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Best Caribbean Food in Florida?

This is for a greatest hits list. Interested in places statewide, all kinds of Caribbean cuisine. I don't know of many great ones here in the Tampa Bay area. In Ybor City, Cephas's Hot Shop was good before the fire. In north Tampa, Tara's Roti shop was solid but just closed down. I've heard good things about a newer place in St. Pete.

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  1. So, what countries are we considering? The Dominican, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica? Once we get a list of Caribbean countries commonly defined, I will start to fill in some restaurants.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Mootsarell

      Sad to hear Tara's Roti Shop closed. LOVED that place.

      1. re: maladrin

        Sorry to bump an old post but in case people are interested, Tara's Roti Shop is open - I just ate there on Friday. It was yummy - my favorite proper Jamaican Roti in Tampa so far. I have never been there before so I don't know if this is a reopening or what, or how much it has changed, but in any case it is cheap and open and is on 30th st a few blocks north of Busch.

    2. Mootsarell has brought up a good point. I define Caribbean food by what is NOT included: I exclude Cuba and mainland central america. Let's include Puerto Rico, tho I'm sure its inclusion is debatable. I know this definition includes a very wiode swath, but I've found a lack of good Caribbean restaurants. The ones i've visited are often plagued by sketchy hours, lackluster service and a wide variance in food quality. I'm looking for the real deal all over this fine state of ours.

      In Tampa, Jerk Hut does a pretty good job as well.

      1 Reply
      1. Well I will lay down the major countries to consider then. I am leaving off Cuba because it is deserving of its own topic. Puerto Rico is also probably deserving of its own, but as long as no one from Orlando reads this we should be ok :). So, the major caribbean countries for this post are:

        The Dominican Republic
        Puerto Rico

        There is also a list of about 20 countries that are smaller with less prevalent cuisines here in the US, but they can be found easily on wikipedia under the section "present day island territories": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caribbean

        1 Reply
        1. re: Mootsarell

          We like Aunti I's quite a bit. Their Ginger Beer alone is worth the trip.
          Locations: http://auntis.net/_wsn/page4.html


        2. In the "food hub of Jacksonville" there are the following:

          El Taino-Puerto Rican.

          Puerto Plata-Dominican.

          That's it for those two countries in Jacksonville. No competiton for these two.
          I will look around for the jamaican and haitian places. I know there are a few jamaican places, haitian may be a stretch. I will report back.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Mootsarell


            I am really glad that you raised this topic. If we are including Puerto Rican food, the only thing I have to say is Mi Pueblo. I just love that place. Even though it's a cafeteria, the food is always fresh and delicious. Everyone knows that they serve jibaritos, right? If you don't know what I am talking about, a jibarito is a steak sandwich with fried plantains serving as the bread. La Lechonera is good. I liked La Casona Carribena but I have had bad luck with hours and such. My real interest in this topic is Jamican, specifically jerk chicken. I have to say that I cannot accept the Jerk Hut's chicken as jerk chicken. How can a sweet red sauce qualify as jerk sauce? For my tastes, when it comes to jerk sauce it's gotta be dark, hot, and vinegary. There was a good carribean place on Cypress called Calabash that had just this type of sauce but I believe they closed. The carribean place on Howard just north of 275 is not bad. I would really like to get this figured out because I need a go to place for jerk chicken and right now I am coming up empty handed. I noticed carribean places on Nebraska (2) and another on Columbus recently. I guess it is time to do some exploring.

            1. re: CFishman

              I find this issue rather fascinating. Is there a Caribbean restaurant culture in the U.S.? I've had some of my worst dining experiences at Caribbean restaurants. I've been ignored. I've ordered a pattie and watched the servers sell all of them to newcomers and then tell me that they're fresh out. I once could not get a spoon or a glass of water despite asking multiple times. Golden Touch Restaurant in Tampa, now gone, was the worst offender, even after multiple visits. Service markedly improved if i visited the restaurant with a friend of darker complexion. Sometimes, I can't even figure out what a restaurant's operating hours are.

              I taught a Florida foodways graduate course over the fall and one of my students wrote her paper on Caribbean food. She acknowledged that pride and gender issues often impeded restaurant development, at least according to American norms. When hounds post asking for the best Cuban food, pizza, or seafood, there comes a flood of responses. When asked about Caribbean food, we've managed three or four. I know there is good food out there, but there doesn't seem to be a Caribbean culinary cannon here in Florida, no reliable go-to places. There could be a multitude of reasons for this, but it is not due to a lack of Caribbean restaurants.

              does anyone have any thoughts on these issues? It seems to me that many Caribbean restaurants, like other immigrant businesses, are opened first and foremost to satisfy demands of their respective immigrant groups. Some Caribbean eateries are remarkable in that they aren't necessarily in business to cater to other people.

              what do we make of this? I'm still interested in restaurant recs, but this cultural issue vexes me.

