12 Caribbean Restaurants to Try in NYC

Craving a taste of the islands? Visit a Caribbean restaurant in New York! The city is home to over one million descendants of the Caribbean islands, and whether it’s from Jamaica, Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago, or other islands of the West Indies, you can find some amazing takes on the cuisine here. Try some jerk chicken, oxtail stew, and rum—yum!

Havana Central 

pernil havana central

Times Square’s Havana Central serves not only great Cuban food, but you’ll often find a live band adding some oomph to the atmosphere. Order vaca frita or paella at this bilevel throwback cafe, and don’t skip the appetizer sampler if you’re here with a group. After work or to break up a day of sightseeing, enjoy $7 mojitos and dollar empanadas during happy hour. 151 W. 46th St., 212-398-7440,

Jasmine's Caribbean Cuisine

jasmine caribbean restaurant row

A Restaurant Row fave, Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine provides an escape from the city with savory dishes and fruit-filled cocktails. Inspiration comes from the Caribbean, with tastes inspired by the kitchens of Dominica, Antigua, St. Thomas, Trinidad, and Jamaica. Recipes have been handed down through generations within the family. 371 W. 46th St., 646-964-5337,

Victor’s Cafe

Victor Cafe

A perfect pick for pre- or post-theater, Victor’s Cafe is an upscale take on classic Cuban cuisine. Start with a La Jefa cocktail (vodka, elderflower, and blackberry) or Passion Mojito. For main courses, try the Ponle Ropa a La Vaca, which is the delectable ropa vieja with crispy fried plantains. Or you might like something on the lighter side, like the Ceviche de Pargo with snapper, mango, and avocado. 236 W. 52nd St., 212-586-7714,


Slightly off the well-beaten path around Rockefeller Center, Margon brings authentic and seriously delicious Cuban food to its little slice of West 46th. Your Cuban sandwich with ham and garlic sauce will come on a red tray with a bag plastic silverware, but embrace the true meaning of “hole in the wall.” From the oxtail braised in red wine to the octopus salad, some of the most magnificent gifts come in humble packages. 136 W. 46th St., 212-354-5013,

Miss Lily’s

Miss Lily's

With locations in the East Village and on West Houston, Miss Lily’s rules the downtown Caribbean cuisine scene. Go for classic Jamaican fare: jerk chicken with mango chutney, cucumber escovitch, and plantains as a side dish. A fun, bright atmosphere with thumping music and fashionable folk, Miss Lily’s is a good pick when you’re looking to start a night out in style.

Cuba Restaurant and Rum Bar

Good Cuban food and strong mojitos are the specialties at Cuba in Greenwich Village. The Churrasco is the consensus pick for best skirt steak of your life (comes with garlic mashed potatoes and a side of chimichurri), although the vaca frita with rice is a close second. Other favorites are the empanadas habaneras and paella marinara. Bonus: if you’re around on Friday and Saturday nights, you’ll hear live music! 222 Thompson St., 212-420-7878,

Veronica’s Kitchen

Veronica's Kitchen

Need a cheap lunch to fill you up and warm your heart? Come to Veronica’s Kitchen, a popular food cart that camps out on Water Street in the Financial District. You’ll have your pick of sinful yams, rice, curry goat roti, and all the jerk you can handle at this Trinidadian treat. Note: temporarily closed due to the pandemic. 125 Water St., 917-848-2465

The Islands

An affordable choice, and well-celebrated, The Islands is one of the best in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, an area rich in Caribbean cuisine. It’s a small place that feels like a homey Jamaican kitchen, in the very best way. Go straight for the tender oxtail with mac ‘n cheese, and don’t look back. Okay, we’ll lob a second choice out there: goat curry. 671 Washington Ave., 718-398-3575

The Food Sermon

The Food Sermon

It would barely matter if the food were any good: Food Sermon is a name too singular to ignore. Fortunately, Chef Rawlston Williams delivers the flavor, and then some. The build-a-bowl menu is deceptively simple, more typical of a Midtown lunch spot than Crown Heights, Brooklyn. But when you take a bite of the flavorful chicken or lamb shank, fresh kale, and coconut ginger sauce, you’ll feel home no matter what. 355 Rogers Ave., 718-484-7555,


A groovy little spot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Pearl’s will meet all of your Caribbean needs. Try Pearl’s bake & shark, a Trinidadian mainstay made with two pieces of flatbread and fried shark in the middle. Pearl’s version comes with garlic sauce, pickled slaw, and mango chutney. The stuffed crab and tamarind wings are yummy appetizers to share. Pair your shark with a Frozen Rude Boy cocktail (rum, ginger, and lime), named in honor of everyone’s favorite Caribbean queen, Rihanna. 178 N. 8th St., 929-276-3528,

Lolo’s Seafood Shack

Lolo's Seafood Shack

Lolo’s Seafood Shack is located on the embarrassment of riches that is Harlem’s Restaurant Row. Lolo’s takes the “shack” in its name seriously when it comes to decor, and the casual food adds to the feeling that you’re at a first-rate beachside cafe. Your first priority is to order the garlic fries, no matter what you get. Fortunately, they already come in the basket with the crispy, super-spicy Pom Pom Shrimp. The soft shell crab sandwich is another winner and comes on housemade bread. Must-get sides are the plantains and corn on the cob; both come with cotija cheese. 303 W. 116 St., 646-649-3356,

Freda’s Caribbean & Soul Cuisine

Freda’s is another non-flashy kitchen with top-notch food (and it’s BYOB!). Try anything, and you’ll almost definitely love it. We’ll point you to the greens: perfectly textured collard greens, and callaloo, an okra and spinach sauce made with coconut and garlic that you’ll find in lots of Caribbean cooking. Whether you order classic jerk or goat curry as your main, you’re in for an uber-tasty affordable meal on the Upper West Side. 993 Columbus Ave., 646-438-9832,

About the Author

Merrill Lee Girardeau lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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