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Several takeout containers with food from El Bacano
Family-owned El Bacano serves Dominican cuisine through its lens, like Santana’s chicken, a take on the popular Caribbean dish stew chicken and rice.
(Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)

19 of the best Caribbean restaurants to try in Los Angeles

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Throughout the week, Doris “Estelita” Gabriel visits local markets, collecting ingredients for the Belizean Garifuna menu she serves out of her South Los Angeles home every other Saturday.

Before moving to L.A. from Belize in 2015, Gabriel used to set up shop on the side of a major road in her hometown of Punta Gorda. Now that she operates Smith’s Kitchen out of her home, the chef relies on word of mouth. Thankfully, customers are quick to share their praise for Gabriel’s traditionally prepared dishes, including tamales, curry chicken and cassava pudding.

Los Angeles may lack dedicated enclaves for its Caribbean communities, but the influence from countries that border the Caribbean Sea — island nations such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Haiti, as well as Central and South American countries including Belize, Panama, Guyana and Suriname — has been felt for decades and is gaining wider recognition.

In many instances, Caribbean cuisines are at the vanguard of Southern California’s multicultural kitchen. L.A. is home to the only Guyanese pastry program on the West Coast, Bridgetown Roti’s Rashida Holmes was honored as an Emerging Chef finalist in the 2023 James Beard Awards, and members belonging to the city’s growing Dominican community are hosting parties to embed Caribbean culture and food in the local nightlife scene.

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“Our house is full of all different people,” Gabriel says of her Saturday lunch and dinner service. “They come and they find a friend sitting here or someone they kind of know and sit down and we catch up.”

“They say, ‘It reminds me of home. You put your foot in it,’” she says.

It’s the same sense of home that chef Holmes tapped into when she and her wife started Bridgetown Roti as a pop-up in their front yard in March 2020.

“It is a very Caribbean tradition to go over to your neighbor’s house,” says Holmes. “Even when you’re in the Caribbean, your favorite roti shop looks like somebody’s house. It doesn’t look like a restaurant.”

In L.A., Holmes found an opportunity to represent Trinidadian and Bajan cuisines, two largely underrepresented groups in the local food scene, but was motivated to adapt traditional recipes with inventive takes on the island’s range of flavors and by integrating local ingredients.

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“They’ll say, ‘What you’re doing is not traditionaI.’ I know. It’s intentional, but I guarantee you’ll find a piece of home in it,” she says.

Set to open in East Hollywood in mid-July, Bridgetown Roti’s first permanent location will focus on takeout with the same signature rotis, codfish cakes and macaroni and cheese pie that earned the pop-up a spot on the 2022 101 Best Restaurants list.

Caribbean cuisines are wide-ranging and diverse, blending West African, East Indian, Indigenous and a range of colonial influences depending on where you are. In Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname, where East Indian, or Indo-Caribbean, communities represent the largest ethnic group, that presence is demonstrated in curries, roti wraps, chutneys and more. In Central American countries such as Belize and Panama, tamales and ceviches borrow flavors and ingredients from Latin American neighbors. Across the Caribbean, you can always count on a “1-2-3” plate on the menu, with an entrée offered with a combination of up to three sides, usually rice, beans, a salad or plantains.

With so much to explore, tackling L.A.’s best Caribbean restaurants can be a daunting task. Here, we‘re recommending our favorite dishes at 19 of the best Caribbean restaurants, spanning South L.A., San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys and beyond.

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Overhead photo of oxtail plate at Hungry Joe's
(Astrid Kayembe )

Oxtail plate at Hungry Joe's Burgers & Jamaican Restaurant

Inglewood Jamaican $
Tucked in a small plaza in Inglewood is a counter with limited outdoor seating looking out to La Brea. Once your name gets called over the massive speaker playing the latest hits from the island, you’re gifted with a heavy styrofoam plate of food, enough to spread across two meals. The juicy, falls-right-off-the-bone oxtails are stewed with a robust brown gravy with ginger and red bell peppers. Gravy and oxtails cascade over rice and peas and are rounded out with a cabbage salad and sweet fried plantains. Be sure to ask for extra gravy.
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Jerk chicken plate at Wah Gwann Jamaican Kitchen and Bar.
(Astrid Kayembe)