              1. re: andy huse

                That's an extremely interesting hypothesis, Andy. I think there is some weight to that. Although I've never experienced the depth of issues you describe - something American diners might describe as rudeness - I have do believe there are very different conventions in Caribbean dining culture, or at least those that we see translated to traditional restaurants here. I'm not sure what I've seen I would classify as a result of skin color, as much as Caribbean eateries not having the sort of reverence for customers that some of us may be accustomed to. As a result, I think the Caribbean dining experience is a bit more intimidating, maybe even insular.

                A couple recs from my area:

                Charlie's Pastries on 441 and 13th in Lauderdale Lakes - Great beef patties and sweet, soft coco bread
                Joy's Roti, also on 441 and 14th in Lauderdale Lakes - possibly the best roti spot in Broward
                Betty's Place on Pembroke Rd. and 56th in Hollywood - Unbelievable smoked jerk chicken and ribs with a soul food slant

                I'll post some more later. :-D

                1. re: johnmlinn

                  I second the Joy's Roti recommendation.

                  1. re: johnmlinn

                    John -- since you're doing Greater Fort Lauderdale area --any recs a bit further north than Lauderdale Lakes? Craving good oxtail, flying fish (a rarity here),conch salad ...and the like. Thanks! J

                  2. re: andy huse

                    Have you ever lived in the Carribbean? I did a year in St. Thomas in the early eighties. Beautiful place, great local food--nasty people. They don't even seem to like each other. Rude is rude; no mistaking it or explaining it away. Not true of everyone, of course, but a very high surliness quotient in general. Might only be in the USVI, as the experience was much different on other islands like Nevis, St. Bart's, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, where folks were amiable and relaxed (as opposed to sullen and indolent). Sounds terrible to speak in such broad terms, but you'd probably have to spend an extended period there yourself to get the full experience. Must be all the cheap rum or something.

                    1. re: flavrmeistr

                      i've often wondered why some caribbean folks get into the restaurant business at all, based on the surliness I've seen.

              2. Andy, I will put my vote in for Island Flavors N Tings on 49th St. S. in Gulfport. Excellent food, good portions for the price, small place(only four tables).


                3 Replies
                1. re: RibDog

                  i've heard great things about that place, tho i understand they had some problems keeping their hours. I must give it a try. Thanks, John.

                  1. re: andy huse

                    I would definitely call first. But when they are there, they are shining. If you need a tagalong, give me a call.


                    1. re: RibDog

                      Hi John,
                      Thank you very much for your kind remarks. I have been having a hugh problem with my opening hours, for sure, mainly due to my not being able to find a honest hardworking staff that I can trust to represent me when I am away with the Catering side of the business. I am so disappointed with that as it is my dream to be able to do both. I wanted you to know that I am working very hard to change that. We definitely recommend calling ahead. I have plans to re-open on a more regular basis starting next week. My web site.. islandflavorsandtings.com.. with have our new hours also. I hope you will visit us then.Thank you once again.
                      Best wishes,
                      Owner, Island Flavors and Tings

                2. I'm interested in this thread -

                  There is a pretty good Jamaican place with proper Roti on Columbus around Himes - it's in a funny two-level shopping plaza on the south side of the street - I don't know the name but what I just said should get you there. I like it quite a bit, it's cheap, and the service is super-friendly. But I wouldn't be surprised if there were better Jamaican places hidden somewhere in Tampa.

                  I'm surprised that CFishman liked the place on Howard north of 275 - I had truly bad food there, with highlights such as a still-frozen Roti wrapper. And I agree that Jerk Hut isn't very authentic, though it's not untasty.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rebecca.kukla


                    I am glad to hear that you liked the place on Columbus. That is one of the places I had my eye on trying, so I will have to get to that soon. I only went once to the place on Howard north of 275. What I liked about it was the vinegar based sauce. It doesn't seem to me that they do a lot of business, so I am not surprised that the food is hit and miss. It's funny, coming from cities where there are multiple grilled chicken options, I should be ecstatic about Jerk Hut's chicken as one of only a few examples (that I am aware) of very well-prepared chicken. If it just weren't called "jerk," I would have no complaints. Totally stupid, I understand.

