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Aug 25, 2008 09:06 AM

West Indian Day Parade 2008

Each year I always scramble to find some info on the parade, so I figured I'd go fishing a little early this year.

Does anyone have any info on confirmed vendors for this year's parade, which takes place on Monday, September 1.

For those that aren't familiar with this foodies' paradise, alongside the typical Jamaican and Trini vendors (which make up a good 60% of the food options), you'll also find food hailing from St. Kitts & Nevis, USVI, Barbados, Panama, and countless other small Caribbean nations that are underrepresented in the NYC dining scene. In all, there are generally over 100 food vendors lining Eastern Parkway.

Here's the website, although it doesn't list any vendors:

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  1. Warning to anyone going in search of vendor, though - the parade is also eardrum-bustingly loud and stiflingly crowded. Just enormous and completely overwhelming to me! The one time I actually braved it (and I live just off the route) I did get some delicious chow, though.

    3 Replies
    1. re: kabny

      My advice is to get there before the parade actually begins - crossing Eastern Parkway and moving around at all freely generally gets increasingly difficult as the day goes on.

      1. re: jen kalb

        There are some vendors on Empire Boulevard (and nearby side streets) in the early morning before the parade, when Jouvert is going on.

        1. re: AdrianLesher

          Thinking about heading out at about 3 am this evening - are the food vendors near Flatbush? (In other words, which stop should I get off at?) Since it will be breakfasty, I'll probably be on the search for codfish and ackee, or maybe bake and saltfish, but hoping to get something good.

          Sadly - I work in the AM (gotta be back by 8 - it will just be Ting, no CSR, in my Sigg) but I'll be heading out to the WIDP at noon, where I hope to get some Kittitian food. (Been craving goat water for a while.)

    2. It's been a while, but I used to live up there. The crowds build up the most from Franklin down to Grand Army. But head out to Utica Avenue (4 and/or 3, not sure what the weekend situation is) and walk down. You're at the beginning of the parade, but you can head down Utica south to standbys Steve's (between President and Crown) or McKenzie's (Caroll and Crown). Grab a bunch of jerk chicken, macaroni pie, and some Tings or beers and head to Lincoln Terrace Park (East side of Utica). (Relatively) Nice place to sit and eat with some space, and you can head down Eastern Parkway and pick up doubles or more jerk at your leisure. Go early!

      1 Reply
      1. re: rad

        Good call with Utica ...
        Started there (10am) and lingered, though not long, unfortunately (my loss).
        Think Schenectady out has the best eats.

        No puddin 'n souse but the ff cutter was on.

      2. Had a *very* good bake and saltfish at the corner of Empire Blvd. and Rogers Ave at 6:30 am - best I've had in NYC. $5, but it was the size of a frisbee. Passed on the corn soup because of the size of the bake. Lots of places were just starting to fire up the oil drums for jerk chicken - may still be out there.

        Looking forward to some flying fish and coucou and goat water for lunch! (Hopefully I can find some.)

        If you want to get into the mood, check out the below YouTube video:

        If you go to the parade, it's likely that you'll here this song at least 100 times.

        1. here's a pic of my roti from a trini stand near utica:

          sorry but that's all i could muster. i know that's not really that much, but i was too stuffed to eat anything else. i hadn't been in awhile, it was a great, great day. very crowded, fun & lots of good sights & smells of food cooking too.

          8 Replies
          1. re: mrnyc

            OK - I starved myself after my 6:30 am bake and saltfish at J'Ouvert and I'd like to think that I did an admirable job at eating my way through the parade.

            I have to say that it pained me not to take part in any of the Trini/Jamaican/Guyanese food as those restaurants tend to be well-represented in the NYC dining scene. Anyways, here's a breakdown of what I consumed.

            Grenadian Conch Water - $5 - My first dish of the day, ladled out from a make-shift booth set up alongside an apartment building. The conch water was still on the stove upstairs, I had to wait for one of the guys working the booth to go get it. (Luckily, there was something interesting going on behind me.) It was fantastic, full of fat chunks of conch and potato, with a rich, clear broth flavored with several herbs (none of which I recognized, but it wasn't unfamiliar tasting, if that makes sense.)

            St. Lucian Fish Fritters - 4 for $2 - These were tasty enough, but were just fine. They were also lukewarm and had been sitting in a steam table for a while.

            Bahamian Conch Fritters - 4 for $3 - These were the real deal - fresh out of the fryer and full of big chunks of conch. I could have eaten 4 more, but I was running out of room.

            Kittitian Goat Water - $5 - Amazing. Better than I had in Basseterre. Lots of bones and gristle, but the flavor was amazing - just the near side of funky, but with a luscious sheen of rendered fat on the top. Chunks of potato and dumplings rounded it out. Really something spectacular.

            St. Thomian Johnny Cake - $2 - just a piece of fried dough from this enormous booth that seems to be there every year. Nothing to write home about, I just had a little room left.

            At this point I took a 3 hour break and watched the parade go by, and I guess I'll take a break and write up the rest of what I had later today.

            1. re: lambretta76

              Alright, that last post was from Utica Ave to Underhill, along the north side of Eastern Parkway. After watching the parade for a bit, I crossed the street (always a hassle - had to wait about 15 minutes) and made my way back to Utica along the south side of Eastern Parkway. Here's what I sampled:

              Nevisian Goat Water - $5 - I'm a bigger fan of Nevis than I am of St. Kitts, but as for goat water, this one paled in comparison to the one I had earlier from the St. Kitts booth across the street. It was fine, and a little more stew-like (thicker broth), but it was just definitely second fiddle. They had zucchini pie, but were out of it at the moment, but I'm curious as to what this is - has anyone ever had it?