Jerk chicken plate at Wah Gwaan Jamaican Kitchen and Bar

Leimert Park Jamaican $$
Across from Leimert Park Village on Crenshaw Boulevard is Wah Gwann, serving traditional Jamaican dishes from ackee and saltfish to cow foot soup. Upon pulling into the parking lot, you’ll see two men preparing the signature jerk chicken dish on grills set up on the restaurant’s back stoop.They’ve perfected charred chicken skin with a lip-tingling dry rub and perfectly moist meat. The jerk sauce is “hot like fire,” a server warned. The chicken sits atop a bed of soft rice and peas, perfect for sopping up that sinus-clearing gravy. It’s served with cabbage, fried plantains and festival bread, a small deep-fried fingerling of cornmeal that melts in your mouth.
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Tomato and eggs with fry jacks at the Blue Hole
(Astrid Kayembe )

Tomato and eggs with fry jacks at the Blue Hole

Gardena Belizean $
The only thing better than a Belizean breakfast is an all-day Belizean breakfast. The Blue Hole in Gardena gets its name from the giant marine sinkhole that’s part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. With soca and reggae music blasting from the speakers, the Blue Hole is an easy place to pass a few relaxing hours.

Here, you’ll find the fluffiest, butteriest fry jack in the world, served with mildly spicy refried red kidney beans and an egg scramble with tomato and onion.

Eat breakfast like a local: rip the fry jack in half and stuff it with the beans and scramble.
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Sancocho at Caribbean Soul Kitchen
(Astrid Kayembe)

Sancocho at Caribbean Soul Kitchen

Mid-Wilshire Panamanian $$
Caribbean Soul Kitchen brings Panamanian culinary traditions to Miracle Mile. For almost three years, chef Rogelio Squires has been sharing the flavors of his home country with Angelenos and the local Panamanian community. In addition to common Caribbean dishes such as oxtails, curry chicken, fried red snapper and yucca fries, the restaurant also offers a show-stopping take on Panama’s national dish of sancocho. Other Caribbean countries such as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic have iterations of the stew using beef or pork, but in Panama, you’ll likely encounter sancocho de gallina — chicken stew. Corn on the cob, yucca, carrots and pulled chicken breast are seasoned with turmeric and onions, making for a hearty and comforting dish.
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Curry chicken plate at Blessed Jamaican Cuisine
(Astrid Kayembe)

Curry chicken plate at Blessed Tropical Jamaican Cuisine

Inglewood Jamaican $
Blessed is a traditional, no-frills Jamaican restaurant just across the street from Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium. The menu is written on a whiteboard, with items crossed out as they sell out. Owner Robert Smith and head chef Shawn Weir are ready to fill you up with oxtail, brown stew fish and other Caribbean staples before kick off or your favorite artist takes the stage at SoFi Stadium across the street. If you’re looking for a respite from the peppery jerk sauce, Blessed’s curry dishes are milder but still have a kick. The succulent chicken is cooked in a thick yellow curry sauce with notes of nutmeg, cumin and a hint of sweetness from coconut milk. It pairs well with cabbage that’s boiled in chicken stock and mixed with carrots and peas.
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Curry shrimp with roti at Taste of the Caribbean L.A.
(Astrid Kayembe )

Curry shrimp with roti at Taste of the Caribbean L.A.

Hollywood Guyanese Caribbean $$
If you’re looking for a meal before movie night at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Taste of the Caribbean L.A. has got you covered. The menu features common Caribbean items infused with chef Bernard James’ Guyanese heritage and is inspired by the country’s East Indian communities. James has spent the last nine years serving the L.A. area as a caterer and opened Taste of Caribbean’s as a brick-and-mortar in 2020. Served in a bowl, sauteed tiger shrimp are submerged in a sea of curry topped with an orchid flourish. A stretchy roti filled with crumbly curried yellow split peas, also known as dhal puri, comes on the side.

