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THE NEW YORK TIMES
A Caribbean Summer
By Carrie Budoff
June 15, 2003
After a cold, wet spring in the Northeast, summer begins on Saturday. It's a good time to consider the food of the sunny Caribbean, featured at these restaurants.
(718) 293-5025; 892 Gerard Avenue (near East 161st Street), the Bronx; $; $25 and Under: 8/23/00.
The touchstone of a Jamaican restaurant is its jerk, and the jerk chicken at this casual spot near Yankee Stadium is excellent, subtly spiced with thyme, allspice and chilies.
LA FONDA BORICUA
(212) 410-7292; 169 East 106th Street (near Third Avenue); $; $25 and Under: 11/14/01.
This is a handsome little place that offers big helpings of excellent Puerto Rican home cooking. The spacious dining room with its exposed brick walls draws you in. The menu, with items like a mellow octopus salad with cubed peppers and onions, cilantro and a peppery vinaigrette, makes you want to linger.
(212) 255-2212; 30 Cornelia Street (near Bleecker Street); $; $25 and Under: 2/18/98.
This restaurant on the Village's Restaurant Row combines classic Cuban dishes with an appreciation for organic, healthful ingredients. The result is lighter Cuban food that sacrifices little of the flavor.
(212) 473-3535; 161 Ludlow Street (near Stanton Street); $; $25 and Under: 9/26/01.
A long bar is the centerpiece of a narrow pastel dining room. But a better choice when weather permits is the garden. The menu emphasizes Mexican and Caribbean dishes. Seafood is a highlight, like roasted mahi-mahi in an orange-chili vinaigrette over coconut-flavored rice.
(212) 869-8601; 20 West 38th Street (near Fifth Avenue); $; $25 and Under: 6/12/02.
This pan-Caribbean restaurant sits on the edge of the garment district. Mofongo - plantains puréed with olive oil and saturated with fresh garlic - is one of several excellent side dishes that come with any main course, like jerk chicken or roasted suckling pig.
(212) 927-7011; 3938 Broadway (near West 164th Street); $; $25 and Under: 3/8/00.
This small, bright place features foods of the Hispanic Caribbean: Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Flavors are powered by garlic, bell peppers and annato rather than the heat of chilies.
VERNON'S NEW JERK HOUSE
(718) 655-8348; 987 East 233rd Street (Gunther Avenue), Eastchester, the Bronx; $; $25 and Under: 2/13/02.
Vernon's opened 20 years ago, and it serves better jerk than ever. Allan Vernon's technique combines oven baking with charcoal grilling, a compromise, to be sure. But this jerk, chicken or pork, is superb by virtue of the excellent sauce. If you have room for dessert, try the rum-saturated pound-and-raisin cake.