              CSR and Ting - $3 - There were several St Kitts/Nevis vendors around the area of the Botanic Gardern shuttle train entrance. One of them had an empty bottle of CSR out back. I procured a tasty tipple for $3 - it's essentially a light rum mixed with Ting. It's even better with Angostura bitters, but take it or leave it! (It will always be the taste of Nevis for me.)

              Guiness - $2 - Thanks to the guy with the shopping cart topped with ice water, but simply hiding the treasure trove of Guiness and Heineken underneath.

              Bajan Flying Fish Cutter - $5 - One of the best fish sandwiches ever, despite the fish being lukewarm/cold. A nice, dense cutter (roll) with perfectly fried flying fish filets (3 of them) stacked on. A nice, light breading and perfectly moist fish. I was upset that I went for something that can be found in several restaurants in the city, but I just had to have one.

              Hennessy - $2 - Much respect to the guy brazenly walking around with a 1.75-liter bottle of Hennessy, pouring shots over ice for $2 a pop. I had just fought my way through the Hot 97 system's crowd and needed a stiff drink.

              I'll link to a flickr page with some pics as soon as I get them uploaded, but it was a good day. (Sadly, I ate most of what I had purchased before taking the pictures, but I'm a foodie, not a photog, so that's the nature of the beast.)

              One thing I'd like to see next year is some Dominican (from Dominica, not the DR) food. Their float/system was one of my favorites - with a full band with a horn section - and their "little island that could" attitude. Not to mention a wonderful French patois that makes kreyol seem easy to understand.

              But anyways, as always, it was truly the greatest food day of the year for me, and I can't wait until next year.

              1. re: lambretta76

                Thank you for this fine report! I used to go to Carnival every year without fail, and it was one of the best days of the year for me too... but in all those years I never ate anything! I just couldn't decide which thing to eat, there were I believe literally thousands of food vendors. (Of course back in the day when drink sales were legal, I did drink... a lot... and always ended up marching in the parade.) Each year for several years I'd post and ask about vendors, hoping to narrow my choice ,and yours is the first decent reply I got.

                Here's something I wrote about the food and non-food aspects of the 2004 parade, may be good for future reference.

                There is a parade in Brooklyn, a parade so grand it astonishes me each time I see it. Way in the far reaches of Brooklyn is a street as wide as a superhighway and over two miles long. Early on parade day, the street is closed to traffic and local families set up four rows of food stalls on the sidewalks beside it. The food, like the marchers, is from the islands, those little tropical paradises (unless you're poor!) that are strewn across the Caribbean like a carelessly flung handful of pearls.

                All is quiet until you hear, far to the east, the sound of island music. A slow, straggling procession of trucks, huge 16 wheel flatbeds, cruises down the avenue. On the truck ride dancers, rock bands, and huge arrays of amplifiers and speakers; it's rock and reggae that the people prefer, not calypso. Behind the truck are masqueraders, dancers whose enormous costumes take months to sew. Each truck has scores of them, all basically matching each other, and very gaudy. It looks like one of those splashy Hollywood epics set in ancient Egypt, and indeed the ancient Egyptians would have worn costumes exactly like that, had they had unlimited access to gold lame, to lime green plastic and Dayglo paint, to tons of sequins, to mountains of brightly dyes ostrich feathers.

                The street is supposed to be reserved to masqueraders, and each year the cops fight a losing battle to keep it clear. But by 3 PM , people, thousands of them, climb the barricades and spill out onto the street, dancing behind their favorite trucks. Today it was so crowded it was scary. So jammed you couldn't move -- except you HAD to move, there was no option as the crowd swept you along. Everyone grabbed the guy in front to form a conga line that went for miles. How many people? Police estimates are usually conservative, and the estimate for this day is typically two MILLION. People fly up from the Caribbean just to see it.

                "This ain't no Port-au-Prince" sang one Haitian singer from atop his perch on a van. But actually, for a few glorious hours, it was.

                Oh, if you want a Honduran take on conch water ,try La Orquidea in the Bronx.

                1. re: Brian S

                  You're welcome! Glad I was able to return the favor for the hundreds of informative posts I've read of yours in the past few years.

                  One of my good friends is from Honduras and talks often about sopa de caracol. Was thinking of trying out Honduras Patio in Staten Island someday, and we had chatted about checking that Garifuna restaurant you had uncovered last year, but still haven't made it to either. (And, since the latter has closed, we never will.)

                  Honduras Maya in Greenwood Heights used to have sopa de caricol on Saturdays, but I don't know if they still do. How that place survives I have no idea.

                  1. re: lambretta76

                    *slaps self in forehead*

                    omg, lol!!

                    seriously that was a wonderful ironman report. i'm pretty sure i saw most of the stands you mention, i was checking them out carefully. i'm sorry to have passed them all up, but i just couldn't do much that day!

                    ps -- the honduran la orchidia restaurant on 149th st/brook ave in the bronx used to have caricol soup regularly, it's fantastic. i'll check to see if they still do.

                    1. re: mrnyc

                      La orquidea used to have the caracol only on weekends. I assume they still do. (Friday through Sunday) I linked to a post about it above.

                      1. re: Brian S

                        good write-up, i cant believe i missed that one. actually, they 'used to used to' have it more scattered throughout the week when they first opened. i havent had it in a long time but i work nearby and i remembered to check and they do still offer it fri-sun.

                        for mb fka mb below or anyone -- its not flickr, but here is a link to my photo thread of the parade. enjoy!


                2. re: lambretta76

                  Now where are those flickr pics!? I was out on the route for a bit, but solo and so not feeling it. I know who my drinking/dining buddy pick would be for next time!

                  And while on the note of Caribbean food, what I wouldn't do for some conch in brown butter sauce (last sampled in St. Thomas). Ever seen that around?