Celebrate Black History Month: 9 Heritage-Rich African + Caribbean Restaurants

To understand the food of today, we need to look back. African-American culinary favorites are deeply rooted in Africa and the Caribbean traditions – from cod fritters and jerk chicken to black-eyed peas and braised oxtail. These weren’t always well-recognized dishes in the continental dining lexicon, but that has, thankfully, shifted. In honor of Black History Month, here are nine heritage-rich African and Caribbean restaurants that carry on and evolve the traditions that started it all. 

Palm House, San Francisco, California
Pulling influence from the West Indies, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and beyond, this beach-vibed bistro makes you feel like you’re a stone’s throw from the surf. The menu includes summery standouts, such as scallop ceviche pepped with habanero, Red Stripe battered cod tacos with a kicking jerk aioli, and a vanilla-accented pork chop accompanied by plantain dumplings. For a good time, order a few rounds of the white rum-powered passion fruit slushies topped off with a dark rum floater. We take no responsibility for whatever happens next. Make a reservation at Palm House.

Celebrate Black History Month

Demera, Chicago, Illinois
If you really want to experience Ethiopian fare, make sure to bring a group to dinner. Order a giant round of injera bread decked out with a slew of selections appealing to carnivores, vegetarians, and pescatarians alike. Our favorites include berbere-spiced shrimp wot (a thick stew), kik alicha (turmeric-spiced split yellow peas), and derek tibs (spicy sautéed lamb chunks). A glass or two of tej (honey wine) will help quench the food’s fire. End your meal with a traditional Ethiopian coffee, starring house-roasted beans served in a black clay jebena pot. Make a reservation at Demera.

Celebrate Black History Month

Cuba Libre, Washington, D.C.
Decorated to look like a back street in Old Havana with a vibrant Latin soundtrack to match, the restaurant aims to whisk guests away to a refined vision of the city’s golden years. James Beard Award-winning chef-partner Guillermo Pernot focuses on the favorites – from Cubano sandwiches and black bean soup to lechón (pulled pork) and picadillo-style empanadas stuffed with ground beef, raisins, and Manzanilla olives. Wash it all down with one of the restaurant’s namesake cocktails or one of the many mojitos available. Make a reservation at Cuba Libre.

Celebrate Black History Month

Peli Peli, Houston, Texas
The space is designed here to give diners the impression they’re dining under the branches of a giant acacia tree and the sky above. The something-for-everyone menu is a considerate introduction to South African fare. Meet bobotie – spiced ground beef topped with tomato stew, flaky pastry topping, and mango chutney – their answer to pot pie. Chicken chunks marinated in sweet curry sauce are speared with apricots to create sosaties (kebabs). And espetada ­– flame grilled beef chunks basted with plenty of garlic herb butter – pay homage to the country’s substantial Portuguese community. Make a reservation at Peli Peli.

Celebrate Black History Month

Coconuts, Palo Alto, California
The menu here is charmingly divided into “di small tings,” “di big tings,” and “di sweet tings.” In each section, Jamaican-born chef Robert Simpson adds island flair. Coconut-crusted shrimp are built for dipping into the chili-upped passion fruit dipping sauce, curried goat arrives on a bed of jasmine rice with logs of fried plantain, and there’s rum cake with coconut ice cream to finish. The bar menu favors Caribbean favorites, such as a rummy piña colada laced with sweet guava, and riffs on cocktail classics, including a hibiscus martini. Make a reservation at Coconuts.

Celebrate Black History Month

Tap Tap, Miami Beach, Florida
The cuisine of Haiti gets the star treatment. To start, hone in on the akra fritters made with taro-esque malanga tubers – which are best when dipped into the slightly bitter watercress sauce – and the piquant conch ceviche. Stewed oxtail and goat stew are worthy entrees, especially when accompanied by kalalou (stewed okra), fried yucca, and ears of corn streaked with black from a turn on the grill. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to order one of the sweet ‘n’ tart mojitos powered by Barbancourt Haitian rum. Like you would make such a grievous error. We know you’re no amateur. Make a reservation at Tap Tap.

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Lively Up Yourself: 9 Legend-ary Jamaican + Ethiopian Dishes for Bob Marley Day 2016

February 6th marks what would have been Bob Marley’s 71st birthday. Born in Jamaica, the reggae icon considered Ethiopia his spiritual home. To celebrate the two rich veins of his heritage, we are highlighting nine outstanding dishes from the Caribbean island and the eastern African nation. These history-rich foods embody and showcase the culinary traditions of each region. Guaranteed to satisfy your soul on Bob Marley Day 2016 – and guaranteed to be one of your #29ReasonstoLoveFebruary!

