Where to find the best Caribbean food in New York City
Eat your fill of Dominican sancocho, Guyanese dhal puri, and more across the city.
Immigrants from Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and more have been arriving in New York City since the late 1800s. At certain points in the city’s history, the collective Caribbean population reached as high as 12.7 percent—and as their communities developed, so did the need for food that resembled the flavors of the islands. Today, there are more than 20 Jamaican restaurants in the city of New York, and you’ll find just as many Haitians spots and dozens of Dominican-owned restaurants opened by immigrants or their family members.
West Indian culture is undeniably knitted into the fabric of the New York dining experience. There’s no better way to experience this than by eating your way through the city’s Caribbean food scene.
There’s a saying in New York about Jamaican restaurants: “The ruder the staff, the better the food.” While that might be true in some cases, The Islands has found the perfect balance of serving food prepared with attitude as opposed to serving it alongside the meal. This popular Jamaican spot was originally located in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, and reopened in a larger space in Prospect Heights several years ago. The jerk chicken and macaroni and cheese have kept the lines revolving here for over 20 years—and the goat curry is not to be missed.
What one reviewer said of The Islands:
There’s no shortage of Haitian spots throughout the city, but one that stands out is La Baguette. With six locations spread between Queens and Brooklyn, this Haitian and French bakery chain has been serving customers for more than 25 years. The restaurant is family-owned—and so are their recipes, which have been passed from generation to generation. Light and extra flaky, the herring-filled pâté pattie is near perfect—and provides fodder for the perennial debate of which pattie is better: Jamaican or Haitian.
Ajo & Oregano
Moving to the other side of Hispaniola and to the only borough on the mainland of New York state, you’ll find Ajo & Oregano in the Bronx. This Afro-Dominican hotspot is one of a kind, bringing diners straight to the Dominican Republic for homestyle cooking. Visiting the restaurant is a truly transformative experience, as NYC-based Dominicans often compare it to visiting home and enjoying the food they grew up on. “Reminds me of my mother's recipes from the Dominican Republic when I was a child,” a Tripadvisor traveler says.
Some of the dishes rotate daily, so if you want to try an authentic Dominican soup like sancocho, you may want to plan your visit on a Sunday—not on Monday, when Dominican spaghetti is the meal of the day. The best way to know what to expect is to check the menu ahead of time.
Trinidad & Tobago
Singh’s, while still being a restaurant, has a full bar, so as the night goes on, the food keeps coming as the soca music and the people get a whole lot louder. Once the drinks start flowing, you may as well be at a fête. Must-try items include the curry shrimp roti (add pepper sauce to it for some heat), doubles (with a side of tamarind sauce), and a Peardrax (pear-flavored soda). End your meal with a “Peanut Punch”—a thick and sweet peanut-flavored smoothie—for dessert.
One neighborhood every New Yorker dedicates their city life to avoiding is Times Square. It’s likely a surprise then that one of the best Cuban spots in NYC can be found here, surrounded by gargantuan advertisements, beaming street lights, and packed crowds. The Afro-Cuban Margon is a tucked-away must-visit with fast service and delicious, inexpensive food. The trek is worth it for the perfectly prepared Cubano, alone—but consider the tripe soup or pig feet, as well. If that combination seems too rich for your taste, you can temper things slightly with the bistec salteado (pepper steak).
What one reviewer said of Margon:
Sybil’s is less of a party than the aforementioned Singh’s but the Guyanese vibes and food never disappoint. The veggie options here are incredible—including the pumpkin and spinach roti that sometimes makes its way to the menu. If you are interested in the restaurant’s meat dishes, the goat roti is where you’ll want to start before exploring other options (which are plentiful). Think fish cakes, muaby, cassava pone, and dhal puri.
Casa Adela is named after its original owner Adelina (Adela) Fargas, who moved to New York from Puerto Rico in the 1970s. You’ll find her portraits inside the restaurant that today is owned and operated by her family. There are plenty of reasons to eat here, from the laid back, calming ambiance to the amazing chuletas, pernil, and mofongo—plus, it’s BYOB.
Casa Adela not only serves some of the best Puerto Rican food on the mainland, the Afro-Borinquen restaurant is a cornerstone of the Lower East Side. The community rallied around the restaurant when the building owners raised the space’s rent from $1,350 to over $6,000, attending protests and helping make inroads that kept Casa Adela in place.
This article was produced in partnership with TravelCoterie, a Black-owned publication featuring travel news, tips, and cultural experiences.