Taste Caribbean cuisine at Cedar Rapids at Wawa Caribbean Restaurant


The fried red snapper is served whole with sides of fried plantains, rice and beans, and a dip at Wawa Caribbean Restaurant in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller / The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS – After selling food in her own home, Wadeline “Wawa” Lafortune fulfills her dream of serving a taste of the Caribbean in her own restaurant.

“This has always been my dream,” she said while helping patrons to early dinner at Wawa Caribbean Restaurant, 4342 16th Ave. SW – whose commands and preferences she already knew. The new restaurant is located in what was once The Fish Store.

After pandemic delays and struggling to get the space she wanted, she opened a restaurant with her husband, Wilberson, on January 31.

Caribbean restaurant Wawa

Or: 4342 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Website: wawacaribbeanrestaurant.com

Telephone: (319) 396-3568

Details: Available for dinner and take out.

“It was just amazing how full of people the parking lot was,” she said of the time she sold her house’s food. “People would say” you have to open a restaurant. “”

So with a hungry customer base already built up, she did it.

Wadeline “Wawa” Lafortune places a take-out order for Cedar Rapids’ Chizi Anaghara (right) on April 29 at the Wawa Caribbean restaurant in Cedar Rapids. Lafortune shares food from Haiti, where she grew up, and other island-style dishes. (Rebecca F. Miller / The Gazette)

But there is a certain irony in the history of the Haitian immigrant. Although she serves a variety of Haitian dishes, from goat and oxtail stew to legumes and fried plantains, she never cooked as a child in Haiti. At age 13, his family moved to South Florida, where his self-taught passion blossomed.

Other popular dishes on the menu include fried pork, jerk chicken, and a savory legume stew with green papayas, ripe papayas, chayote, cabbage, spinach, and eggplant.

Fried goat cheese is served with rice, beans, and fried plantains at Wawa Caribbean restaurant in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller / The Gazette)

“No one has ever taught me how to cook,” she says. “My husband says it violates common sense. I think cooking is common sense. You mix things together, you mix them up and that makes a meal.

And after telling her husband for 13 years how much she wanted to open a restaurant, her common sense cooking becomes evident to diners at Cedar Rapids, where the ins and outs of running a restaurant have clicked with her passions, even without formal training in catering. .

“When you love to do something and put all your passions into it… it clicks,” she said. “It’s like you’ve been doing it for many years.”

With a variety of marinades she calls wet spices – unlike the dry spices she says Americans use more commonly – Lafortune, 33, has adapted her cooking style to American taste without losing the Caribbean flavor. Haitian cuisine involves a series of more labor-intensive steps and methods to turn the raw ingredients into a finished product, she said.

Customers await takeout orders on April 29 at Wawa Caribbean Restaurant, 4342 16th Ave. SW at Cedar Rapids. Owner Wadeline “Wawa” Lafortune shares food from Haiti, where she grew up, and other Caribbean cultures. (Rebecca F. Miller / The Gazette)

Taking care to moderate her spices, her approach makes the food palatable to Americans looking for a tropical getaway as well as Caribbean natives looking for a taste of home, she said. declared. Lafortune is particularly proud to be able to convey this sentiment to Florida students in the region.

“I do most of the cooking because I’m very picky when it comes to food,” Lafortune said. “It must be my own style.”

Lafortune’s family, with four children under the age of 12, moved to Cedar Rapids in 2017 from South Florida. With the help of Wilberson and the help of their children, Wawa said they want to do everything to get this restaurant off the ground and be successful.

“There is too much going on in Florida,” Lafortune said. “We wanted to start a whole new life.

Wawa has an eye on future expansions with multiple locations, possibly. She said Iowa is a great place for Caribbean restaurants to start simply because there are fewer around the area.

In the meantime, their children are learning the ropes. Her 5-year-old daughter already knows how to greet customers in the Wawa way: “Hello, my love.”

Wawa Lafortune is packing take-out containers on April 29 at the Wawa Caribbean restaurant in Cedar Rapids. (Rebecca F. Miller / The Gazette)

The fried red snapper is served whole with sides of fried plantains, rice and beans, and a dip at Wawa Caribbean Restaurant in Cedar Rapids. Wadeline “Wawa” Lafortune shares food from Haiti, where she grew up, and other Caribbean culinary cultures. (Rebecca F. Miller / The Gazette)

Comments: (319) 398-8340; [email protected]


Michael M. Tomlin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.