Around the World in Houston: Discover Jamaica

HCF Parade of the Bands | Photo courtesy of Houston Caribbean Festival

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences.Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

From Caribbean film and reggae festivals to arts and cultural organizations, plus plenty of jerk spice and island rum, locals experience Jamaica’s rich traditions without leaving the city.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

  • Houston JerkFest With its inaugural event in 2017, this festival blends community and culture with food, family, music and fun, with a jerk cook-off competition being the main event alongside a concert. The 2018 festival is scheduled to take place on Sunday, September 23.
  • Roots Reggae Houston This annual outdoor music festival offers all-day fun, culture, and entertainment for the entire family, from Caribbean foods, arts and crafts to live performances and DJs.The 2018 festival is scheduled on Saturday, October 6.
  • Caribbean Rumfest Celebrate Caribbean rum and spirits at this boozy festival, which rocks live music, rum tastings and history, cocktail and cooking competitions and more. Look out for the upcoming dates on their Facebook page.
  • Houston Caribbean Festival With masquerades, reggae artists, and Caribbean food, drink, and arts, this annual festival celebrates the best of island culture. The 2018 festival is set for Sunday, July 8.
  • Houston Caribbean Film Festival Held in June or July (the 2018 festival is set for July 6 to 8), the Houston Caribbean Film Festival supports Caribbean films, filmmakers, screenwriters, producers, and directors in the Caribbean basin. The 2018 festival will showcase Pimento and Hot Pepper: The Mento Story, a Jamaican film looking at the history of Jamaica’s first commercially viable music.
  • Taste of the Caribbean Festival This annual festival celebrates rich cultural traditions, food, music, and history of the Caribbean, with the 2018 event set for Saturday, March 31.

Museums & Cultural Organizations

  • Jamaica Foundation of Houston This local nonprofit strives to strengthen the cultural ties between Caribbean people and the Houston community, hosting events like family picnics, scholarship luncheons, and the Jamaica Independence gala.
  • The Caribbean American Heritage Foundation of Texas This foundation promotes public awareness and appreciation for the variety of Caribbean cultures, sponsoring cultural events such as storytelling, poetry, dramatic presentations, sporting event exhibitions, and picnics, empowering youth and businesses, and providing seminars, scholarships, and economic opportunities.
  • Caribbean Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston The Latin American and Caribbean department boasts a core collection of modern and contemporary art with more than 550 emblematic from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and works by Latino artists in the United States.

Jamaican Food & Drink

  • Caribbean Hot Pot GrillIsland-inspired cuisine at this Cypress Station grill ranges from escovitch fish, coco bread, and Jamaican patties to jerk wings, curry goat, and callaloo and saltfish.
  • Caribbean Jerk CuisineHit this westside spot to fill up on traditional Jamaican eats, from jerk chicken and coco bread to oxtail and curried shrimp.
  • Cool Runnings Jamaican Bar & GrillJamaican native chef Terron Henry runs the kitchen of this Southwest Houston favorite, which offers tastiness like ackee and saltfish, braised oxtail and dumplings, curried goat and coconut curry shrimp, jerk chicken and pork, and rum cake and sour sop juice, plus a full bar and Sunday brunch buffet.
  • D’Caribbean Curry SpotThis Pearland favorite offers a taste of the West Indies, with specialties including Jamaican beef patties and oxtails; jerk chicken and brown stew; and curried goat, chicken, shrimp, and beef.
  • Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & GrillThis fast-casual spot rocks beef and jerk chicken patties, ackee and saltfish breakfasts, braised oxtail and stew chicken, and pastries like coco bread, bulla and rum cakes, gizzada tarts and spice buns.
  • Helen’s Kitchen On the southwest side, Helen’s Kitchen shows of Jamaican flavors via succulent oxtails, festival (fried sweet bread), ackee and saltfish, cult-favorite jerk wings, Jamaican fruit rum cake and curried lobster, shrimp, chicken, and goat.
  • Island Sizzler Jamaican Rum Bar & GrillLocated near the NRG Center, this sizzling kitchen and bar offers everything from Jamaican soda, tropical juice, and an entire list of rum, brown stew, and jerk burgers. Just save room for rum cake.
  • Island Spice Bar & GrillTry authentic Caribbean and Latin American eats—think jerk chicken and shrimp, curry goat with plantains and rice, and ackee and saltfish—and tropical cocktails at this Northwest Houston bar and grill, which also offers live DJs and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • The Isles Eatery and Rhum BarHead to this Downtown rum bar and kitchen to find 56+ island rums and homestyle flavors of the Caribbean. Dig into Jamaican rum buns, stewed curry goat and rice, and jerk-style prawns, chicken, and duck wings.
  • Jamaica Jamaica Ultra Lounge & EatsThis refreshed Westchase haunt offers Jamaican eats by day and a Jamaican-style party by night.
  • Jamaica Pon Di RoadLook out for this food truck, run by Jamaican born and trained Chef G, and get everything from Jamaican-spiced stewed oxtails and curry shrimp wraps to jerk-spiced burgers and smothered jerk chicken fries.
  • Love Bird Restaurant Experience real Caribbean flavor at this Sugar Land eatery, with menu items including brown stew fish, curry goat and chicken, cow foot, and calaloo and saltfish.
  • Reggae Hut CafeFrom the team behind cult favorite The Breakfast Klub, this contemporary urban café brings the Caribbean experience to the Third Ward. Enjoy beef patties, coco bread, escovitch snapper (seasonal), brown stew chicken, jerk chicken, and oxtail stew.
  • Taste of CaribbeanHit this North Houston spot’s all-you-can-eat buffet to fill up on Caribbean specialties like curry shrimp and goat, stew chicken, callaloo, plantains, rice and beans; or check out the a la carte items.

Clubs, Groups & Meet-Ups

Other Notables

  • Houston Cricket League Get acquainted (or reacquainted) with one of the most popular sports in Jamaica. This cricket club was organized to further the sport of cricket in Houston and surrounding areas, with activities for both youth and adults.
Previous articleCrack up at the ridiculousness of dating with 2-for-1 tickets to the Couples Therapy Comedy Retreat
Next articlePlan Your Weekend: January 25 to 28, 2018
Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .