One of Brooklyn’s original towns, Flatbush is also home to one of the largest and most diverse Caribbean populations in the world. Which is why, in 2017, I helped spearhead the designation of this neighborhood as Little Caribbean. On a jaunt down Flatbush, Nostrand, or Church Avenues, you’ll be greeted by dollar vans and the pulsing, rhythmic sounds of soca, reggae, dancehall, konpa, zouk, and salsa - and find some of the best Caribbean food in the Americas. From succulent jerk and oxtails to savory patties to spicy curries to vegan juice bars and fresh spice markets, Little Caribbean is a must-visit.
This guide will help you discover Flatbush from a lifelong resident’s perspective. As the Founder of caribBEING, a thriving cultural enterprise that works at the intersection of culture, community, and commerce, I know every inch and flavor of this place. Join me as we island hop along some of Brooklyn’s iconic corridors. On your walk, don’t forget to look up at architectural gems such as Kings Theatre, Erasmus Hall, Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church, and a number of historic districts including Prospect Lefferts Manor, Ditmas Park, Albemarle Terrace, and 300 East 25th Street. You’ll be right near Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, and the Brooklyn Museum in case you want to have a picnic with your new finds. Come ready to eat, shop, and, as we say, lime.
Start here, on the southeast corner of Prospect Park (at Parkside & Ocean). Not only will you find the historic Lefferts House, Lakeside, and the caribBEING House, but on Sundays during warmer months you can also visit Drummer’s Grove, a fifty-year-old Afro-Caribbean tradition that pays homage to African ancestors who brought their musical traditions to the West Indies in the 17th Century.
Pioneers in jerk, and a must-visit. I love the perfectly seasoned, fall-off-the-bone jerk chicken paired with festival. If you don’t eat chicken or oxtail, I’d also recommend the escovitch snapper. No matter what you order, sauce is a must.
Here and elsewhere, do not ask for too many extras (like gravy or plantain). If you are met with a little attitude, or things take a little longer, that means the vibes are authentic. So just go with the flow, and come hungry and ready to explore this urban cultural hotspot - Little Caribbean.
Caribbean wood-fired pizza, check. Epic brunch, check. Cocktails, check check check. This recently-consolidated hotspot (two restaurants became one over the course of the pandemic) founded by three Guyanese brothers offers a full-service menu complete with eclectic, Caribbean-forward flavors. My personal favorites include the oxtail pizza and jerk fish tacos.
No visit to Little Caribbean is complete without the quintessential patty coco bread, and this one is a personal favorite. I like to wash mine down with a 50 Sorrel/50 Ginger, then pop around the corner for a selfie in front of the electric blue Marley-Baldwin mural by street artist Fumeroism. Their chicken soup is also flavorful - I order mine with sliced scotch bonnet peppers for an extra bite.
Walk a few blocks north and you will be greeted by a colorful, youthful face on Rutland Road, co-named Dr. Stanislaus Way, after the late Grenadian diplomat, dentist, and one of the architects of the annual West Indian American Day parade on Eastern Parkway. Inspired by Kiddies Carnival and J’ouvert, and Dr. Stanislaus’ prolific contribution to Caribbean-American culture and community, muralist Danielle Mastrion captured the beauty and spirit of Carnival in one vignette.
Don’t judge, but I only discovered De Hot Pot after local artist Laura Thorne’s illustration of the Little Caribbean storefront became a best-seller at our mobile gallery and shop the caribBEING House, an upcycled shipping container used as a mobile art + cultural + market space that hosts exhibitions and pop-up shops featuring Caribbean/LatinX artisans from NYC and back home.
Naturally, I passed this neighborhood favorite by foot and dollar van for many years, but only recently tasted their doubles and swooned (thank you Marlon Jude, my local performance coach who hosts weekly walk/runs in Prospect Park). As a daughter of Trinis who loves plenty peppa, I can’t recommend this place enough. I heard their roti is also out of this world, but have yet to try. As they say in Jamaica, soon come.
Hibiscus Brew, which opened during the pandemic, celebrates the joy of food with refreshing juices like “Long Life,” Caribbean-inspired tartines, and wholesome “Good Body” cornmeal porridge with toppings. A true multi-hyphenate, owner Allison Dunn - a professional home organizer - also sells her children’s book, Khison is Having Company (inspired by her son), out of the bright pink shop.
Tafari Tribe is run by a mother-daughter duo (though you will often see father and grandson around the shop, too) and prides itself on cultural fashion inspired by Afro-Caribbean Rastafarian traditions. In the tightly- packed, colorful space, Tafari curates a beautiful collection of accessories like earrings, bracelets, head wraps, and heritage wear. You will also find natural soaps, incense and a place to perch and people watch during warmer months. I recently picked up an amazing tie-dye jumper there.
