Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Florida >
May 12, 2008 08:53 AM

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.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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":

        1 Reply
        1. re: Mootsarell

          We like Aunti I's quite a bit. Their Ginger Beer alone is worth the trip.


        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.. with have our new hours also. I hope you will visit us then.Thank you once again.
                      Best wishes,
                      Owner, Island Flavors and Tings