Dining in Trinidad
You could, quite seriously, come to Trinidad just to eat. Trinidadians love food — eating it, cooking it, and sharing it. Of course it’s way more fun to enjoy everything the island has to offer, but punctuate the excursions with culinary experiences ranging from finger-lickin’ street food to exquisite, award-winning fine dining experiences.
The local flavour
Drawing on the culinary traditions of our cosmopolitan island’s many ethnic groups, Trinidad’s cuisine is distinct, tasty, and full of surprises. Dominant influences include African, Indian, Spanish, French, British, Chinese and Syrian-Lebanese traditions. So when it comes to indulging, you’ll be thoroughly spoilt for choice.
The restaurant scene has been blossoming in recent years. Fine dining options abound in Port of Spain (especially Woodbrook) and San Fernando, with an increasing number in east and central Trinidad. Many of the chefs at top restaurants have worked internationally, and like to experiment with local ingredients in Caribbean and international fusion dishes. Several restaurants have opened in historic buildings, preserving their traditional style and architecture. Others have opened up in fresh, sleek contemporary settings. Italian, French, Spanish, Lebanese, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Hakka (Indian/Chinese) are among the specialty restaurants and menus you’ll find. Combination restaurant/sports bars are a fashionable choice for dining and liming, especially when big sporting events are on.
TIPS & TRICKS
Make reservations, especially for dinner. Attire is usually casual to “elegantly casual”. If the service charge is included, you needn’t leave a tip, but certainly should (assuming the service is good) if it isn’t. Make sure to wash it all down with some freshly squeezed tropical punches (rum optional); a beastly cold, locally-brewed Carib or Stag; or some of the island’s fine rums, including the vintage Angostura 1919. And if you’re around in September, make sure to take advantage of the specials during T&T Restaurant Week!
You’ll find international fusion menus at many restaurants, while those specialising in other cuisines often pay homage in their names.
Among the most popular dining experiences are the Hyatt’s Waterfront Restaurant (Port of Spain); Tiki Village and Kava (both at the Kapok Hotel, Maraval); Kaizan Sushi and Zanzibar (MovieTowne, Port of Spain); Krave Restaurant (Marabella); Mélange (Woodbrook); the New York Times-featured Creole restaurant, Veni Mangé (Woodbrook); as well as Aioli (Maraval); Chaud (St Ann’s); Angelo’s Italian Restaurant (Woodbrook); Buzo Osteria Italiana (Woodbrook); Zazou Bistro Moderne (Maraval); Jaffa at the Oval (Woodbrook); and Prime Restaurant & Steakhouse (Port of Spain).
For lighter meals or coffee/tea, check out House of Jaipur’s Tea Room, Dianne’s Tea Shop and Adam’s Bagels (Maraval), or grab a quick sandwich or salad at Subway.
Finger-lickin’ good: Creole food & street food
Creole food and street (also beach or festival) food are a big part of our culinary culture. Doubles is perhaps the leading roadside delight, a favourite of the breakfast and late evening crowds in St James, Woodbrook, Curepe, on Long Circular Road, and even the airport. There are also several buffet-style and pay-by-the-pound Creole eateries around these same stretches, and at night vendors emerge selling grilled fare, burgers, roti, corn soup, souse and ital food. People trek from all over the country to San Fernando to partake in barbecued Halal meats. In nearby Debe village, people throng to small wooden huts for sumptuous Indian delicacies.
BE STREET SMART
Authorised vendors display food badges which certify official health inspection and approval.
LOCAL FOOD FAVOURITES
Here’s a list of local favourite foods and flavours that you should definitely try.
- Accra: fritter of flour or grated yam flavoured with saltfish, thyme and pepper (African origin)
- Buljol: shredded saltfish mixed with onions, tomatoes and olive oil, often served with coconut bake
- Callaloo: soup made from dasheen leaves, coconut milk, ochroes, pumpkin, and sometimes salted meat or crab
- Chow: fruit, especially young ones, pickled in vinegar, salt and pepper. Favourites include mango, pineapple, West Indian plums
- Corn soup: a split peas-based soup with corn and dumplings
- Doubles: a popular Indian snack consisting of a soft, fried flour-and-split pea shell filled with curried chick peas. If you’re not a “pepper mouth”, ask the vendor for doubles with “slight pepper” or “no pepper”
- Macaroni pie: baked macaroni, milk and cheese dish, often accompanied by stewed meat and peas
- Pastelle: seasoned meat, lentils or soya with olives, capers and raisins in a cornmeal casing and steamed in banana leaves. A Christmas staple
- Pelau: a one-pot dish of rice, pigeon peas and meat, often cooked in coconut milk
- Pholourie: seasoned fritters made with flour and split peas, dressed with chutney sauces
- Roti: hefty flour wrap (often with ground split peas) filled with your choice of curried vegetables and/or meat. Sada roti is a slightly stiffer, greaseless variation, commonly served with choka, vegetables sautéed Indian-style
- Bake-and-shark: That’s the usual Trini beach tradition, but for environmental sustainability, we suggest substituting equally tasty and richly seasoned fillets of flying fish, mahi mahi (“dolphin”), squid/calamari, carite, tilapia, wahoo, lionfish; or a vegetarian option, to go with the fried leavened bread (bake) and condiments (see below) that make this seaside dish such a local favourite. At Maracas Bay, Asha’s will do the eco-friendly needful!
- Sno-cone: shaved ice drenched in syrups or kola and condensed milk (on request)
- Tamarind balls: a sweet (sometimes peppery) made from the pulp of the tamarind fruit, rounded by hand and rolled in sugar
- Condiments: Trinis love to douse their foods with condiments such as pepper, garlic, tamarind or barbecue sauce, ketchup, chutney and pickled fruits and veggies
- Baked fare: cassava pone, coconut sweetbread, fruitcake/black cake, coconut bake
- Fruit: mango, passion fruit, cashew, grapefruit, orange, portugal, shaddock, pommerac, pommecythere/golden apple, chennette/guineps, guava, melon, five fingers/carambola, sapodilla, soursop, paw-paw/papaya, pineapple, tamarind, peewah, chataigne
- Drinks: sorrel, mauby, ginger beer, coconut water, sea-moss, barbadine, soursop, rum punch, local wines made from local fruits
- Herbs and spices: nutmeg, clove, garlic, ginger, chadon beni, peppers, roucou/annatto, bay, anise, thyme, lemon/fever grass, spring onion.
“De Avenue”: the dining and nightlife paradise just outside Port of Spain. On this Woodbrook strip, you’ll get everything from fine dining restaurants to casinos, exclusive clubs, trendy bars and pubs, sushi and wine bars, street food vendors, and Creole food establishments — many crowded most nights of the week, with the buzz spilling out onto the sidewalks and into the streets. Settle in at one, or do like many locals, and bar/club-hop the night away!