                  2. Wah Gwan --

                    I flew down from NYC to D.J. a friend's wedding in St. Augustine (on the beach, @ Dolphin Sanctuary) this past week.To make my commute easier, I stayed in downtown JAX near the "Landing". During my free-time, I drove around in my rental SUV, checking out the "sights". Well, sorry if I sound a bit condescending.... but this small city has a lot of growing to do. I wasn't amused by the aggressive street folk, hustlin' for anything they can get. It says a lot about the city's current economy/job market... with nightclubs across the street from the County Jail & Courts. Hopefully, the citizens of JAX will rise above the struggle & strife, fighting the old Southern ways in order to create a new beginning.

                    Nonetheless, I am truly proud to say that your town has an incredibly authentic Caribbean Restaurant; CARIBBEAN SUNRISE BAKERY served me an authentic plate (to go) of tantalizing Island Cuisine. Each & every bite of the fresh Ackee & Saltfish melted in my mouth. All the while, my palette was awarded the robust flavor of delicious stewed Callaloo, poured over a perfectly steamed portion of Rice & Peas.
                    My "TO-GO" container was huge, folks -- SERIOUS! I made two meals out of it ;-)

                    I guess there was too much competition for these folks back here in Flatbush, BROOKLYN (NY) ; maybe they simply wanted to expand the market for Jamaican/Trini/Guyanese home-style cooking. In any case, this kitchen is keeping it real!!! Any NYC transplants MUST visit Caribbean Sunrise Bakery now.... don't wait!!!

                    Sincerely, DAVE MASUCCI aka dj I, STORM

                    Caribbean Sunrise Bakery: 4106 N. Main St., (904) 355-0405

                    1. where can i get souse i live in boynton but will drive

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: marky123

                        We just tried a Caribbean-Chinese restaurant on Sample Road in the Margate area (that's northwest of Ft. Lauderdale). It's in a shopping center on NW corner of Sample and 441. They gave us their chinese menu first. They have a separate menu with curries and other items...and if I recall they also had souse.It's listed as pig foot or chicken foot under soups. Also something called cow heel soup which I've never heard of.
                        We tried their shrimp curry -- very nice and my husband had stewed king fish. They have oxtail, variety of curries, various stewed dishes, roti, etc. Name is Lucky City. phone is 954-972-1880 to call for more info.

                      2. A small new "Jerk" restaurant has opened in downtown Delray, on NE 4th Ave about two blocks N of Atlantic. I have not been there yet but will try it soon. I think they are only open in the evening at this point. "Best Jerk Chicken in Florida" claims the sign in front.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: CFByrne

                          So, what's the story with this place? Any reports? Does anybody know anything? I will be in Delray next week and will check this place out but would like some intel.

                          1. re: stuartlafonda

                            Come on stuartlafonda, take one for the team! I'm going to see if they are open for lunch this weekend during the arts fest.

                            1. re: freakerdude

                              Hey, I have no problem taking one for this team, the problem is I don't know where the place is. I googled it and came up empty. Not that I'm unwilling to drive NE 4 th from Boyton to Boca but any help would be appreciated. I will check it out next week along with the new to me Q joints in West Palm and the one near Davie. Enjoy

                              1. re: stuartlafonda

                                CFB said it's about 2 blocks norrth of Atlantic on NE 4th. Since it's new , I doubt it is even in the yellow pages online. I'll post if it's open for lunch this weekend.

                                1. re: freakerdude

                                  yup if you are on Atlantic heading east from say the RR tracks, turn left at the Green Owl (that is 4th) and walk N two blocks. On rightside of street there is a little strip that is threatening to become a mini- restaurarnt row - it is there.

                                  1. re: CFByrne

                                    Thanks, I will report back. I'm sorry I didn't see the directions you gave, I must have been distracted by the "Best Jerk Chicken In Florida" line. Good Jerk is hard to find in NYC.There are a couple of excellent spots in Brooklyn but they come and go quickly. Nothing is better then the guys cooking on the cut -in- half oil drums set up on the side walk in good weather. I think just about everyone else just slathers on Walker Wood and bakes it, something even I can do and do at home. At least I put it on the my wood fired grill. Is the rib joint a half block.south of Atlantic west of Doc's closed for good? Thanks all ,and enjoy your Thanksgiving.

                                    1. re: stuartlafonda

                                      I believe the name is Bamboo Fire (?) and is 147'ish NE 4th. It's where the small shops are and there's a wine cafe of some sorts one store down. It was open but I didn't go in, as I already stopped in to Bru's for a wing fix. Correc me if I am wrong CFB.

                                      Walkerswood jerk seasoning is about the best I can do at home as well. I haven't found a better jarred jerk seasoning yet.