Taste of the Caribbean L.A. has an additional location in Long Beach.
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Cassava pudding at Smith's Kitchen
(Astrid Kayembe )

Cassava pudding at Smith's Kitchen

Manchester Square Belizean $
Every other Saturday, Doris “Estelita” Gabriel cooks large batches of banana leaf-wrapped Belizean tamales and flaky meat pies from her home kitchen. Gabriel pours her heart into laborious dishes that take hours or even days to complete, such as creamy hudut soup, sweet bun rolls and darasa, or green banana tamales, that are usually reserved for holidays and special occasions. One such treat is the perfectly silky-sweet pudding with finely grated cassava, brown sugar and coconut milk. The process — from grating the cassava to baking it fully brown — could take around four hours. The pudding is sold in individual slices or 9-inch pans.

Smith takes orders on Wednesdays for pick up on Saturdays. Call to place orders.
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Mofongo de camarones from Mofongos.
(Astrid Kayembe)

Mofongo de camarones at Mofongos

North Hollywood Puerto Rican $$
Mofongos has been holding down Puerto Rican cuisine in North Hollywood for 15 years. Inside, the walls are lined with vejigante masks and folkloric characters often depicted during Puerto Rico’s Carnaval season. On the large flat-screen TV, a YouTube playlist bounces between PBS videos about historical dance traditions and J.Lo and Bad Bunny’s 2018 Super Bowl halftime show performance. You’ll be eating on a table with an encased vintage photo of Rita Moreno.

The restaurant is named after Puerto Rico’s national dish and it happens to be its most popular item. You can get your mofongos with pork, beef and chicken cooked in a variety of styles, but our favorite is the mofongos de camarones with a mountain of mashed plantains dressed with six jumbo shrimp and a tangy Creole sauce. Honorable mention goes to the mofongo de pernil with crispy skinned pork shoulder, which adds a satisfying crunch to cut the soft texture of the plantains. Wash it down with a Kola Champagne or a tamarindo drink.
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Tres golpes at Karibbean cuisine
(Astrid Kayembe)

Tres golpes at Karibbean Cuisine

Mid-City Dominican $
“Tía” Ilonka Garcia founded her food truck in 2022, offering a taste of culinary traditions from the Dominican Republic, such as pollo guisado and a picadera Dominicana, a sampling platter with tostones, longaniza, queso frito, chuleta ahumada (smoked pork chops), salami and chicharrones. Each dish is made to order and ready within 20 minutes.

Tía lit up 18th street as she danced, sang and laughed while she cooked. Now she’s found a brick-and-mortar to call home in Culver City. Find a seat to stay awhile and chat or take your mangú masterpiece to-go. With green plantains mashed to a fluffy consistency, the mangú base is brightened with sauteed pickled onions. It is then accompanied by the tres golpes — toasted salami, fried egg and fried cheese bread.
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Curry goat plate at Wi Jammin
(Astrid Kayembe )

Curry goat plate at Wi Jammin

Mid-Wilshire Jamaican $$
It’s impossible to miss the bright yellow building on Pico Boulevard. Wi Jammin is an L.A. classic.

Curry goat is a choice item not to be missed at this traditional Jamaican restaurant. The meat’s chewy texture gives you a moment to savor the gingery piquant flavors. It comes with a choice of fresh salad topped with tomato or steamed cabbage mixed with bell peppers. The restaurant is perfect for a low-key dinner or a quick take-out option. Just around the corner on Redondo is the take-out only Wi Jammin Caribbean Cafe. Chef Courtney Wilson-Gray adopts the name of his family’s business for an expanded, second-generation take on Jamaican cuisine, serving omelets and french toast for breakfast, plus inspired specials such as jerk lobster and a jerk turkey burger. The cafe has a second dine-in location in Inglewood.
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Ropa vieja and black beans at El Colmao.
(Astrid Kayembe )

Ropa vieja at El Colmao

Pico-Union Cuban $$
For 55 years, El Colmao has been a mainstay for Angelenos on the hunt for solid Cuban cuisine. It’s a convenient spot for a casual lunch or celebratory dinner, with vintage decor that feels stuck in time, a welcome contrast in the rapidly developing Pico-Union neighborhood.

