NYC - The Official Guide

A Weekend Exploring Black-Owned Flatbush

Rondel Holder
Advertisement

At any given moment in Flatbush you can hear the sounds of reggae, soca or kompa music, see flags from every Caribbean country in apartment windows or on store awnings and hear accents from locals who have roots in Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad, Haiti, Barbados and Guyana. The aromas from Caribbean bakeries, fresh fruit markets, street-side jerk chicken stands and roti shops fill the air—and the goods taste even better than they smell. The connection to the West Indies is so strong that you may feel you’ve been transported to your favorite island—minus the palm trees and views of the Caribbean—or, better yet, that you are island-hopping as you walk around. It’s no wonder the neighborhood has been nicknamed Little Caribbean.

Advertisement
Photo: Pablo Serrano

In addition to being a cultural hub for all things Caribbean, Flatbush—an area that includes Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Flatbush Junction—has become a destination for dining, nightlife and shopping. Longstanding and newer Black-owned businesses here, like in the rest of the City and the US, have been impacted disproportionately due to the pandemic. Spending a long weekend immersed in the neighborhood’s Caribbean culture and exploring Black-owned restaurants, bars and cultural attractions is a great way to support these businesses.

We look forward to a time when businesses have fully opened up, and our itinerary reflects this ideal. For now, some restaurants, bars, shops, attractions and cultural institutions may be temporarily closed, have delivery/takeout/outdoor-dining only or have shortened hours. Be sure to check on their status before your visit. 

Day 1: Friday

Start your day at Trini Breakfast Shed II for some of the most authentic Trinidadian food outside of the island. Breakfast items include pholourie (fried dough balls), doubles and fried bake with herring or shark (yes, shark) that you can request “fully dressed,” to include toppings like tamarind, lettuce, tomato, pepper sauce and chadon beni—a cilantro condiment.

Learn about Caribbean history, culture and its prevalence in the neighborhood at the Caribbean Literacy and Culture Center in the Brooklyn Public Library’s Flatbush branch. Around since 1905, the library has books, newspapers, art and artifacts relevant to the Caribbean diaspora and hosts readings, demonstrations and small showcases throughout the year. 

Zanmi. Photo: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Zanmi offers traditional Haitian cuisine with modern embellishments in a fine-dining environment. The name, Haitian Creole for “friends,” symbolizes the sense of community that the four owners create by pooling their individual strengths in the service industry. The menu has traditional Haitian dishes like lambi (fried and broiled conch), black rice and fried plantains, plus Haitian-inspired creations such as voodoo pasta and Kreyol shrimp scampi.

BKLYN Commons is a coworking space and community center that hosts events year-round (check ahead to see what public ones might on deck) in its beautiful indoor and outdoor multipurpose areas. Though not Black owned, it is Black operated and provides opportunities for Black creatives and entrepreneurs to connect with the Flatbush community.

Established in 2000 to offer shared services to local independent street merchants, Flatbush Caton Market is an open-air bazaar with over 40 vendors who sell clothing, beauty and hair-care products, dried foods, spices, jewelry and more.

Advertisement

An oasis in the heart of Flatbush, Sip Unwine provides a peaceful escape from the bustling streets. This wine and cocktail bar offers an extensive list of international wines and Caribbean-inspired tapas. The venue often holds events and hires local artists to perform in the colorful garden area.

Upscale Caribbean Social, a take on the times when Caribbean social clubs were prevalent in the borough, is a great place to end the night. The first floor is a warm, wood- and brick-clad environment for dining; a staircase leads a level up to a full-on Caribbean fete, with a curated cocktail bar and live DJ spinning both the latest and classic tunes from the islands.

Day 2: Saturday

To charge up for shopping and a marathon food tour, pop into Brooklyn Perk Coffee, a cozy café with Brooklyn-themed decor and exposed-brick interior that serves drip coffees from Colombia, Ethiopia and Indonesia, hot and iced teas and signature drinks like rosé latte, maple latte and London Fog.

Brunch at Mangoseed + Zurilee blends Caribbean specialties with American fare to create interesting fusion dishes like braised oxtail and parmesan grits, and jerk salmon and waffles. Sip on mimosas or sangria while local DJs spin. If you are on the go, Bake & Things, which has two locations in Flatbush, serves amazing homestyle quick Trinidadian bites.

Tafari Tribe. Photo: Vincent Tullo

There is no shortage of shopping in Flatbush. Woodstack sells sneakers and streetwear for men, women and kids, including limited-edition pieces. Style Eyes Optical provides stylish frames and sunglasses for all. Tafari Tribe is a family-owned store that sells Pan-African garments along with accessories such as waist beads and earrings, personal-care items such as soaps and body butters, and spiritual-cleansing products like sage and palo santo.

Prospect Park. Photo: Julienne Schaer

For lunchtime, it’s common to grab a to-go meal, especially if you’re on your way to hang out at Brooklyn’s best-loved green space, Prospect Park, which borders the neighborhood to the west. The takeout options that follow make for a perfect picnic.