                                2. re: stuartlafonda

                                  It took a while but Karen and I finally made it to Bamboo Fire Cafe for lunch on Sunday. Inside it's small with 6 tables for two and one large table in the center of the floor. There's also seating at the bar. Very pleasant and there's a nice area outside which is also where they have live music on Saturday nights.

                                  The menu is not large but there's a good assortment of chicken, pork, and fish dishes that can be ordered jerked, curried, or any number of other ways. They make oxtail pepperpot on Saturdays along with curried goat and other specials. I really enjoy oxtail so this pepperpot is something I look forward to trying.

                                  The special on Sunday was Fish & Chips which was tilapia, seasoned, lightly breaded, and fried so the fish was moist and not greasy. Karen asked for sweet potato fries and they were very good. The fish was served with a bowl of melted butter with garlic and capers for dipping. She really enjoyed this, took the leftovers home and had them for lunch on Monday.

                                  Since reading this thread I've been obsessing over jerk chicken. I ordered the boneless jerk chicken which I see above is a serious breach of good taste. On the other hand, it was lunch and I didn't feel like wrestling with bone-in chicken. The chicken was grilled over charcoal with pimento wood and was moist and flavorful. It was served with two sauces, one was mild and the other was spicy and peppery. Hot but not set-your-hair-on-fire hot. This was good eating. For one of my side dishes I ordered the macaroni and cheese. It took a little longer because it's made to order (like everything else) but it was definitely worth the wait - nice and creamy with a good cap of crusty cheese on top.

                                  All in all this was a very good restaurant experience. Good food, Banks beer, nice surroundings, and reasonable prices. We had some time to talk with the owners who are very pleasant. Beverly does the cooking and has a real passion for what she's doing.

                                  Is it the "Best Caribbean Food in Florida?" Who knows. But good food, nice people, and reasonable prices make this a place we'll go back to soon.

                                  BAMBOO FIRE CAFE
                                  149 NE 4th Ave, Delray Beach, FL 33483

                                  1. re: RickL

                                    I too finally visited Bamboo Fire. I loved the kind and friendly owners, and the jerk chicken dinner was excellent. The side dishes were excellent, really nice rice and peas and plantains. I'll be going back a lot more to check out the entire menu.

                          2. The Jamaican Jerkhut Downtown Cafe in Tampa is well worth a try (http://www.restaurantworldtour.com/in...). The food was really decent and the atmosphere was very authentic too. Some of the best Cubans I have found are at Hugo's on S Howard (http://www.restaurantworldtour.com/in...).

                            1. For those that enjoy dining with the motorcycle set, there's a tent set up out back of Cafe 27 (wed, fri, sat) that serves a mean jerk. It's at the chikee huts, next to the truck stop (another indicator of fine dining!) near the intersection of Hwy. 27 and Griffin. Any farther west in Broward, and you're wading in the swamp. Bug repellent should be kept handy. My Jamaican seatmate on my dragonboat racing team, Blazing Paddles, gave me the recommendation, so I knew that I was in for some good eats.

                              My wife and I had the pork and chicken combo, but the chicken is what stood out. Some dirty rice and bammy completed our repast. The pork had too much weird inedible parts, and leathery skin, but what was there was good. We both wished that there had been some sort of vegetable sides.

                              The people watching was worth the trip alone, with Caribbean blacks and bikers doing an oil-and-water mix. Watching the tribulations of the trailer-trash was far better than cheap cable shows! We were serenaded to the dulcet tones of a straight-pipe Harley starting up directly behind our table, and excruciating pop ballads (it being Valentine's Day) at 100+ db. Remembering other pressing engagements, we didn't stay to enjoy the late night festivities.

                              Bottom line: If you're in the mood, and it's the right day of the week, you can get some great jerk chicken here.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: scotchbonnet


                                The second pic down has been replaced by a different one with the same name on our site, unfortunately. Not sure I still have the original - just wanted to note that is NOT the jerk chicken. :-D

                                While the jerk chicken there is good, btw, it still can't hold a candle to the best jerk chicken in Broward, bar none, Betty's Place ( http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/2007-... ). I have not been back in a few months, but I've been over 20 times by now and each time the chicken is better than the last. Warning: it is HOT. I'm an absolute spice fiend, and if Betty actually makes it what she considers "hot" for me I cry big fat baby tears.

                                I'll do a revisit soon. It's just a bit of a hike into West Hollywood.

                              2. For Jamaican food, Caribbean Sunshine Bakery in Orlando is probably the best in the state IMO.

                                1. Cepha's in Ybor is open. I dont care for this type of food but my boyfriend swears by it.

                                  1. Calypso in Pompano Beach is awesome. A huge selection of fresh fish, rotis, and more. Not open on weekends though, which is a bummer.