It’s not just about pina coladas and fresh fish; Caribbean food is a complex blend of indigenous, African, and colonial influences. Native tubers such as yuca and taro, leafy vegetables like callaloo, and herbs such as cilantro recur in most island cuisines. Africans brought plantains, yams, pigeon peas, and assorted peppers. The Spanish introduced rice, and the British brought breadfruit from the South Pacific. Enjoy this eclectic cuisine at the following restaurants—our top picks in the Caribbean.
Coyaba Restaurant, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
Why Eat Here: The posh Coyaba Restaurant serves nostalgic favorites in a palm-fringed setting, one of the island's most romantic and inviting places to dine. Try several different appetizers instead of one more-expensive entrée for dinner; guava-and-tamarind barbecue ribs and coconut shrimp tempura are two good choices if you go that route. Don't skip dessert; Chef Paul Newman makes the most incredible chocolate fondant you will ever have. Read more.
The Cliff, Barbados
Why Eat Here: Chef Paul Owens's mastery is the foundation of one of the finest dining experiences in the Caribbean, with prices to match. The prix-fixe menu will set you back $125 per person for a two-course meal (starter–main course or main course–dessert) or $150 per person for a three-course meal. Reserve days or even weeks in advance to snag a table at the front of the terrace for The Cliff restaurant's best view. Read more.
Boston Jerk Centre, Port Antonio, Jamaica
Why Eat Here: To enjoy the best Jamaican jerk in the place where it was invented, the simple beach huts of the Boston Jerk Centre are the place to head. Stroll up to the open pits, fired by pimento logs and topped with a piece of corrugated roofing metal, and order meat by the quarter, half, or full pound; chicken, pork, goat, and fish are top options. Read more.
Blue by Eric Ripert, Cayman Islands
Why Eat Here: Grand Cayman's best restaurant, Blue by Eric Ripert, is brought to you by one of New York's finest chefs. Choose from a regular three-course or the chef's hedonistic tasting menu (with or without wine pairing). Many dishes are clever improvisational riffs on the mother restaurant (New York's celebrated Le Bernardin), using the island's natural bounty. Conch ceviche trio recalls the famed fluke version, and the tribute to the great Bernardin tuna foie gras adds Cayman sea salt. Read more.
Why Eat Here: One of the island's best new restaurants mixes French and West Indian styles to excellent effect. Originally part of a sugar and cotton plantation, KoalKeel, with its beautiful dining verandah, is owned and lovingly overseen by Lisa Gumbs, a descendant of the slaves once housed here. Wine lovers take note of the exceptional 15,000-bottle wine cellar, in an underground cistern. Read more.
Le Tastevin, St. Martin
Why Eat Here: In the heart of Grand Case, Le Tastevin is on everyone’s list of favorites. The attractive wood-beamed room is the "real" St. Martin style, and the tasty food is enhanced by Joseph, the amiable owner, who serves lunch and dinner every day on a breezy porch over glittering blue sea. The menu changes frequently and includes fusion treatments of local ingredients such as mahimahi in a pineapple-tomato sauce, and rack of lamb with glazed garlic and rosemary. Read more.
The Verandah, Trinidad
Why Eat Here: Phyllis Vieira's free-style Caribbean cuisine at The Verandah is one of the best-kept secrets in Trinidad—well, we can't keep this secret any longer. The open verandah, interior, and courtyard of this beautiful gingerbread-style colonial house provide a suitable setting for the menu, which changes weekly and is brought to you on a blackboard by the attentive, white-garbed staff. Read more.
Iguane Café, Guadeloupe
Why Eat Here: Unquestionably original cuisine with influences from around the world is daring and dramatic, not to mention delicious. A sure thing on the Iguane Cafés menu is the foie gras with vintage rum and a compote of papaya and tamarind. If you come on a Saturday night, you may get live entertainment, too, for your money (and yes, Iguana is pricey). A three-course lobster menu is €59, and a lavish menu degustation costs €79. Read more.
Banana Tree Grille, St. Thomas
Why Eat Here: The eagle's-eye view of the Charlotte Amalie harbor from this breeze-cooled restaurant is as fantastic as the food. The signature dish at Banana Tree Grille—and worthy of its fame—is Chef Patrick Bellantoni’s New York sirloin seasoned simply with olive oil and garlic and grilled to order. Arrive before 6 PM and watch the cruise ships depart from the harbor while you enjoy a drink at the bar. Read more.
Le Ti St. Barth Caribbean Tavern, St. Barthélemy
Why Eat Here: Chef-owner Carole Gruson captures the funky, sexy spirit of the island in her wildly popular hilltop hot spot. Come to Le Ti St. Barth to dance to great music with the attractive crowd lingering at the bar, lounge at one of the pillow-strewn banquettes, or chat on the torch-lighted terrace. The menu includes Thai beef salad, lobster ceviche, rare grilled tuna with Chinese noodles, and the best beef on the island. The famously raucous full-moon parties are legendary. Read more.