Celebrating Caribbean Month: Exploring Caribbean Cuisine in Northeast Florida

By: Angelica Santini Hernandez

Caribbean American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the rich cultural contributions and vibrant culinary traditions of the Caribbean. Jacksonville, Florida, with its diverse population, offers an array of restaurants that showcase the flavors of the Caribbean islands. From spicy jerk chicken to savory curries, these eateries provide a delicious escape to the tropics. Here are some top spots to savor Caribbean cuisine around Jacksonville.

1. Caribbean Sunrise Bakery & Restaurant

Located on Arlington Road, Caribbean Sunrise Bakery & Restaurant brings the taste of Jamaica to Jacksonville. Known for its authentic Jamaican dishes, this restaurant offers a variety of favorites such as jerk chicken, oxtail and curry goat. The bakery section also features traditional Jamaican patties and sweet treats like rum cake. The cozy atmosphere and friendly service make it a local favorite. My personal favorite being their jerk wings which offer the bold and spicy flavors of Caribbean cuisine. Each wing is meticulously marinated in a robust blend of Jamaican jerk spices, including scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, and thyme, resulting in a tantalizing heat that builds with every bite.

2. El Palermo

Restaurant El Palermo Puerto Rican Kitchen brings the vibrant flavors of Puerto Rican cuisine to Orange Park, Florida, offering a delicious fusion of traditional dishes and island-inspired flavors. Nestled in a lively corner of the city, El Palermo Puerto Rican Kitchen welcomes diners with its casual yet inviting atmosphere, where tropical vibes and warm hospitality create a welcoming dining experience. The menu boasts a variety of Puerto Rican favorites, such as my personal favorites like pernil (roast pork) seasoned to perfection, mofongo (mashed plantains) served with your choice of savory meats or seafood, and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). Each dish is crafted with care, showcasing authentic Puerto Rican ingredients and culinary techniques that capture the essence of the Caribbean. Whether you’re indulging in a classic Puerto Rican dish or discovering a new favorite, El Palermo Puerto Rican Kitchen promises a flavorful journey through the vibrant tastes of Puerto Rico right here in Orange Park, Jacksonville.

3. Island Spice Grill 

Island Spice Grill, located in Jacksonville, Florida, may not be your typical sit-down restaurant, but it promises an exceptional culinary experience on wheels. This Caribbean food truck stands out not only for its vibrant island flavors but also for its commitment to excellent customer service. Whether you’re in the mood for their amazing handcrafted drinks like their Mango Passion fruit pineapple which is my favorite or their Watermelon lime and Jamaican Rum Punch there are always options to choose from. Now talking about food, my personal favorite has to be their Lobster Mac and Cheese which offers a huge deep fried lobster on top of your mac and cheese making this a truly filling dish. The food truck setting adds a touch of novelty and excitement, making it a must-try for anyone seeking a delicious taste of the Caribbean in Jacksonville. 

4. La Gran Parada Dominican Restaurant 

In Jacksonville, Florida, one standout Dominican restaurant that captures the essence of Dominican cuisine is La Gran Parada Dominicana Restaurant. La Gran Parada offers an authentic taste of the Dominican Republic with a menu rich in traditional flavors and dishes. My personal favorite has always been their Mangu, which is mashed plantain, fried egg, fried onions, queso fresco frito, and salami frito. It reminds me of my grandma’s dish growing up and it’s the closest thing I can find to home. The vibrant atmosphere and warm hospitality make it a favorite spot for both locals and visitors looking to savor the flavors of the Caribbean. Whether you’re craving a comforting bowl of arroz con pollo or exploring new flavors like chicharrón de pollo, La Gran Parada Dominican Restaurant promises a culinary journey that celebrates the rich culinary heritage of the Dominican Republic right in the heart of Jacksonville.

5. Flavorikan

Flavorikan is a newly opened restaurant in the Jacksonville area, bringing us the delicious flavors and taste from Puerto Rico. This restaurant started as a food truck and continued to grow into more. The ambiance is warm and inviting, making it a perfect spot for both casual dining and special occasions. If you are from Puerto Rico and want to find a place close to home, this is definitely the place to go to. With a commitment to using fresh, high-quality ingredients, Flavorikan has quickly become a favorite among food enthusiasts in Jacksonville, offering an unforgettable dining experience. My favorite dish has to be their pinchos and chuleta kan kan. 

Conclusion

Caribbean restaurants in Jacksonville highlight the rich culinary traditions of the Caribbean islands with a delicious assortment of flavors. Whether you’re craving sweet desserts, savory curries, or fiery jerk chicken, arroz con pollo, or mofongo these restaurants offer a flavor of the tropics in the northern part of Florida.  Celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month by exploring these fantastic dining spots and savoring the diverse and vibrant cuisine they offer. As a Latina, I feel incredibly proud to see more Caribbean food establishments thriving in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s heartening to witness our community’s culinary diversity expand, enriching the city with authentic Caribbean flavors and traditions.

 

About Angelica Santini

My name is Angelica Santini Hernandez, a 21-year-old Puerto Rican who moved to the United States at the age of 11. I am currently attending the University of North Florida, majoring in Multimedia Communications with a minor in Marketing and Social Media. My interests revolve around photography and writing, and I particularly enjoy using photography to capture the beauty of nature and more. Looking ahead, I aspire to strengthen my bilingual skills in English and Spanish, along with my outgoing personality, to pursue a career in Print and Photography. Additionally, I have dreams of creating conversations and bringing awareness about Puerto Rico, where I can share insights into the current issues in my home country.