firehouse filled with Caribbean Georgian detail.
Compère Lapin – New Orleans, LA
Another delicious restaurant from a Top Chef Alum. St. Lucian native Nina Compton offers an elegant blend of Creole soul and Caribbean flavors at Compère Lapin (which means “Brother Rabbit” in English – an ode to shared Southern and Caribbean folktales). You see this fusion in her conch croquettes, curry sweet potato gnocchi and pork tenderloin with plantain crema and charred okra. No wonder Compton was named Best Chef in the South this year by the James Beard Foundation.
Solomon & Kuff Rum Hall – New York, NY
This spot from restaurateur Karl Franz Williams (whose family hails from St. Vincent & the Grenadines) is a must-see for all rum-heads. They offer over 100 international rums, (including everything good from the Caribbean), which are also mixed into Williams’ artisanal cocktails. Though the drink menu is epic, never sleep on the food. Queens native, Chef Rudy Straker, rules the kitchen, bringing his Bajan and Cuban roots to his delectable dishes. Highlights include red grouper and roasted breadfruit, pulled jerk pork in coco bread and heavenly yucca fries.
Patois Toronto – Toronto, Canada
So yes, you will need to cross borders for this, but we have to big up this Toronto establishment for their eclectic mix of Caribbean and Asian flavors. Think jerk chow mein, curry goat doubles and crab and cod rundown. We wouldn’t expect anything less from Chef Craig Wong, who’s family is third-generation Chinese-Jamaican.