Tucked into five square miles of Crown Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Garden, and Flatbush is the epicenter for island culture in the city: Little Caribbean. The trio of Brooklyn neighborhoods may have the most significant population of Caribbean residents outside of the West Indies since the 1960s (thanks to President Johnson reversing decades of a restrictive immigration policy with the Hart-Cellar Act), but it was only designated as an official cultural enclave by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams last year.
Official or not, the Caribbean influence is delightfully clear in this part of Kings County. Many businesses boast their island pride on the exterior; in a span of a few blocks you’ll see Jamaican flags proudly waving, hand-painted scenes of palm trees and children in the West Indies surrounding local day-care centers, and vibrant portraits of West African beauties graffitied on store gates.
Even more subtle storefronts offer a glimpse into the rich culture—mannequins wearing vibrant caftans inside Martine’s Dream, Rastafarian influence on sweats and bags peeking out from Moa Anbesa, bottles of ginger beer stocked aplenty behind the steaming buffet in Joy & Snook.
A stroll along Nostrand Avenue is in order to get the most thorough introduction to Little Caribbean. You’ll have a filling taste of the culture within a several-block span, all meant to comfort the stomach and spirit. Must-trys include the oxtail stew–filled roti and salt fish fritters at Royal Bakery & Roti House; doubles (fried flatbread) filled with curried chickpeas alongside Chinese takeout go-tos—served as a tribute to the migrants inhabiting the Greater Antilles—at Trinidad Golden Palace; and hard-to-find produce like cassava and sour tamarind inside Labay Market. Playing to the rest of the senses are retro dancehall and reggaeton tunes blaring from windows and cars, and the sweet scent of plantains being grilled on the sidewalk.
Trendy eateries moving into historic neighborhoods often disgruntle the locals and inspire the occasional uprising, but these newcomers have embraced the area’s roots. Sticking out in vivid teal on the corner of Franklin and Lincoln is Glady’s, a Jamaican surf shack made to brighten up even the darkest winter day.
Its owner, chef Michael Jacober, is a self-proclaimed token “white Jewish guy who makes Caribbean food.” Even so, the former Per Se protégé stays true to the islands; he covers everything from fried chicken to a whole lobster in jerk seasoning and pairs his dishes with well-sourced rum, including an Atlantico (Dominican Republic) and a 12-year Zaya (Trinidad).