The ropa vieja, Cuba’s national dish, has remained a reliable classic oozing with paprika-rich Cuban Creole sauce. Chopped and shredded braised beef is thrown together with sausage, onions and sweet bell peppers. The dish is served with white rice and smoky stewed black beans.
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Vegan curry with rice and peas and roti at Caribbean Gourmet.
(Astrid Kayembe)

Vegan Curry with Rice and Peas and Roti?at Caribbean Gourmet

San Gabriel Valley Guyanese Caribbean $
Blossom Market Hall vendors share cuisines from all over the world, and after eight years of hosting sought-after pop ups, it’s where chef Yonette Alleyne found a home for her Guyanese specialties in 2021. At Caribbean Gourmet, Alleyne refines her home country’s flavors while making subtle tweaks to classic dishes. Cooked in coconut milk, the rice and pigeon peas provide velvety, nutty support for the thick vegan curry stew with warm marsala seasoning. The curry allows its ingredients to shine texturally: the carrots and potato are perfectly tender and cauliflower, chickpeas and roasted zucchini retain a firm exterior with a soft center. Paired with a flaky, buttery roti, it makes for a light lunchtime meal.

Alleyne and her staff shape and bake her coveted Guyanese style pastries fresh daily — currant rolls, pineapple tarts, cheese rolls. She is also one of the few chefs who makes patties in house, with rotating seasonal ingredients and limited specials. Be sure to grab one to go.
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Ackee and callaloo plate at the Original Coley's
(Astrid Kayembe )

Ackee and callaloo plate at The Original Coley's

Sherman Oaks Jamaican $
After first launching in 1982 and occupying a few locations throughout the valley, chef-owner Don Coley landed in his current Sherman Oaks outpost. The Jamaican restaurant is a casual dine-in set up with Coley’s merchandise and items from the island for sale. One of the country’s most abundant treasures is ackee fruit that’s native to West Africa and was first imported during the Triangular Trade. Though poisonous when eaten raw, in Jamaica the fruit is sauteéd and cooked with salt cod to create the country’s national dish. Coley’s vegan ackee and callaloo is a textural play between the slick and fluffy ackee fruit, and the bitter crunch of callaloo stems and leaves. Callaloo boiled in a seasoned broth and cooked with sweet bell peppers, resulting in a tender and lightweight mixture. Like the classic stew chicken, oxtails and jerk shrimp, this dish is served with rice and peas and fried plantains.
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Stew chicken mac and cheese from Little Belize.
(Astrid Kayembe)

Stew chicken with mac and cheese at Little Belize

Inglewood Belizean $$
Many Belizean Americans probably have a core memory of eating stew chicken with macaroni and cheese in childhood. In its small dining room with ceiling fans and a giant flat screen TV playing TNT movies, Little Belize captures a sense of home. The stew chicken with mac and cheese is the dish to order here. The base of jumbo elbow macaroni is almost invisible under an avalanche of flaky chicken and savory gravy. But once your fork pulls up with that first bite, a mesmerizing stretchy mix of cheeses is revealed. Little Belize offers Belizean-American dishes such as oxtail mac and cheese, as well as traditional staples including fried red snapper, ducunu and a stew chicken plate. Throughout the week, the restaurant features specials that must be ordered in advance, like boil up, a mixture of boiled eggs, plantain, yams, cassava, fish, pig tails, and dumplings dressed in a tart tomato sauce.
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Garnaches and panades from Tracey's Belizean Restaurant.
(Astrid Kayembe )

Garnaches and panades at Tracey’s Belizean Restaurant

Exposition Park Belizean $
Tracey’s is a legendary South Central joint. Primarily because of its stellar menu, but also because of the riddles customers have to solve before finally getting their food: Will they run out of oxtails before I get there? Do they have tamales today? And you might arrive just to find that the cook is on break.

