June is Caribbean American Heritage Month in the US, a time to celebrate the community’s year-round impact on local culture. A large Caribbean population, especially from Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, has made the five boroughs home, bringing their countries’ music, fashion and, perhaps most obviously, food to the five boroughs. It’s not uncommon for community residents to debate who has the best beef patty or doubles or jerk chicken, the way many New Yorkers do about their favorite pizza slice.
To get everyone in on the conversation, we’ve listed 10 of the best Caribbean dine-in restaurants in New York City, in no particular order; read on to get a taste of the flavor and plan your next meal out.
65 Kent Ave., Williamsburg, BrooklynArt deco meets island maximalism at this chic, festive Caribbean restaurant. Husband-and-wife owners Kevol and Ria Graham brought their years of experience in the restaurant and nightlife industries as well as their Caribbean roots—Jamaican for Kevol, Trinidadian and Grenadian for Ria—to create Kokomo. Paired with a few impeccably made island-inspired cocktails, the sounds of dancehall, soca, zouk and Afrobeats play at a decibel just high enough to encourage dancing in your chair as you dive into perfectly seasoned jerk chicken with rice and peas. Enjoy their bottomless brunch on weekends, including Fridays in summertime.
Courtesy, Omar’s Kitchen and Rum Bar
29A Clinton St., Lower East Side, Manhattan Decked out with vibrant hand-lettered art, murals, neon signs and upcycled art packaging from Wray & Nephew and Appleton Estate, this small but lively restaurant conjures up the dancehall scene in Jamaica. The bartenders know how to make a well-balanced cocktail: try the Shotta Love Story, with cognac, soursop and passion fruit, or the Jamaica Mule, which mixes ginger beer, Ting (grapefruit soda), bitters, lime and Appleton rum. For your main, go for the coconut curry oxtail—a spin on the usual Caribbean oxtail, which is brown stewed—or Chilean sea bass. Or stop by for their bottomless mimosa brunch on weekends, when the menu includes items such as an escovitch catfish sandwich.
1206 Nostrand Ave., Flatbush, Brooklyn; 286 Spring St., Soho, Manhattan Opened in February 2020, Zanmi stands out among the sea of Caribbean restaurants in Flatbush for a number of reasons. There’s the colorful mural of a woman in carnival attire on the exterior, the floor-to-ceiling front windows that allow sunlight to bounce off of the minimalist, elegant décor and, most important, the food—authentic, robust in flavor and representative of Haitian cuisine and culture. Try the branzino (marinated for three days before cooking), the pork griot sandwiches or the soup jomou, a squash soup typically only served on New Year’s Day in Haitian households (the anniversary of Haiti’s independence). The Soho location opened last year.
Courtesy, Negril Village
70 W. 3rd St., Greenwich Village, Manhattan; 256 5th Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn Negril Village is one of the longest-running dine-in Caribbean restaurants in Manhattan. Steps away from Washington Square Park, it has an energy worthy of its outdoor neighbor thanks in part to a DJ who spins island tunes. Guests adhere to the upscale casual dress code and come to nosh on Jamaican specialties such as jerk wings, brown stew chicken and tamarind glazed barbecue ribs.
Courtesy, Lips Café
1412 Nostrand Ave., Flatbush, Brooklyn Mother-and-son duo Donna and Jamane Weekes opened shop in the heart of Flatbush in late 2019. Their spot offers American café staples—espresso drinks, bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches—and, as the family is from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, island dishes particular to the region like bake and saltfish, jerk salmon wraps and rice bowls served with callaloo (coconut-crème-simmered greens), fried plantain, steamed cabbage and a choice of protein, including a vegan option with divine curried chickpeas. Lips serves as a gathering spot for the local creative community, with regular events such as fashion shows, open mic nights and art shows (check their for those).
1197 Flatbush Ave., Flatbush, Brooklyn Relatively new to the scene, Ariapita serves cuisine from sister islands Trinidad and Tobago. While most restaurants that represent T&T focus on the cuisine of Trinidad, this one also highlights the cuisine from Tobago. The two islands share a lot of dishes in common such as pelau (a one-pot dish with rice, pigeon peas, meat and spices), buss up shut (shredded paratha roti) and stewed meats, which are all on the menu, but here you’ll also find curry crab and dumpling, for which Tobago is known. Highlights also include Chinese-style chicken and whole stewed fish, prepared the way “Chef Picky” (Osei Blackett) remembers it back home on the island.
238 Flatbush Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn This decades-old community fixture was one of the first dine-in Caribbean restaurants to open in Brooklyn. Cozy in size, it’s a great spot for date night, catching up with a couple of friends or watching the game at the bar. The space fills up quickly so be sure to make a reservation. Go for the braised oxtail with macaroni pie at dinner, or come for happy hour (Monday–Friday, 5–7pm), when potent cocktails with Caribbean flair, such as the sorrel colada and sorrel margarita, are discounted.
Courtesy, Imani Caribbean Kitchen
271 Adelphi St., Fort Greene, Brooklyn A favorite of on-the-scene New Yorkers, this Caribbean eatery is in a corner brownstone (with ample outdoor seating) on a strip of hip restaurants on DeKalb Avenue. Highlights on the menu include ackee and saltfish spring rolls, which puts Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish, in a fried egg-roll wrap, and steamed snapper in a broth with okra and other veggies. Their rum punch, made with Jamaica’s Wray & Nephew rum, does pack a punch and is half-off during happy hour.
163-07 Baisley Blvd., Jamaica, Queens Serving authentic, traditional Jamaican food in an upscale environment, The Door is a staple for those in Southeast Queens and beyond. Many New Yorkers find their way here in search of delicious dishes such as oxtail, escovitch fish and buttered lobster. On Thursday evenings check out the seafood and chicken buffet; on Sunday mornings there’s a breakfast buffet. Just 10 minutes (by car) from JFK Airport, this is a great first or last stop on a trip to New York City.
Miss Lily’s 7A Cafe. Photo: Daniel Krieger
109 Avenue A, East Village, Manhattan Come dressed fashion-forward but also ready to eat at Miss Lily’s. Although both the exterior and interior of the restaurant make for Instagrammable moments—bright paint, checkered floors, patterned wallpaper, wraparound bar with high stools—the food and drink are front and center. Try the cod fish fritters, curry shrimp or one of their daily specials: Monday’s all-you-can-eat jerk (chicken, pork and ribs) fest and Tuesday’s jerk crab boil are good options.