Jamaican patties are a must when exploring Flatbush. As you walk the streets you will find no shortage of spots selling them. Errol’s makes some of the best you’ll ever have. A flaky, buttery crust is filled with mild or spicy beef, chicken or veggies and served with the option of warm coco bread. Top it off with a Kola Champagne or sorrel juice. You can’t ask for much more.

For Haitian patties, which are similar in concept but slightly different in texture and seasoning, Immaculee Bakery is a neighborhood favorite.

Advertisement
Peppa's. Photo: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

Jerk chicken is another must-try in Flatbush. This Jamaican specialty is made from slow-grilling chicken that’s been marinated in a mix of spices including scotch bonnet pepper, cayenne, thyme, allspice, clove, cumin and more, making for a smoky, spicy flavor. Like with Jamaican patties, there is no shortage of restaurants or street vendors serving jerk, but at the top of the list are Fisherman’s Cove and Peppa’s, both of which have multiple locations in the neighborhood.

Allan's Bakery. Photo: Vincent Tullo

Family-owned Allan’s Bakery has been serving the community for over 60 years, across three generations. On Saturday mornings you are likely to see a line in front of the store for fresh hard-dough bread, currant rolls or cake orders, but it is worth the wait.

Footprints Cafe. Photo: Steve Williams

Caribbean Vibes serves quintessential Jamaican dishes like ackee and saltfish, oxtail, curry goat, stew peas and jerk pork. With three locations in Brooklyn, Footprints Cafe is another popular Jamaican restaurant serving traditional dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But the reason you may see cars double parked is for the famous Rasta pasta, a creamy penne dish served with your protein of choice: oxtail, garlic shrimp, jerk chicken or any number of other options.

Labay Market. Photo: Pablo Serrano

When Brooklynites with roots in the Caribbean get homesick, Grenadian-owned Labay Market is a natural destination to satisfy their cravings. You’ll find an array of snacks like water crackers and dried fruit, fresh fish, all sorts of Caribbean specialties, spices that are hard to find outside the islands and an array of fresh fruits and veggies from mango to dasheen bush, most of which is grown in owner Big Mac’s 60-acre garden in Grenada.

The Rogers Garden. Photo: Vincent Tullo

As night falls, The Rogers Garden is a great place to grab drinks with friends or meet locals. Brightly painted murals envelop the open-air garden lounge, which in the warmer months has umbrellas and neon lawn chairs, as DJs and live bands play reggae, soca, hip-hop, R&B and Afrobeat from the 1990s to the present. Local food vendors rotate to provide a variety of cuisines. 

The night doesn’t need to end there. Sip N Chat Cocktail Lounge has locals and visitors on the dance floor well into the late hours.

Day 3: Sunday

After the food tour and partying from the day before, you may want to start off on a light note. A number of neighborhood locations, including Natural Blend, Jus Juice and Picky Eaters, offer fresh juices and nutritious, tasty bites. Drip Café is another spot for fresh juices or coffee, set in a cozy environment that feels like a Brooklyn kitchen.

Visiting the African Record Centre is an immersive cultural experience. This institution has been around since the 1960s, the staff is friendly and there’s an unparalleled collection of records, films, art and household items from across Africa and the Caribbean.

Advertisement

For lunch, take a trip (via food) to the Eastern Caribbean. Culpepper’s offers dishes that are popular across the region, but as the owners hail from Barbados, be sure to try traditional Bajan dishes such as conkies, fish cakes and the national dish, flying fish and cou-cou. Similarly, Grenadian-owned MCG Grand Café has some local specialties from the island worth trying, such as callaloo soup, fish broth and, on certain days, Grenada’s national dish, oil down (a vegetable and salted meat stew).

Caribbeing House is a multipurpose mobile market that reflects the cultural heritage of Brooklyn's Caribbean diaspora. Selling Caribbeing-brand products alongside those of other local and internationally based Caribbean vendors, Caribbeing provides pop-up event experiences, art installations and spaces for important, unfiltered conversation among Caribbean Americans.

Aunts Et Uncles. Photo: Brianna Balducci

Aunts Et Uncles is relatively new to Flatbush, but its owners, Nicole and Michael Nicholas, have been in the neighborhood for years. This inspirational spot brings something needed to the area with its menu of flavorful plant-based dishes that will make even the most dedicated carnivore ask for more. Both the decor and the dishes are island inspired, reflecting the Nicholas’ roots in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago. The well-designed location also serves as a retail store with a curated selection of books, clothing and house accessories.

To close out your weekend, head to Michelle’s Cocktail Lounge, a neighborhood treasure that has been around for decades. The Panamanian-owned and -operated spot serves international and top-shelf liquors, including hard-to-find Panamanian rums like Ron Abuelo and Seco Herrerano, as well as Panamanian bites. It’s no frills, but the warm environment and personal interaction with the staff are just a couple of reasons locals cling to this destination with pride.

Check out Little Caribbean’s official website to learn about more ways you can explore and support this community in NYC.

The Black Experience

The Black Experience

This story is a part of our ongoing content series dedicated to showcasing Black culture, restaurants, businesses and more in New York City. Find more original stories like this by clicking the explore link below.

Explore

Advertisement

From Our Partners