Islands of Flavor

The Bay Area is no South Florida when it comes to Caribbean food, but there are some tasty options out there if you know where to look—mostly in the East Bay, as it turns out.

Chan Chan, a newer Cuban place in SF, has a limited menu, but the offerings are intriguing. "The star anise in the shrimp criolla was new to me and delicious," says stanbee. "Chan Chan is more like a visit to Cuba than a Cuban restaurant," says Windy, who enjoyed the food but notes that the hours are mysterious (they serve a few things until they run out) and so are the prices (though they're reasonable).

Mikey's, a newish diner in San Rafael, has a Cuban chef and is slowly adding Cuban dishes (like delectable masitas de puerco in a tart, complex sauce) and other Latin American fare, like Peruvian, says DezzerSF.

"Habana Cuba in San Jose is the only place I've been that was like real Cuban home cooking," says Robert Lauriston.

Parada 22, a tiny new Puerto Rican joint, got a rave from Patricia Unterman recently for its Cuban sandwich, but stanbee notes that it isn't exactly authentic. "Has lots more filling, sliced thicker than Miami Cuban; bread—no lard—but tasty anyways." There isn't much Puerto Rican food in these parts to compete with Parada 22, but pamf recommends Sol Food in San Rafael as excellent.

On the Jamaican beat, Flavah Island Cafe is a totally different place since it changed hands—and names, from Jamaican Soul—a year ago. The new chef-owner does excellent ackee and saltfish, says bigwheel042. Oxtail stew and codfish fritters are good too, adds abstractpoet. Sweet Fingers is also a good bet for Jamaican, says theomordha: "Awesome jerk chicken and whatever else the chef is playing with."

Yardie Jerk, an old fave, recently reopened after yet another hiatus. "I went and had oxtails, which were good but didn't live up to their past glory," says 10foot5. Jerk chicken is supposed to be as good as ever. 10foot5 enjoys New Karibbean City for the excellent curry goat, very good jerk chicken, and good oxtails. And Back a Yard is a Peninsula powerhouse for Jamaican jerk and oxtails.

Can't decide between all the island delights? BernalKC's family likes Primo Patio Cafe, described as a "Caribbean fusion of Cuba, Jamaica, and the kitchen sink. Whatever it is, we love it and go there a lot."

Chan Chan [Castro]
4690 18th Street, San Francisco
415-864-4199

Mikey's [Marin County]
783 Andersen Drive, San Rafael
415-454-6453

Habana Cuba [South Bay]
238 Race Street, San Jose
408-998-2822

Parada 22 [Haight-Ashbury]
1805 Haight Street, San Francisco
415-750-1111

Sol Food [Marin County]
901 Lincoln Avenue, San Rafael
415-256-8900

Flavah Island Cafe [East Bay]
2057 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley
510-704-4083

Sweet Fingers [East Bay]
464 E. 14th Street, San Leandro
510-553-9869

Yardie Jerk [East Bay]
3301 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland
510-547-4900

New Karibbean City [East Bay]
1408 Webster Street, Oakland
510-251-0769

Back A Yard Caribbean American Grill [Peninsula]
1189 Willow Road, Menlo Park
650-323-4244

Primo Patio Cafe [SOMA]
214 Townsend Street, San Francisco
415-957-1129

Discuss: GOOD Cuban or Jamaican Restaurants in SF/East Bay? Do they exist?
Patricia Unterman on Puerto Rican food (Classic Cubano) at Parada 22, SF

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