Over the past year, while you’ve been, you know, occupied, a number of exciting new restaurants themed to various islands in the Caribbean sprang up on our own Island. Here are just a few newish ones worth a trip, each a culinary exploration and mini-vacation in one.
NuVo Kitchen (2367 Hempstead Tpke, East Meadow): You might be forgiven for missing out on owner Marc Celestin's fusion charmer when it opened in late 2020, but what’s your excuse now? The handsome, chill exterior calls to mind a nightclub with a serious rope line, although inside you’ll find a menu and hardworking staff that find ways to please almost everyone, especially during busy weekend brunches. A recent visit yielded a creative, gorgeously plated jerk chicken and waffles with spiced maple syrup ($20), meaty lobster mac ’n cheese ($25), deeply satisfying Dominican mangư — mashed plantains — with eggs and choice of proteins to include shrimp or conch ($20), and a ribeye-and-three-egg breakfast for the truly hungry ($25). And don’t overlook the tempting-at-any-hour cocktails, each beautiful and potent, from the sunrise palette of rum punch ($18), to a classy citrus, spiced rum and Cointreau concoction called Cable Car ($15), to a pina colada-esque gin number served in a Leaning Tower of Pisa glass ($15). More info: 516-493-4717, nkrestaurant.com
Pops & Poosh Caribbean Kitchen (988 Merrick Rd., Baldwin): Is Haitian cuisine having a moment? Signs point to yes, courtesy this simple but attractive South Shore spot, which debuted over the summer. The superbly buttery puff pastry of the Haitian patties sold here — softer, square-shaped and milder than their Jamaican counterparts — are worth a trip all by themselves, especially as the neat little packages come in six varieties — beef, chicken, cod, herring, veggie (all $1.25) and conch ($2.50). But don’t overlook the plates either, especially the gryot (fried pork) served with rice, fried plantains and pikliz ($15). Also a must: a side of the malanga root fritters, juicy and irresistible, known as akra ($6 for 6). The cooking is by husband and wife Edward and Jessie Byron, whose thriving catering business gave rise to this bricks-and-mortar establishment, their first, which is run by sons Parnell (Pops) and Wagner (Poosh). More info: 516-223-2600, popsandpoosh.com
Uncle Don’s Kitchen (1B West Village Green, Hicksville): Kingston native Patrick Walters, ably assisted by umpteen family members, opened this takeout-only place in May, quickly establishing a loyal following among lovers of all things Jamaican. Credit his fine oxtail — on a good day, Walters long-braises 60 pounds of it in the kitchen’s great caldrons until the meat goes soft and broth becomes gravy and then elixir ($15-$18). Other highlights include smoky jerk chicken ($15-$18), and fried chicken juicy and jerk-spiced ($8-$12). All dishes come with sides to include fried plantains, rice and peas, and more. Best of all, perhaps, are Uncle Don’s Jamaican meat patties, which are available in multiple flavors, including chicken, shrimp, and beef with two levels of heat ($2.85 and up). More info: 516-226-3808, uncledonskitchen.com