Caribbean Cuisine offers Haitian cuisine in Evansville
EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Caribbean food is full of excitement: spices and herbs, fruity peppers, exotic fruits and vegetables, rice and beans and even pasta and potato salads with unique flavors. Most adventurous diners are familiar with allspice-flavored curries and jerk marinades, and the citrus flavors of Cuba and the Central American coast have recently made a local inroads.
Now we have another new Caribbean cuisine to sample – the hearty and hearty dishes of Haiti are on offer at Caribbean Cuisine on Kentucky Avenue, which quietly opened in November.
Four partners run the company, all from Haiti. Meldy Devallon, Lovelie Francois and Frensen and Lorvens Cede have come together to offer a taste of home to Evansville’s growing Haitian population and anyone who enjoys island food.
Devallon came up with the idea and gathered some friends to make it happen.
“What brought me closer to my partners is that Lovelie can cook. She really knows how to cook, ”he said. “My whole family lives in South Florida and Miami, but as a teenager I was in Job Corps in Kentucky. After I graduated from high school I needed a trade and thought I would work on cars or something. Evansville was the closest town, and I decided to come here because the cost of living in Florida is so high. So I have been living in the neighborhood since 2013.
Devallon has had multiple restaurant jobs and enjoys cooking and eating, and he missed out on his favorite dishes from the Haitian community where he grew up.
“When I got here, there was none of the food we love – Caribbean and African foods,” he said. “My dream was that one day I wanted to do something where I could serve these comfortable foods. There are a lot of Haitians, Dominicans, and Africans here, and Haitian and African foods use similar seasonings.
Some examples are Maggi Seasoning, a dark brown liquid flavor enhancer similar to soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce. Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers are used to add fruity heat and punch to dishes, although not all dishes are hot and spicy by any means. It’s more of an accent.
Rice and beans are cooked with spices to make a universal, high-protein side dish that soaks up the sauce, and plantains – the large, starchy bananas increasingly familiar in Evansville – are a staple. Thick slices are cooked until tender, mashed into patties and cooked until crisp, just like Cuban tostones.
A unique feature of Haitian cuisine is that meats are often braised or simmered in flavorful liquids, then quickly fried for a crisp exterior before serving.
Devallon and François initially thought about making a food truck because there would be less overhead, but François wanted a brick and mortar location.
Devallon said he heard about the place after talking to his barber, who has a store next to the building.
“We had to fix it up a bit, but it’s a good place,” he said.
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Caribbean Cuisine’s menu is small but solid. Every day, find oxtail stew and simmered / fried chicken and pork epaulettes with spices. Other specialties on offer include whole fried snapper, turkey stew, and simmered okra. Smaller portions of each are offered at a lower price.
On weekends, find beef and vegetable soups and a specialty of lalo or jute leaves, a spinach-like green, simmered with spices and served with rice and mashed black beans.
The side dishes are a lot of fun. Everything is accompanied by slightly spiced rice with red beans. Fried plantains are wonderful topped with an innocent-looking tangy ‘coleslaw’ called pikliz. Be careful though, these orange slices are not all carrots. Habanero peppers give this relish a powerful, tangy heat to the lips.
The potato and beet salad is a pretty bright pink color and has a smooth, earthy flavor.
Finally, the Haitian macaroni and cheese is different from the American version and very delicious. The penne is cooked and baked with cheese, mayonnaise and strips of sweet pickled red peppers. The texture is drier, but the pasta is soft and soaked in flavor.
Look at the Facebook page on facebook.com/Caribbean-Cuisine-102346144564315 for more promotions.
Caribbean Cuisine is located at 1010 S. Kentucky Ave., Unit C, just south of the intersection with Washington Avenue.
If you are going to
Telephone: (812) 303-0631
Sunday – Thursday 11 am-9pm
Friday – Saturday 11 am-10pm
Caribbean Cuisine reports that it is wheelchair accessible. Note that the parking lot is across Kentucky Avenue.