Food & Drink

Caribbean Takeout Spots To Check Out in the Hot Season

A dozen restaurants around Charlotte serving up authentic island eats

A plate of rice, vegetables and meat
A dish served at Irie Nation. (Courtesy of Irie Nation)

Finding good Caribbean takeout can be hard. Sometimes the restaurants lack a certain something, be it authenticity or maybe even a website, making it quite literally hard to find.

Fortunately, Charlotte has grown into a place where immigrants come to thrive, and that often means serving up the national cuisines they grew up learning to cook perfectly. There is no shortage of great Caribbean food in the Queen City, you’ve just got to know where to find it.

Just in time for summer, we’ve compiled a list of 12 of the best Caribbean takeout spots so you don’t have to splurge on a vacation to find top-notch oxtail, beef patties or jerk chicken.

Yard Cooked Dishes

1610 Ashley Road, Suite 7; yardcookeddishes.com

Neville Storer learned to cook from his mother, grandparents and aunties in a small Jamaican town called Sheffield. He moved to the Bronx when he was 11, but never forgot what he learned back home.

Yard Cooked Dishes had its beginnings in Storer’s dorm room at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas, where he cooked for his dorm mates who had nowhere else to eat after 9 p.m. He bought two electric skillets, two rice cookers, and a water cooler from a local Walmart. Cooking two dishes — beef and rice or chicken and rice — Neville found himself in great demand. The rest is history.

Best sellers now go well beyond his original two dishes. We suggest you try the chicken wings or curry salmon with one of the amazing Jamaican sodas offered up at this Westerly Hills takeout spot.

Fried food on a paper towel
Yard Cooked Dishes (Courtesy of Yard Cooked Dishes)

Hillside Caribbean Cuisine

1113 Pegram St., 980-443-3677

Owned and operated by Emerth Davis, Hillside Caribbean Cuisine reopened in May 2022 in the Belmont neighborhood. Davis has only been a Charlotte resident for eight years, but he has quickly managed to make his restaurant a favorite in the neighborhood, which has seen a lot of growth lately as it borders some of Charlotte’s most popular destination hangouts.

The Jamaican eatery has a little bit of something for everyone: buttered shrimp or salt fish for seafood lovers; braised cabbage for vegetarians; and, the favorite, BBQ jerk chicken.

Visitors might experience a short wait during the lunch rush, but it’s worth it.

Mama’s Caribbean

1504 Central Ave., mamascaribbeangrill.com

Located in Plaza Midwood, this Jamaican restaurant specializes in traditional Caribbean food. Inspired by owner Vinroy Reid’s upbringing on a farm, the restaurant prides itself on not using any powdered seasonings in their dishes, instead using natural ground provisions and herbs. Try their curried goat or jerk chicken for some true island vibes.

Reid has kept his Plaza Midwood staple alive even as just about every business around him has been forced out. There he remains as an original of the neighborhood, proud of his kerosene oil stove cooking … and rightfully so.

An outside look at the Mama’s Caribbean Grill sign on Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood
Mama’s Caribbean Grill in Plaza Midwood. (Courtesy of Mama’s Caribbean)

Crav’n Caribbean

2200 Thrift Road, cravncaribbean.com

When owner Carlos Abrahams, better known as Chef Loso or “The Oxtail Man,” moved to Charlotte from Kingston, Jamaica, his dream was to serve authentic Caribbean food. Ever since 2021, he has done just that. Abrahams credits watching his mother’s cooking as the inspiration for his cuisine. An interesting thing about this restaurant is that the menu changes frequently. In fact, according to their website, it changes with each opening.

With the exception of Crav’n Caribbean’s infamous oxtail cheesesteak, patrons at this takeout spot will likely not know what to expect on a day-to-day basis, but they’ll be able to check online, which is highly recommended.

Take note: The entire team takes a much-deserved break every July, so they won’t be back in the shop until July 27. Try out some of our other takeout spots and be sure to satisfy your craving for Crav’n Caribbean in August.

Takeout containers with meats and sides
Takeout from Crav’n Caribbean (Courtesy of Crav’n Caribbean)

Tropical Goodies

2601 Tuckaseegee Road & 2316 Lasalle St., tropicalgoodies.net

Between its two locations, Tropical Goodies offers more than just a traditional Caribbean experience; it also includes soul food in its menu options. So, for visitors wanting the best of both worlds, Tropical Goodies is the place to go.

Not enough for you? As the name suggests, Tropical Goodies offers up six wonderful Jamaican drinks that are perfect for cooling off in the summer: Jamaican ginger beer, Irish moss, Vitamalt, Jamaican cream soda, Ting, and Jamaican pineapple juice.

A plate with chicken, rice and beans and veggies
Tropical Goodies (Courtesy of Tropical Goodies)

Lawrence Caribbean

3011 West Blvd., lawrencecaribbean.com

First generation immigrant Gavin Lawrence has been operating this Jamaican restaurant in the Reid Park area since 2015, but has been cooking for over 40 years. Some of the favorites here are the oxtails, but Lawrence said his personal favorite is the curry goat roti.

