Boston, MA - Despite being home to the third-largest Haitian-American population in the country, Haitian cuisine frequently gets overlooked in Boston. Which is a shame, as anyone who’s ever had a plate of perfectly fried griot topped with pikliz and a side of plantains will attest how mind-numbingly addictive it is. After all, why bother traveling the beaten path in this city when you can easily have a two-day old cannoli at any one of your typically overpriced North End pastry shops?
Much like its culture, Haitian cuisine is actually a blend of influences both regional, indigenous and colonial—all filtered through an identity that is unique, robust and positively distinct. It’s as proudly part of everyday Haitian life as the language, music and dance; and for non-Haitians, at once both exotic and welcoming.
Which doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. It’s pungent, unabashedly spicy and frequently, as savory as it is incendiary. If you’re not wondering where it’s been all your life after your first taste of scotch bonnet? Then it’s simply not for you. But if the thought of a drab, uninspired New England pot roast leaves you muttering indistinctly under your breath, this guide is for you.
Pikliz International Kitchen
Most Haitian restaurants are either delivery or take-out in the city, so if you’re expecting white tablecloth treatment? Think again. Pikliz is no exception. But not only do they do what they do well, they do it with a distinct flair, owing as much to a Cuban influence as to a native Haitian one. Stewed oxtail braised in coconut with a side of sauteed okra? Wi, tanpri. Whole red snapper fried in jerk seasoning? Wi, tanpri. This is comfort food at its finest.
Pikliz International Kitchen is open daily from 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and is located at 288 Broadway in Somerville. For more information, call (617) 625-6255 or visit <a href=https://www.piklizint.com/" target="blank" rel="nofollow">www.piklizint.com
Lala’s is no frills; what you see is what you get. And what they do is simple, direct and without fuss. The fritay platter comes with enough plantains and fried cassava to feed a small army, and is one of the few places in the city we’ve seen homemade papaya juice to wash it down with. Be forewarned that it’s both small, unassuming, with a long wait and cosh only.
Lala is located at 792 Washington St in Dorchester, and is open daily from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. For more information, visit <a href=https://www.lalasfood.com/" target="blank" rel="nofollow">www.lalasfood.com/ or call (617) 265-8171
More Kreyol fusion that actual kreyol (pineapple ribs and bacon wrapped plantains, for example) doesn’t stop this recently opened Malden eatery from offering an inventive take on Haitian cuisine. With a stylish decor that prominently features local artists and plenty of favorites such as shrimp and grits and pate (Haitian beef pastries,) Infused Kreyol combines a fresh take on old classics.
*Infused Kreyol is located at 423 Main St in Malden, and is open Wed.-Thurs. from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.. For more information, visit <a href=http://www.infusedkreyol.com" target="blank" rel="nofollow">www.infusedkreyol.com/ or call (781) 388-0938
Las Vegas Seafood
Of course, it makes perfect sense that a Haitian restaurant in the middle of Hyde Park would name itself after a desert wonderland some 3000 miles away. And it also makes perfect sense that they advertise themselves as a seafood restaurant when it only makes up a small portion of their menu. But taking the confusing logic at face value only means you’re going to overlook some of the best traditional rice and beans and stewed chicken anywhere in Boston.
Las Vegas Seafood is located at 6 Maple St in Hyde Park, and is open daily from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m., with the exception of Tuesdays. For more information, call (617) 364-2772
A relaxed and welcoming full-scale sit-down restaurant with a full liquor bar and plenty of daily specials, The Island remains one of the best reasons to travel outside of Boston and Somerville for stellar Haitian food. The fried goat is some of the best we’ve had since… well, ever and the drink selection is vast enough to while away several hours mulling over. Sunday brunch options available, as well.
The Island is open from Mon.-Thurs. from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and is located at 118 Ferry St in Malden. For more information, call (781) 605-2212 or visit www.theislandmalden.com