Looking for some island heat to shake-off the Winter blues?
One of the main questions I always get asked is where to find the best Caribbean food in the city, and that is not an easy answer.
Caribbean food differs from island to island, each country uses slightly different spices and preparation methods. In the past few years there has been a resurgence of Caribbean culinary options on the scene, and depending on what type of dining experience you are looking for, here are some options to bring a little heat and some tropical vibes to your day:
Famena’s famous Roti/ Curry – Eclectic Island warmth
The small 12-seater crescent bar is described as an eclectic experience with authentic Caribbean food. This Guyanese-owned Roti shop (295 Garry Street) is run by Famena and Mohammed, who are consistently praised for their warm, and inviting energy making guests feel completely at home. The open restaurant gives you a glimpse of all the action that’s going down in the kitchen. My recommendation is the curry, either wrapped in a roti or served with rice.
Good Buds Bakery – An elegant dining experience offered throughout the year
MasterChef Canada’s Jonathan Rahim and his brother Jeremy have rocked the Caribbean food scene with their e-commerce-based bakery and catering company that offers pop-ups year round. From cookie sandwiches to ghost pepper curry chicken taquito wraps, Good Buds Bakery seems to tantalize your taste buds no matter what mood you are in. Their pop-ups provoke all your senses with the sweet pan music, a five-course meal, handcrafted signature cocktails, and the opportunity to bond with loved ones over great food. This experience is an elegant and modern culinary adventure that invites your tastebuds to bold and tropical flavours of West Indian cuisine.
Bindy’s Caribbean Delights – Roti on a historical Winnipeg site
A family based business that has been passed from father to daughters, Bindy’s is an original Forks Market Vendor, bringing the heat with their signature pepper sauce to Winnipeg for the past 30 years. My recommendation: any kind of Roti, or a pineapple chow -- which is traditionally used as a condiment but can also be eaten as a salad. Andrea, the second-generation owner of Bindy’s can always be found behind counter either making the roti shells from scratch or delighting customers. While you can purchase Bindy’s roti shells around the city, there is nothing like grabbing a chicken roti and enjoy the ambience The Forks Historical Site has to offer. Nothing washes a good Roti down better than a Solo, a Trinidadian soft drink.
K & S Island grill – Jamaican cuisine with jerk made to perfection
A recent addition to the St. James restaurant scene (2069 Portage Avenue), the chefs bring a combined 15 years in the culinary industry. This couple brings authentic Jamaican flavours to combat the assertive prairie winters. The Grill Jerk chicken and the festivals, a dumpling fried to perfection, will bring you back to the islands beautiful beaches with every bite. The intentional use of fresh ingredients in the fresh juices and original succulent spices are a delight. Chef Sean and Keisha bring the warmth of the islands and that irie vibe to create an ambience like no other.
Purple Hibiscus – Pop-up in the French quarter
Purple Hibiscus is synonymous with St. Boniface -- you won’t meet a pop-up without a long queue. Their tag line, “Come to d’lslands… one flava at a time” suits them perfectly as with each pop-up you will find a fresh menu with food seasoned to perfection from different islands around the Caribbean. From fry bake, jerk jackfruit to doubles, Chef Aves culinary evolution has a little something for everyone. My recommendations are her signature Cassava Frites & Garlic Sauce, and D’original Ali’s doubles. To keep updated on their next pop-up experience be sure to follow them on Instagram.
Tropikis - West End Staple
A mainstay in the west end of Winnipeg, Topikis has been on Ellice (878), as long as I can remember. The vintage Caribbean décor restaurant is known for its roti and fresh salad. My recommendation is the conch roti, conch is the snail found in a spiral shell (the ones you put to your ear to hear the ocean sing) or a the fall off the bone stew oxtail and rice combination platter. Chef Denesh Bahadoosingh adds a special spin on traditional rotis by using local Winnipeg favourite meats such as Bison and Elk. Spice levels are encouraged with Tropikis scotch bonnet pepper, I would say start with slight and add as your palate desires.
RU CARIBBEAN ME – Food Truck
While they may not run in the winter (this is Winnipeg, after all), when it comes to food trucks, R U Caribbean Me has you on lock. My recommendation is the jerk chicken, coupled with peas and rice. In summer, the food truck can be found all around town and sells food until they are sold out. Among their online reviews, the beef patties are always popular, the flakiness combined with the spice equals perfection. Their well-portioned meals offer you that Caribbean fix for lunch or at many festivals around town. Check out their Facebook page to stay up to date with where they will be.
Reanna Khan is a lifestyle and travel blogger based in Winnipeg who writes the blog Never See Come Sea. She was lucky enough to be in a city that celebrates and encourages diversity which allowed her to have a strong connection to her Caribbean roots. (Photo by April Carandang @peggrammer)