Taste of Haiti: 5 Places to Try Kreyol Cuisine

Thousands of Haitians live in Brooklyn; here are five kitchens serving them a taste of their West Indian home.

haitian map

If reading about the spicy-tart Haitian condiment called pikliz in our fall travel issue inspires you to try one of the borough’s many Haitian restaurants, you’re in luck. We’ve compiled a list of five favorites to get you started.

imaculee

1. Immaculee Bakery
1411 Nostrand Ave., East Flatbush; 718.941.2644

This tiny takeout bakery specializes in pate (pronounced pah-tey), a Haitian Kreyol word originally derived from the French term for pastry.

Similar to Jamaican patties but with a thicker, denser crust and a squarer shape, pate are filled with everything from ground meat and peppers to guava paste and cheese. They’re perfect with a bottle of Immaculee’s housemade vanilla-spiked lemonade.

kreyolflavor

2. Kreyol Flavor
2816 Church Ave., East Flatbush; 718.856.2100

Kreyol Flavor is brand new to a stretch of Church Avenue lined with West Indian shops and restaurants, and most diners here create a heaping platter from the many well-spiced stews in the steam table. Most come with your choice of white rice, rice and red beans or the mushroom-flavored black rice called djon djon, plus fried plantains and a cold side like beet and corn salad. Shown above: a stewed mix of greens, chayote and vegetables called legume, made here with lima beans and crab, and underneath, okra stewed with goat. To the side is a cup of the spicy house pikliz.

lacayefortgreene

3. La Caye
35 Lafayette Ave., Fort Greene; 718.858.4160

La Caye — whose name is a riff on the Haitian Kreyol term la kaye, meaning home — serves refined versions of the Haitian food the partners in this two-year-old spot grew up eating at home in Brooklyn. That includes chiktay, a flaky smoked fish spread spiked with Scotch bonnet chilies, a grilled conch dish called lambi boucane, and the seafood creole shown above. There’s also live music, a backyard, a lengthy wine list and multiple fruity flavors of house-made sangria. Better still, La Caye has a beautiful storefront spot just across the street from BAM.

latranquilitee

4. La Tranquilite l’Impressioniste
9117 Avenue L., Canarsie; 718.531.8767

Beyond traditional stews and platters served with rice, La Tranquilite makes fritaille, the Haitian term for a multitude of fried offerings like the pork confit called griot, and accra, the Haitian fritters made from the yam-like tuber called malanga. On Sunday mornings, La Tranquilite is also a go-to spot for the bright orange soup joumou, a creamy bowl of puréed pumpkin made with vegetables, poultry and tiny strands of short spaghetti or another small pasta.

venus

5. Venus Restaurant
670 Rogers Ave., Prospect Lefferts Gardens; 718.287.4949

On weekends diners often double-park next to Venus’ brightly painted mural, hanging out till their order (perhaps stew turkey, the Haitian meatballs called boulette, or fried whole fish whose crispy crusts are seasoned with Scotch bonnets chilies) is ready to go. Entrees change daily — you have to wait and see what’s written on the white board when you arrive — but most come with rice, salad and Venus’ excellent Haitian macaroni gratin, which is a little like mac and cheese baked with a spicy, creamy pink-orange sauce.

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Rachel Wharton is the former deputy editor of Edible Brooklyn and Edible Manhattan. She won a 2010 James Beard food journalism award, holds a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University, and has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter. A North Carolina native and a former features food reporter for the New York Daily News, she edited the Edible Brooklyn cookbook and was the co-author of both Handheld Pies and DiPalo's Guide to the Essential Foods of Italy. Her work also appears in publications such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Saveur.