This place has something for everyone, including those who may be wary of a little too much heat; each dish is made to order, allowing the amount of spice to be customized. Perfect for anyone trying Caribbean food for the first time, but veterans can still get as much spice as they want.

You can’t miss the patio and the bright colors on the roadside sign while you drive down West Boulevard.

Ms. Didi’s Kitchen

Location varies; msdidiskitchen.com

This food truck run by Haitian mother-daughter duo Christina Bowman and Edith Jean-Francois has seen its share of difficulties, which makes its share of success all the sweeter. Having opened just a few months before COVID struck, the pair had to quickly pivot the structure of the business. In the end, it paid off; they’ve been featured at prominent events like Eat Black Charlotte’s food festival.

Some favorites at the restaurant include the Port Au Prince, a Haitian fried chicken entree; or the Jacmel, a fried fish dish named after a city in southern Haiti.

The two women hope to one day operate a traditional brick-and-mortar store, but until then, patrons can follow their Instagram @msdidiskitchen for the truck’s weekly schedule and locations.

To-go containers with meat and a sides
Takeout from Caribbean food truck Ms. Didi’s Kitchen. (Courtesy of Ms. Didi’s Kitchen)

Cocoa’s Jamaican Jerk

6316-A Old Sugar Creek Road, cocoasjamaicanjerk.com

Since 2017, Paula Brown and her daughter Nyasia have operated their restaurant as if it were their own home, eschewing the use of deep fryers in favor of stoves. While visitors can get a range of traditional Jamaican dishes, the specialty is Cocoa’s Escovitch snapper, an entire red snapper served whole, smothered down with peppers and onions and Jamaican spices.

On her website, Brown stated she wants to bring her customers to the sun-drenched shores of Jamaica, even if just in their minds, “where the tantalizing scents of jerk chicken on the grill mingle with the rhythmic beats of island music.” For anyone unable to visit the island at a given time, perhaps this restaurant tucked away in the corner of a north Charlotte shopping center can help fill the void.

An outside look at Cocoa's Jamaican Jerk restaurant
Cocoa’s Jamaican Jerk in north Charlotte. (Courtesy of Cocoa’s Jamaican Jerk)

Irie Nation

2729 N. Tryon St. & 3501 S. Tryon St., irienationclt.com

For anyone looking for a family-owned Jamaican food spot with some of the best curry shrimp around, one need look no further than Irie Nation. Open since 2019, the restaurant offers traditional meals as well as modern dishes like the vegan rasta pasta.

The vibes are always right inside Irie Nation, and when it’s nice there’s a patio on the side of the North Tryon location that offers up the perfect way to enjoy your curried chicken.

A pan of cooked meat
Irie Nation (Courtesy of Irie Nation)

Caribbean Hut

9609 N. Tryon St. & 200 W. Woodlawn Road; caribbean-hut.com

Owned and operated by Trevor Lewis, Caribbean Hut has multiple locations that customers can visit — two in Charlotte, and one in Gastonia. They pride themselves on their authentic Jamaican menu and daily lunch specials.

The team at each location starts simmering some dishes early in the morning to get them to slow-roasted perfection, while all shrimp and fish plates are made to order to guarantee freshness. Favorites include roti (callaloo, curry goat, chicken, vegetable or shrimp), red snapper, the curry chicken and goat combo, Jamaican patties, and jerk chicken.

El Puro Cuban Restaurant

5033 South Blvd., elpurocubanrestaurant.com

El Puro is owned and operated by siblings Manny Pérez Ochoa and Ana, both UNC Charlotte alumni; and their mother Diana. Walking into the restaurant, customers will fail to miss the subtle hints at the family’s Cuban culture, such as the bar that resembles the Cuban flag.

El Puro offers takeout, but they also offer live music performances for anyone wanting to dine-in. They also sell their own brand of cigars. Named in honor of the late patriarch of the family, El Puro’s best-selling dishes include Masitas de la Loma, Ropa Vieja, tres leches pancakes from their brunch menu, and Flan Kafe from their dessert menu.

Sure, this is a list made up mostly of Caribbean takeout restaurants, but if you have a chance to sit in the 1955 Ford Crown Victoria that’s been parked on El Puro’s patio and made into a dining table, you should take it.

A look inside the dining room at El Puro
El Puro Cuban Restaurant evokes the glamor and elegance of pre-revolutionary Havana through its interior design. (Photo by Karie Simmons)

Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery

2838 The Plaza, instagram.com/fingalickin_clt

Serving the community since 2014, Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery is as well-known for its traditional dishes as its bright green facade. From plantains to oxtail, anyone looking to appease their appetite with classic Caribbean food will certainly be able to do so here. For anyone looking to take it a step further, there’s an in-house grocery stocked with foods imported from Jamaica.

The property has been bought out by Pure Pizza owner Juli Ghazi, who says she is working with the family so they can continue serving Finga Lickin’ cuisine out of the location when she moves her flagship shop there — good news for an existing staple in a fast-growing corridor.

An outside look at Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery
Finga Lickin’ Caribbean Eatery (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

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