But for the perfect crunch of Tracey’s fried red snapper-stuffed panades with recado-seasoned masa and messy fried corn with parmesan cheese garnaches, the trials are worth it. Panades and garnaches are versatile snacks that can be eaten on their own, but they’re best as an appetizer for the stew chicken plate with clove-seasoned beans and white rice.

Panades and garnaches are only served Wednesday through Friday between 1:30 and 5:30 p.m.

Pro tip: Call ahead to make sure they have what you’re craving.
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Mofongo and churrasco from Taino's.
(Astrid Kayembe )

Mofongo and churrásco at Taino's

Canoga Park Puerto Rican $
One of the city’s best mofongos can be found in an unsuspecting cloud kitchen in San Fernando Valley. Past the building’s mysterious brick exterior and through a buzzy labyrinth of kitchen doors, chef Edwin Torres is cooking up traditional dishes under the namesake of Puerto Rico’s Indigenous people.

Incredibly soft to the spoon, all of the mofongos here are made with garlicky pork chicharrones. For the mofongo and churrásco, a mound of mashed green plantains are topped with strips of skirt steak, with sauteed onions adding a hint of sweetness to each bite.

Taino’s setup is meant for takeout, but trust us, your meal might not even make it back to the car.
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Stew chicken plate at Country Style Jamaican restuarant.
(Astrid Kayembe )

Stew chicken plate at Country Style Jamaican Restaurant

Inglewood Jamaican $
Country Style Jamaican Restaurant is a food counter on La Brea Avenue with speedy and friendly service. In the stew chicken plate, legs and thigh are cooked with smoked paprika, ginger and the subtle warmth of allspice. The chicken slips right off the bone into a bed of black pepper-spiced rice and red beans. The steamed white cabbage salad, boiled with orange and green bell peppers, ties it all together.
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Blending Central American and Californian cuisines, the first U.S. restaurant from chef Jose Olmedo Carles Rojas is open in Venice.
(Si! Mon)

Afro Caribbean shrimp dumplings with coconut rice at Si! Mon

Venice Panamanian $$
Just off the Venice Boardwalk lies a buzzy and tropical oasis. At Si! Mon, you can enjoy an upscale Panamanian-Caribbean dinner under lush plants and a transparent retractable roof by the beach.

Chef José Olmedo Carles Rojas champions the diversity of Caribbean cuisines on his menu that includes ceviches, patacones, a guacho with Dungeness crab and twice-fried chicken. The Afro Caribbean shrimp dumplings feature chopped shrimp with habanero peppers and sofrito, an aromatic, stir-fried blend of peppers, garlic and herbs in a sweet and savory coconut bisque with charred scallion oil and dressed with Thai basil and mint leaves. Add a side of coconut rice dressed with crispy roasted coconut flakes. On Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Si! Mon offers a casual menu featuring a pupusa revuelta with refried Sea Island red beans and fish and chips with a whole-fried huachinango red snapper.
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NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 1: Empanadas and Santana's Chicken on an interior dining table at El Bacano Restaurant on Friday, March 1, 2024 in North Hollywood, CA. (Catherine Dzilenski / For The Times)
(Catherine Dzilenski/For The Times)

Santana’s chicken at El Bacano

North Hollywood Dominican $
In North Hollywood, El Bacano is the city’s first fast-casual Dominican restaurant, showcasing island specialties such as La Bandera, mangú and sancocho. The menu offers thorough explanations of each dish, welcoming those unfamiliar with Dominican food.

Stew chicken and rice is a staple across the Caribbean and Santana’s chicken, named after El Bacano’s founding family, is the restaurant’s version, is marinated with garlic, onion, oregano, cilantro and sauteéd alongside long cuts of green and red bell peppers, onions and a tart pool of gravy.

For any entreé, diners can swap out the typical rice and black beans for moros, rice and beans stewed together. Depending on the day, you can get moros with red kidney beans, black beans or pigeon peas.

As a snack to go, El Bacano also offers crispy empanadas stuffed with your choice of salami and cheese, beef, chicken, veggies or cheese.
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