Dining in Trinidad
There’s a reason that food tourism is considered a niche with tremendous growth potential. You won’t find anything in the region quite like the melting pot of culinary offerings in Trinidad. The diversity of influences (Indian, African, Chinese, Syrian-Lebanese, French, Spanish, Italian, American, and more), together with the ingenuity and creativity of local chefs to combine these flavours in unique ways, make for an irresistible array of richly seasoned dishes and fusions to explore. Here’s the low-down on Trinidad’s “blessed and highly flavoured” food scene!
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.
You’ll find international fusion menus at many restaurants, while those specialising in other cuisines often pay homage in their names.
CREOLE, INTERNATIONAL & MORE
Adam’s (restaurant, bakery and gourmet shop in Maraval); Chaud (international fusion, St Ann’s) and Chaud Café (Woodbrook); Jaffa at the Oval (international, Woodbrook); Joseph’s (Lebanese, Maraval); Kava (international, St Clair); Lola’s Food Company (international, Woodbrook); More Vino (international, Woodbrook); Paprika Bistro (international, Cocorite); Prime (steakhouse, Port of Spain); The Waterfront Restaurant at the Hyatt (Caribbean/international, Port of Spain); Trotter’s (international, St Clair); Town (international, Woodbrook); Veni Mangé (Caribbean creole, Woodbrook); Zanzibar (international, MovieTowne, Port of Spain).
MEDITERRANEAN & EUROPEAN
Aioli (Mediterranean, Maraval); Angelo’s (Italian, Woodbrook); Bacco (Italian, San Fernando); Buzo (Italian, Woodbrook); Krave (Mediterranean, Marabella); La Cantina (Italian, Port of Spain); Rizzoni’s (Italian, Port of Spain); Taste (tapas, Maraval); and Zazou (French, Woodbrook).
Apsara (Indian, Queen’s Park Savannah); House of Chan (Asian, Curepe); Himchuli (Asian, El Socorro); Hakka (Asian fusion, Woodbrook); Kaizan Sushi (Asian, MovieTowne, Port of Spain); Rasam (Indian, Valsayn); Samurai (Japanese, Woodbrook); Svaada (Indian, Woodbrook); Tiki Village (Asian, St Clair); The Meena House (Indian, St Clair).
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!
Finger-lickin’ good: Creole food & street food
Creole food and street (also beach or festival) food are a big part of our culinary culture. These are best served up at more low-key spots on the roadside, by the beach, and at creole eateries in hotspots like St James, Woodbrook, Curepe, Eddie Hart Grounds (Tacarigua), Debe (especially for Indian food), the Queen’s Park Savannah food court and D’Cross in San Fernando (both at night), and Maracas Bay (particularly for bake-and-fish).
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 TO TRY
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)
- Bake-and-fish: you’ll hear Trinis argue about whether it’s bake and shark or shark and bake…but we recommend avoiding the shark altogether for the sake of environmental sustainability. We suggest substituting equally tasty and richly seasoned fillets of butterfish, 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. We promise it will taste just as good, and be much better for our ecology!
- 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
- 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!