Where to Find Tasty Caribbean Food in Vancouver

Oxtail stew; Photo: Yardie Grabz

With the holidays over, you may be looking to spice up your palate with a fun culinary escape in Vancouver. The city has a variety of establishments for enjoying your Caribbean favourites, including jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish, and coconut dumplings.

Here is a selection of places for when you’re craving affordable, delicious Jamaican fare:

El Camino’s

Ropa vieja in background (with pira caldo, a Paraguayan fish soup); Photo: El Camino’s

El Camino’s celebrates pan-Latin American cuisine, such as a variety of tacos like slow cooked pork shoulder (carnitas) with avocado, salsa verde, and chicharrones. They include some Cuban (American) specialities, such as ropa vieja, a shredded beef stew with bell peppers, onions, capers, and olives, served with cumin rice; as well as a Cubano sandwich with roasted pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese, pickle, chipotle Dijon on baguette, served with salsa and tortilla chips.

Calabash Bistro

Photo: Calabash Bistro

Located in historic Gastown, Calabash Bistro combines outstanding Caribbean food with music. The top floor is the restaurant, and down below you’ll find a space that hosts live music performances as well as DJs and dancing Fridays and Saturdays. The menu features beloved Caribbean dishes, such as jerk chicken with rice ‘n’ peas, coleslaw, ripe plantains, and jerk sauce; as well as slow braised oxtail with rice ‘n’ peas, coconut dumplings, ripe plantain, and coleslaw. Other dishes combine culinary influences, such as a poutine with jerk fries, brie cheese, and jerk/curry chicken or vegetables. The drink menu includes a coconut jumby and sorrel wallflower, in addition to rum flights. End the meal with warm bread pudding, crispy fried roti, or mango banoffee pie. Calabash also has a sister establishment, Rise Up Marketplace, which sells their patties as well as locally-made goods and hosts live music performances as well as community-minded events.

The Loft Lounge

Photo: The Loft Lounge

The Loft Lounge, located on the second floor at Denman and Davie Streets, is an under-the-radar Caribbean establishment that also combines music, featuring live music on Fridays and jazz on Sundays. Richie Hussett hails from the Caribbean and also owns Di Reggae Café in Surrey. Start with appetizers such as deep-fried plantains, cod fritters with Caribbean spices and herbs, or Jamaican patties before moving onto more substantial dishes. Menu highlights range from ackee with salted cod, served with rice and peas, to slow cooked oxtail with plantains, creamy coleslaw, and a choice between white rice or traditional rice and peas. Order the rum cake with mixed berry rum sauce for dessert.

Riddim & Spice

Photo: Riddim & Spice

Riddim & Spice, an unassuming spot on Commercial Drive, is all about reasonably priced, satisfying Jamaican food. Appetizers include Jamaican patties, fried plantains, coco bread, and fried dumplings. Mains showcase beloved Jamaican dishes such as goat curry, jerk chicken, fried red snapper, and slow cooked oxtail—all served with rice and peas and salad. Expect to leave contentedly full.

The Lion’s Den Cafe

Photo: The Lion’s Den Cafe

The Lion’s Den Café is a wee place on East 15th Avenue just off Fraser Street. Besides all day breakfast, it serves some Caribbean and even Japaribbean options, such as jerk chicken, oxtail stew, curry goat, and jerk chicken with teriyaki chicken. Each of these dishes comes with rice and beans and cornbread. They also sell three kinds of Jamaican patties: spicy beef, curry chicken, and a plant-based option. One of their sandwiches features jerk chicken. You can order a ginger beer, a Ting, or pineapple soda to go with your meal.

Yardie Grabz

Photo: Yardie Grabz

Yardie Grabz is a ghost kitchen offering grab-and-go Jamaican cuisine, as well as catering options. Food is not short on flavour, with options like BBQ jerk chicken, baked mac ‘n’ cheese, a spiced beef patty on Jamaican coco bread, and coconut Johnny cake. Catering dishes include braised oxtail stew, chicken and waffles, and ackee and saltfish.

Baby Dhal Roti Shop

Photo: Baby Dhal Roti Shop

An ode to Trinidadian cuisine, Baby Dhal Roti Shop on Commercial Drive celebrates community, good food, and culture. The menu features a selection of curries, such as goat, beef, and shrimp, as well as stewed chicken and oxtail. Street food favourites, such as pholourie (Indo-Caribbean fritters) and aloo pie (fried dumplings), are also on the menu.

Havana Vancouver

Photo: Havana

Havana will be closed for renovations until January 25 but be sure to check out this long-running Commercial Drive establishment, which specializes in Cuban flavours with a West Coast flair, once it reopens. Starters include twice fried plantains with tomatillo and avocado mousse, a refreshing Pacific snapper ceviche with crispy plantains and corn tortilla chips, and grilled octopus with chorizo. Mains range from a Cubano sandwich, carnitas tacos, and a Calle Ocho salad, with green cabbage, seasonal greens, red peppers, peas, pickled onions, mojo vinaigrette, canchita, and cotija cheese. Pair the food with a fun cocktail, such as a Cuban old fashioned, a beer colada, or The Oaxacan.

Places to Get Patties

Photo: Elbo Jamaican Patties

If you love patties, there are a bunch of different ways to satisfy your craving. The Patty Shop on the west side of Vancouver sells a variety of patties, including hot beef, chicken, and spinach, which are available ready-to-eat or frozen. They also sell chicken and vegetable roti. Elbo Jamaican Patties sells wild mushroom, jerk chicken, spicy beef, and garden chili patties in addition to plaintain chips and rum cake. Available fresh or frozen for same day pick up. You can also find them at various retail locations, such as The Drive Canteen. Vancouver Farmers Markets often has a vendor selling patties, such as MJ’s Caribbean Cuisine from Surrey or Morgan’s Harbour based in Port Coquitlam. Check the market vendor schedules.

 

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