The intersection at Church & Nostrand was designated as Bob Marley Blvd in 2006, and the Church Avenue IRT (2,5) subway station houses murals from the late artist Desarte who paid a beautiful tribute to Caribbean culture and heritage with colorful mosaics of a West Indian Market and Brooklyn’s five-year-old Carnival. Walk north when you exit, and you will be welcomed by accents of the Caribbean ranging from Jamaican Patois to Trinidadian Creole to Haitian Kreyol and others.
With its freshly hand-painted and welcoming storefront complete with a walk-up window, Immaculee is a must-visit for its Haitian patties. My personal favorites are the perfectly-flaky herring or saltfish and the fresh cashews, but you really can’t go wrong with any of their baked goods.
Lips Cafe is my go-to neighborhood coffee shop for an oat milk latte. Its spacious cafe and art space - operated by a Vincy mother-son duo - is a great place to meet a friend for Caribbean staples like their tasty bake & saltfish with avocado. Located on one of the hippest blocks in Flatbush, Lips also hosts art exhibitions and pop-up shops, and participates in community efforts like Little Caribbean’s COVID-19 initiative to feed frontline health heroes at local hospitals.
Zanmi translates to friends in Creole. I call this restaurant “Haitian Corner,” especially during warmer months when Zanmi hosts live sidewalk performances by artists such as Paul Beaubrun and Zing Experience. My personal favorites include the lambi boukkanen and the plantain submarine, and you should BYOB and always ask for pikliz (Haitian pepper sauce).
Aunts et Uncles, a new concept shop brought to you by local tastemakers Nic and Mike Nicholas, invites you in with its plush interior and plant-based menu. Pull up for coffee, the elevated Au (veggie) burger, mofongo, or cocktails. The space also curates books and magazines, making it the perfect place to unwind in the heart of Flatbush.
Take a little detour to The Rogers Garden, a courtyard cocktail garden that opened this past year with an eclectic, thoughtfully-curated rum menu inspired by the Caribbean. This bar is a must-visit, especially if you want to lime in Little Caribbean. The Rogers Garden hosts weekly artisan culinary pop-ups, ranging from oysters to BBQs to island bowls, all cooked fresh to order. For cocktails, I’d recommend the Miss Ting or Maracas Bay, a nod to the owners’ Trini heritage.
African Record Centre
Founded by brothers, African Record Centre is a venerable institution, which in its heyday had three storefronts with a deep Afro-Caribbean influence. Vinyl aficionados should stop in for rare and vintage Afrobeats, Zouk, Calypso records, Afro-syncretic spiritual books, and colorful accessories like upcycled African mats.
Rain Eatery is best known for their tasty salmon and mac & cheese but my go-to’s are the corn soup, coconut shrimp, or a refreshing Island Breeze smoothie. If you’re lucky, Chef Kevin’s mom might have some coconut drops waiting for you.
A third-generation, family-run cultural institution located on what I call the “power block” in Little Caribbean - not only are several of my favorite eateries and markets located on this corridor, but also Little Mo Wine & Spirits, which curates an eclectic lineup of rums from the Caribbean. Back to Allan’s. I absolutely love currants rolls and hard dough bread. Other favorites include coconut drops, black cake, and just the overall vibe. If you’re heading there on a weekend, expect a line out the door and maybe even loud soca music blaring on the sidewalk. Trust me, the wait is worth it and is all part of the experience.
Labay is my favorite neighborhood market. Not only is it Black-owned, but it also has mainly Caribbean imports - many from the owner Big Mac’s family’s 60-acre estate in Grenada - such as breadfruit, sea moss, soursop, callaloo, jackfruit or tamarind pickle, ground provisions (green bananas, plantain, sweet, cassava), sorrel, Grenadian chocolates, and island spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, chandon beni, pimento peppers, and utensils ranging from wooden lélé (swizzle) sticks to dutch pots. Mac’s sister Margaret also cooks up traditional foods such as breadfruit, fish, and oil down on most weekends.
Located on Nostrand just north of Empire, Gloria’s is another third-generation, family-operated business named after the family’s matriarch Gloria Wilson. My go-to is the curry goat buss up shut (paratha roti) with pumpkin, potato, and plenty of pepper. I’d recommend pairing this with a mauby (a bittersweet Caribbean beverage made from bark & anise) or a red Solo (kola champagne). Another favorite is oxtail with rice & peas and plantain.
A cultural entrepreneur born in NYC and raised between Brooklyn & the Caribbean, Shelley Worrell created caribBEING, spearheaded the designation and development of Little Caribbean, and is the head of Caribbean Partnerships for the US Department of Commerce. Worrell has produced 400+ immersive experiences in partnership with top corporations and cultural institutions including James Beard Foundation, Google Arts & Culture, Studio Museum in Harlem, Vox Media and others. Her multi-platform & cross-cultural activations have been featured by Black Enterprise, NBC, and Hyperallergic; and she has been personally profiled in The New York Times and Good Morning America. Worrell holds a BA in Cultural Studies from CUNY, Brooklyn College and a MA in Media Studies from the New School.