Mr. Brown’s Lounge, Chicago, Illinois
Skewered shrimp are marinated in a ‘catch a fire’ jerk sauce made with plenty of Scotch Bonnet peppers that ain’t for the faint of heart. Luckily, the sweet, soothing mango salsa keeps things cool. If that’s not enough, we recommend a tart Ting grapefruit soda or a guava milkshake to quench the flames dancing across your tongue. A side of fried plantains or coconut milk-enriched rice ‘n’ peas will also help. Make a reservation at Mr. Brown’s Lounge.

Bob Marley Day 2016

Das Ethiopian Cuisine, Washington, D.C.
Can’t make up your mind on what to order? The vegetarian entrée sampler is a good way to go. Featuring eggplant and carrot wat stew, miser wat (red lentil stew with traditional Ethiopian Berbere pepper spice), and tikil gomen (ginger and garlic amped cabbage, potatoes, and carrots) and more, its served on a bed of spongy injera bread that’s meant to be used as a utensil — and then promptly eaten. Make a reservation at Das Ethiopian Cuisine.

Bob Marley Day 2016

Taste of the Caribbean, Seattle, Washington
Meet your new favorite appetizer. Salted codfish, onions, peppers, and West Indian spices are balled up, battered, and deep-fried. Zigzagged with hot sauce and speckled with scallions, we bet you can’t eat just one of these tasteful takes on the Caribbean classic. Make a reservation at Taste of the Caribbean.

Bob Marley Day 2016

Ethiopian Diamond, Chicago, Illinois
Think of tibs as an Ethiopian stir-fry. To create tibs quosta, spinach is sautéed with garlic and onions, and then mixed with juicy chicken chunks and green peppers. Of course, it’s served with plenty of injera bread, so you can fold up the components together fajita-style. Make a reservation at Ethiopian Diamond.

Bob Marley Day 2016

Ja’ Grill, Chicago, Illinois
Chef Errol Gallimore, a Jamaican transplant, cooks his home-style oxtail in an aromatic brown sauce until the meat is falling off the bone. The rich stew is fortified with butter beans, carrots, potatoes, onions, and several varieties of pepper and is complemented with spicy rice and fried plantains. Goes well with an ice-cold Red Stripe beer. Or three. Make a reservation at Ja’ Grill.

Bob Marley Day 2016

Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge, Houston
If Ethiopia has a national chicken dish, it just might be doro wat. In this rendition, a bone-in drumstick and thigh are slow-simmered in a spicy slurry, not unlike a thick barbecue sauce, and accompanied by a hard-boiled egg. We’re fond of mashing all the components together to create a barbecued chicken ‘n’ egg salad, which we roll up in torn off pieces of injera. Make a reservation at Lucy Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge.

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Trending on Recent OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Scotch Eggs

This is hardly as pretty as the Scotch egg I remember, but I'm betting it's still darned tasty.

About a decade ago, my husband and I visited a small Jamaican-American restaurant for brunch. Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs (although I’m not sure that’s true anymore), and we wound up ordering more food than any two people should, including their version of a Scotch egg. The restaurant has long since closed, unfortunately, but I remember it — and that slightly runny, boiled egg, swathed in salty, spicy pork sausage and crisp breadcrumbs — fondly. As you’ll see, Scotch eggs remain popular in the U.K., where they were invented, and have since become fashionable in restaurants on OpenTable in the U.S., as well. 

The Broad Chare, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, U.K.: “We absolutely love this place — it was even a place to bring the parents for dinner! It has a whole beer list and the food is delicious. Highlights are the bar snacks — pork crackling with apple sauce and the Scotch egg.”

Cedric’s Tavern-Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina: “The food at Cedric’s is excellent — the Scotch Eggs are the best in town; in fact they’re probably the best I have ever had.”

The Fat Radish, New York, New York: “They have many exciting dishes and appetizers on the menu, and also a lot of vegetarian options. I loved the Montauk diver scallops with sweet potato mash. I also tried the Scotch egg as a starter, which was amazing. Great place!”

The Gage, Chicago, Illinois: “The Scotch Egg is fantastic! Also, the stuffed peppers were a real surprise as well and the beer on tap is broad. The entree’s were elk saddle and farm chicken. Both of them were good…. I would absolutely come back here if for no other reason to order four or five Scotch eggs.”

Gram & Dun, Kansas City, Missouri: “The presentation is great here. Every dish looks like it could be in a magazine. My Scotch egg at brunch was fun and tasty; my wife said the French toast with the egg in the middle was the best French toast she ever had.”

The Hinds Head-Bray, Bray, Windsor, U.K.: “A great meal. We tried Heston’s legendary Scotch Eggs as starters. They were … legendary!”

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