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Bongos.
KatRina N./Yelp

10 First-Class Caribbean Restaurants in Seattle

Taste the tropics with this island fare

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Bongos.
| KatRina N./Yelp

Island fare in Seattle tends to mean Hawaiian or Pacific Rim cuisine. But the handful of Caribbean-style restaurants in the city do justice to the tropical islands of the Atlantic.

Seasoned with the likes of garlic, cilantro, coconut, and onions, Caribbean cuisine draws cultural influences from all over the world, leading to a salvo of exciting yet comforting flavors. Here are 10 places where diners should go to experience them.

Map points are ordered geographically and are not ranked by preference. Don't see your favorite Caribbean restaurant on the list? Show it some love in the comments, send an email, or start a forum thread in its honor.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Geo's Cuban and Creole

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Situated close to an Un Bien location on Shilshole, Geo’s holds its own by delivering both Caribbean- and Cajun-inspired eats. With its vibrant color scheme, airy atmosphere, and upbeat vibe, Geo’s nails the home-cooked Cuban food experience, including crunchy Cubano sandwiches and bowls of spiced gumbo.

La Isla

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Influenced by a slew of cultures, Puerto Rican food consists of an array of stews and rice dishes. La Isla stays true to form with traditional dishes like the ropa vieja and pastelon. The super-succulent camarones, massive prawns stewed in a spicy blend of habanero, coconut, and garlic sauce, are a highlight.

Un Bien

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Un Bien has a slightly complicated legacy — using family recipes, it’s run by the sons of the original owner of Paseo, while that similar business is now owned by someone else — but the important thing to know is this Caribbean sandwich shop is the real deal. For a good price, Un Bien serves way too much for the average customer to eat, like slow-roasted pork shoulder sandwiches dosed liberally with garlic, aioli, and thick caramelized onion. There’s no such thing as “too many napkins” for one of these meals.

Bongos is a charming oasis, complete with sand on the patio to suggest to patrons that they’re in the Caribbean, rather than smack dab in the middle of a busy intersection off of Aurora. The restaurant’s grilled and marinated meat dishes are some of the most satisfying this side of Nassau. The Trinidad Steak plate is delicious but filling, so it’s a good thing diners can walk it off at Green Lake after.

Mojito leans more South American than some of the restaurants on this list, but still has some special Cuban dishes, like the vaca frita, a classic with shreds of marinated beef bathed in lime juice, garlic, onions and peppers. The festive ambiance and music make this feel like a little Havana.

Pam's Kitchen

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Pam’s Kitchen is a bright and cheery spot in Wallingford that feels more like a home than a business. Chef-owner Pam Jacob’s menu showcases Trinidadian classics like marinated spicy jerk chicken and authentic curry roti. It also offers a mean lineup of lively Caribbean cocktails.

Paseo Caribbean Food

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When Paseo’s original owners left (eventually founding Un Bien), there was a massive hole in the spot where hordes of hungry lunch-goers would line up every day. Fortunately, the shop reopened under new management with only slight alterations. While the ingredients and recipes may be a tad askew, the sandwiches that made Paseo a household name are still epic. For the carb-conscious, the restaurant — in expansion mode — also features plates of salad, rice, corn, and protein of choice, like roasted chicken or scallops seared with olive oil.

Known more for its outrageous rum selection and cocktail list, Rumba also has a solid food menu. Top choice: empanadas, their flaky crusts filled with savory wonders like mushroom or spiced chorizo.

Taste of the Caribbean

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This unassuming eatery offers mounds of freshly grilled or marinated stacks of meat over rice and salad, from oxtails to curry goat to Jamaica’s iconic ackee and saltfish. Diners with low tolerance for spicy foods may reach their limit here.

Island Soul

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A fabric of the Columbia City community, Island Soul is a refreshing take on Caribbean cuisine, blended as it is with Southern comfort food. The collard greens in particular are special, toothsome and delicately seasoned, and the coconut cornbread is a joy; the interior is lovely, too, with Jamaican art and a bright atmosphere.

Geo's Cuban and Creole

Situated close to an Un Bien location on Shilshole, Geo’s holds its own by delivering both Caribbean- and Cajun-inspired eats. With its vibrant color scheme, airy atmosphere, and upbeat vibe, Geo’s nails the home-cooked Cuban food experience, including crunchy Cubano sandwiches and bowls of spiced gumbo.

La Isla

Influenced by a slew of cultures, Puerto Rican food consists of an array of stews and rice dishes. La Isla stays true to form with traditional dishes like the ropa vieja and pastelon. The super-succulent camarones, massive prawns stewed in a spicy blend of habanero, coconut, and garlic sauce, are a highlight.

Un Bien

Un Bien has a slightly complicated legacy — using family recipes, it’s run by the sons of the original owner of Paseo, while that similar business is now owned by someone else — but the important thing to know is this Caribbean sandwich shop is the real deal. For a good price, Un Bien serves way too much for the average customer to eat, like slow-roasted pork shoulder sandwiches dosed liberally with garlic, aioli, and thick caramelized onion. There’s no such thing as “too many napkins” for one of these meals.

Bongos

Bongos is a charming oasis, complete with sand on the patio to suggest to patrons that they’re in the Caribbean, rather than smack dab in the middle of a busy intersection off of Aurora. The restaurant’s grilled and marinated meat dishes are some of the most satisfying this side of Nassau. The Trinidad Steak plate is delicious but filling, so it’s a good thing diners can walk it off at Green Lake after.

Mojito

Mojito leans more South American than some of the restaurants on this list, but still has some special Cuban dishes, like the vaca frita, a classic with shreds of marinated beef bathed in lime juice, garlic, onions and peppers. The festive ambiance and music make this feel like a little Havana.

Pam's Kitchen

Pam’s Kitchen is a bright and cheery spot in Wallingford that feels more like a home than a business. Chef-owner Pam Jacob’s menu showcases Trinidadian classics like marinated spicy jerk chicken and authentic curry roti. It also offers a mean lineup of lively Caribbean cocktails.

Paseo Caribbean Food

When Paseo’s original owners left (eventually founding Un Bien), there was a massive hole in the spot where hordes of hungry lunch-goers would line up every day. Fortunately, the shop reopened under new management with only slight alterations. While the ingredients and recipes may be a tad askew, the sandwiches that made Paseo a household name are still epic. For the carb-conscious, the restaurant — in expansion mode — also features plates of salad, rice, corn, and protein of choice, like roasted chicken or scallops seared with olive oil.

Rumba

Known more for its outrageous rum selection and cocktail list, Rumba also has a solid food menu. Top choice: empanadas, their flaky crusts filled with savory wonders like mushroom or spiced chorizo.

Taste of the Caribbean

This unassuming eatery offers mounds of freshly grilled or marinated stacks of meat over rice and salad, from oxtails to curry goat to Jamaica’s iconic ackee and saltfish. Diners with low tolerance for spicy foods may reach their limit here.

Island Soul

A fabric of the Columbia City community, Island Soul is a refreshing take on Caribbean cuisine, blended as it is with Southern comfort food. The collard greens in particular are special, toothsome and delicately seasoned, and the coconut cornbread is a joy; the interior is lovely, too, with Jamaican art and a bright atmosphere.

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