If cameraman Korey (@KoreyDavisPhotography) doesn’t shoot it, I won’t eat it.
DON’T SLEEP ON HAITIAN CUISINE! Increasingly, I find myself identifying Haitian cuisine as one of my favorite Caribbean selections. The origins of the cuisine are rooted in African cooking traditions with strong influences, namely from France and Taino food pathways. Haitian food is also regional because in many areas it’s comparable to creole cooking and in other areas it’s comparable to Latin American/Caribbean traditions.
For me, the flavors are unpretentious and bursting with amazing taste, spice, and unapologetic African culinary aesthetics combined with French flare! I honestly don’t understand why it hasn’t penetrated the culinary mainstream. The base of most Haitian dishes includes what I call The Trinity of Haitian Cooking – cloves, garlic and thyme.
One late Saturday afternoon Cameraman Korey and I were on our way to a review that was cancelled, so we took a detour on the way back to Miami in pursuit of finding a BBQ stand I was told to visit in the Ft. Lauderdale area. As fate would have it, on the way to the stand, I noticed a little restaurant inside a strip mall. Once I saw the Haitian flag, I immediately changed my mind and drove towards what I was hoping to be GRIO GOODNESS!
Coco’s Kitchen is located in the City of Fort Lauderdale at 1267 NW 31st Ave inside the Wingate Plaza. Owner and operator Mr. Jeffery Casy runs a fast and delicious operation with family members who have taken their grandmother’s recipes and shared them with the world. I was so happy to enjoy these family recipes as I ordered pretty much everything on the menu.
I started with the Grio (fried pork complete) $10 which came with rice and beans, fried plantains, and a spicy sauce with onions that is served on the side. The Grio was very tasty and tender. The rice was the $%@#! Haitian rice is freaking amazing. The plantains were nicely salted and freshly fried.
I wanted to try the goat version of this dish so I ordered the Fried Cabrit (fried goat complete) $14 and got the same sides with it. The goat was flavorful and tender. I love goat and was tearing this $%#@ up while Jeffery looked on in horror, but I didn’t care. Haitians shouldn’t be hiding their food like this. If you never tried Haitian food, you are missing out on life.
Our third entrée was the Tilapia Fish Stew Complete $12. Again, I got the same sides. The fish is extremely flavorful, a little on the salty side, but is absolutely delicious when you eat it with the white rice. The sauce is packed with an exciting taste that somehow bridges both Latin and Black Caribbean culinary taste together in one dish. Make sure you pour the sauce over the white rice to get the full experience of this particular stew. Honestly, if you want to get super fancy, you can order this same stew with conch or snapper; which I will order on my second visit.
Next, was the Oxtails Complete ($14), THE BOMB! If you enjoy African-American and Jamaican oxtails, then you are going to love this dish. As ethnically African-American, my family is from Georgia and Ohio, and my aunts have prided themselves in making delicious oxtails, so I was going to be a hard judge. Thankfully, Cocos lived up to my expectations. The oxtails had a steak like texture and flavor to them. I liked that because I hate when there is a lot of fat all over the oxtail, and you’re fighting to keep the sanctity of the meat intact. The balancing of seasonings with almost unnoticeable hints of spice provided a true window into the family recipes enjoyed at this small eatery.
Following the oxtails, we ordered the show stopper! Macaroni and cheese is an inherently African-American soul food staple; however, our Haitian brothers and sisters are giving us a run for our money. Haitian Macaroni and Cheese ($5) is good as @#$&! This one came with ground beef, which gave it a baked ziti like quality, but at the same time maintained its identity as macaroni and cheese. THIS IS A MUST HAVE! Honestly, you can order this as a meal. It’s one of those dishes you’ll drive far and wide to obtain. I thoroughly enjoyed the taste, texture, and presentation of this incredible macaroni and cheese baked pasta dish. Truly amazing! You will not regret this one.
Almost full and done, I tried out their seafood! The 10 Fried Shrimp Complete ($12) had me yet again, thanking the Lord for His continued blessing. I was really impressed at how the shrimp was fried to a nice golden brown carrying a unique and pleasing flavor not experienced in any of the other dishes sampled. I truly appreciated the versatility in taste of this take out joint. The shrimp’s texture was nice and tender and not overly fried, while the batter was light and not greasy. Make sure you ask for the sauce from the oxtails to be poured over the white rice. This is a MUST HAVE!
I ordered the Fried Chicken Complete ($8). This is something you get for your kids or teenagers who do not possess mature palates. The chicken was nicely seasoned, and fried to a nice golden brown. Each piece of chicken was nice and tender with the meat cooked thoroughly. I enjoyed it, but wouldn’t order the chicken because the other dishes just provide a more detailed and beneficial experience in tasting Haitian Cuisine.
Lastly, I ordered the Haitian Soup! God is truly in His holy temple! Why the hell didn’t anybody tell me that Haitian food was this damn good! This soup had every f$%@!%# deliciousness you can imagine. Dumplings, meat, veggies, and a broth that will make you slap yo momma (slap yo momma, not mine). For only ($8) you get a bountiful bowl of amazing Haitian Bouillon Soup. I added oxtails to my soup because I’m a fat ass. Don’t judge me. I washed everything down with their homemade Fruit Punch ($1.50); not to be missed. If you like Kool-Aid, then this is definitely a drink for you.
Haitian cuisine is definitely worth trying. Coco’s will not disappoint in their flavorful and incredibly bountiful dishes. You get a lot of food at this spot for the price. To be honest, if you are not a greedy mofo like me, you could share it with two people. I needed all of mine though. The service was great; the atmosphere is pretty much a takeout spot with small seating located in the ordering area if you wanted to dine in.
The food may seem simple, but it’s actually extremely sophisticated in its preparation that includes extensive marinating and specific cooking techniques. There may be similarities in cooking styles within the Caribbean, but Haitian cuisine is unique and appeals to many unsuspecting foodies! Coco’s truly embodies this uniqueness through its creation of family tradition with a modern and Caribbean twist to traditional Haitian cuisine. You can reach them at (954) 909-5163 and visit them at 1267 N.W. 31th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311.After writing this, I’m super hungry! I definitely plan on a second, third, and fourth visit!
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