NEW ORLEANS -- Summer is when New Orleans feels the most like our Caribbean neighbors to the south. These days it can also taste more like the Caribbean too, and in different ways. Below are four recommendations around town when you want a taste of the islands, each representing its own distinct dining experience, from walk-up to high end.
Boswell’s Jamaican Grill
3521 Tulane Ave., New Orleans, 504-482-6600
Boswell's has been a standby in Mid-City for many years, relocating from Broad Street to this Tulane Avenue address after Katrina. During lunch it can feel like a clubhouse, with lots of people from the city's Caribbean community dropping in for a quick bite. The buffet is great for this, loaded with jerk chicken, rice and peas, curried chicken and other staples. When you have a little more time, work your way through the menu with more traditional dishes and seafood available. Or just get a patty (meat pie) from the case behind the counter for a snack on the go.
Johnny's Jamaican Grill
2000 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., New Orleans, phone n.a.
This very new addition is part of Roux Carre, an outdoor food court in Central City that debuted last fall. Step up to the booth and very soon you take me way a well-stuffed carton of jerk chicken or stewed chicken with rice and beans, greens and vegetables. Dining is all outdoors in the courtyard, though this stuff travels well for take-away too.
Cane & Table
1113 Decatur St., New Orleans, 504-581-1112
Cane & Table splits the difference between restaurant and bar. Caribbean flavors and a touch of Polynesian tiki style inform the mid-range menu here, which is tropical and a little playful. Spare ribs are fried under a thick, bubbly crust and the three-pea hummus comes with a generous allotment of plantain chips for dipping. More traditional are dishes like the ropa vieja, the classic Cuban beef dish of long-braised meat in a deeply-flavorful, garlicky jus. On the bar side, there are elaborate craft cocktails following a similar island theme.
535 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, 504-599-2119
Though more upscale than of the eateries above, Compere Lapin has an unmistakable island influence to its cuisine. The chef, Nina Compton, is a native of St. Lucia and her menu is a compelling blend of French, Italian and Caribbean flavors. The setting is upscale casual, and it’s become a hotspot since opening in the Warehouse District last year. To see why, get any of the raw fish dishes, the seafood pepper pot, the spicy pasta pici or, at lunch, the “hot fire chicken,” fried to a crunchy
crust with a strong dose of red pepper and cayenne spice. Wash them down with first class cocktails.