These Flavorful Foods Highlight the Best of the Caribbean — No Passport Required

All it takes is a stroll through the streets of the Crown Heights and Flatbush neighborhoods to catch the vibe. Spiced smoke from grills wafts in the air; sidewalk markets overflow with mango, soursop, wiri-wiri peppers, and djondjon (dried black mushrooms); and homes and cars display flags as bright and joyful as the accented voices of the people who proudly represent them. 

Brooklyn is home to the largest population of Caribbean people outside of the islands themselves. To immerse yourself in the borough’s diaspora, pay a visit to these cafés, restaurants, and bars.

Aunts et Uncles

Husband-and-wife duo Mike and Nicole Nicholas have created an all-in-one destination in Flatbush: café, bar, and lifestyle shop. Browse the curated books, art, and accessories, then sit down for thoughtful vegan interpretations of Caribbean food, like a classic “bake and saltfish” stuffed with perfectly seasoned heart of palm, or the “chicken samich,” a fan favorite featuring crispy oyster mushroom in a spicy maple-syrup sauce. The patty beautifully mimics the satisfying crunch of real fried chicken and has bewildered even the best of foodies who’ve stopped by. The mushrooms are tenderly coated in a special gluten-free batter: a loving mix of chickpea flour and one of their secret house rubs. “The goal will always be to enhance the authenticity and nutritional profile of our dishes without compromising on flavor or the joy of eating, with an ode to the Caribbean. When people think of Aunts et Uncles years from now we hope it repeatedly brings them to the beautiful memory of spaces in which they’ve laughed, lived, loved and thrived,” says co-owner, Nicole Nicholas.

Aunts et Uncles.

From left: Lucia Bell Epstein/Courtesy of Aunts et Uncles; Courtesy of Aunts et Uncles

Lakou Cafe

Cassandre Davilmar, the owner of this Haitian bistro in Crown Heights, wanted to create a communal space inspired by the traditional Haitian “lakou” or courtyard. The result is a warm and inviting Caribbean retrieve that boasts an alfresco ambiance with glossy wooden tables, woven light fixtures, and vibrant and funky splashes of green and yellow hues bathed in abundant natural light. On the walls, are incredible art pieces showcasing local talent. Lakou has become a beloved neighborhood gathering space for movie nights, musical performances, art exhibitions, wellness events, and more. Highlights include classic plates like kreyol shrimp, cooked in stewed peppers, onions, and tomatoes and served with rice, plus the cashew brittle and ginger lemonade.

Lakou Café.

Courtesy of Lakou Cafe

Island Pops

One day in 2014, Shelly Marshall was craving soursop ice cream, a favorite from her native Trinidad. Her husband, Khalid Hamid, tried out a home recipe: it wasn’t perfect, but the couple realized they’d stumbled onto something. They started selling Island Pops at local markets, before opening their brick-and-mortar shop in Crown Heights in 2018. Now they serve a variety of treats, like sorrel-rum sorbet, guava-cheesecake ice cream, and passion-fruit popsicles. 

Island Pops.

Courtesy of Island Pops

The Rum Bar BK

Garnett Phillip, a Trinidadian-Ethiopian entrepreneur who calls herself “The Rum Girl,” opened her first bar, the Rogers Garden, in Flatbush in the summer of 2020. It was an instant hit, and her follow-​up, The Rum Bar BK, debuted in Crown Heights in May 2023. With an expansive back deck, it’s one of the neighborhood’s best summer hangouts. Order the oxtail fritters and the Soufrière Painkiller, or sample one of the top-shelf rums (Phillip stocks bottles from nearly every Caribbean island).

The Rum Bar BK.

Courtesy of The Rum Bar BK

A & A Bake & Doubles Shop

On the border of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, this James Beard award-winning Trinidadian food shop specializes in Indo-Caribbean cuisine and snacks. Almost daily find the owners, Noel and Geeta Brown, in their shop playing soca and reggae music, and serving up a delightful array of offerings for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, including  their famous Trini doubles– a fluffy fried dough filled with curried chickpeas and an array of sauces, including tamarind, pepper, and chadon beni, a cilantro-like herb.

Kokomo NYC

From its initial debut during the height of the pandemic, Kokomo remains one of the most elevated Caribbean dining experiences in all of NYC. Ria and Kevol Graham, the husband and wife hospitality duo, aimed to encapsulate the vibrant essence of the Caribbean within Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood using inspiration from Ria’s Trinidadian and Grenadian heritage. Coconut-curry mussels, Jamaican jerk shrimp and ackee flatbread, and rum-raisin bread pudding are the best orders at this elevated Williamsburg restaurant. The couple has also recently extended their empire by opening OxKale, a vegan Caribbean take-out eatery, and plan to open Bait & Bow, a new French Caribbean steak and seafood concept later in 2024.

Puerto Viejo

This Dominican bistro in Prospect Heights, opened in 1986 by owner Cristina Abreu, has cemented its status as a beloved local spot by serving up national favorites like pernil (slow-cooked pork shoulder) and bacalao guisado (salt-cod stew). and a traditional chimi burger, topped with chopped cabbage and salsa golf, a mayo-and-tomato sauce, that is a standout on the menu. “This is a literal extension of our home kitchen,” says Maritza Abreu, Cristina’s daughter, who has followed in her mother’s footsteps as CEO/Founder of the popular spice line Pisqueya.

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