Around the World in Houston: Discover the Caribbean

around-the-world-in-houston-the-caribbean
Parade of 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.

Explore the best of Caribbean culture, from heritage and rum festivals to local restaurants serving up island-style eats like brown stew chicken, saltfish, and coconut-curry shrimp. Be sure to check out our in-depth guides to Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Cuba for a closer look at each.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

  • Houston Caribbean Festival Usually taking place around June or July, this annual festival celebrates Caribbean culture via soca and raggae music, masquerades and festive costume, arts and crafts, and traditional food and drink.
  • Taste of the Caribbean Festival This annual festival showcases the tastes of the Caribbean, with food, music, dance, art, and good vibes. The 2018 event will take place on Saturday, September 2.
  • Houston Caribbean Film Festival Held in June every year (around Caribbean Heritage Month), the Houston Caribbean Film Festival is dedicated to “embracing and promoting the lush Caribbean culture through the eye of the director’s lens.” Support Caribbean films, filmmakers, screenwriters, producers, and directors in the Caribbean basin while enjoying series of meet-and-greets and interviews throughout the Greater Houston Area.
  • 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 Facebook.
  • Houston Latin Fest Bringing together the cultures of the Caribbean and North, South and Central America, the Houston Latin Fest usually takes place in late summer, early fall.
  • Houston Afro Creole Music Festival Experience the Afro-Creole savoir-faire through music, food, dance, arts, and culture at this music festival. Look out for events like the Creole on the Ranch as well.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Puerto Rican & Cuban Festival This annual festival celebrates Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican heritage and culture via traditional food and drink, live music and dancing performances, from salsa and merengue to plena and bachata, family-friendly activities, arts and crafts, a car show, and local businesses. The 2018 event is slated for Saturday, October 27.
  • Carnaval Américas This event showcases Latin American cultures represented in Houston and surrounding communities, with live music, authentic eats and culture from countries including Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico and more.

Museums & Cultural Organizations

  • 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.
  • Latin American and Caribbean Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston This departments 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.
  • Talento Bilingüe de Houston Located in the East End, this bilingual, non-profit cultural center strives to enhance Houston’s Latino arts experience through collaboration, education, and preservation.
  • Casa Cuba Casa Cuba is a patriotic non-profit organization with the mission to preserve Cuban culture, roots, customs and traditions for future Cuban generations in the community of Houston; and provide enriching educational and charitable programs. Follow along on Facebook for updates and special events.
  • 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.
  • Society of Puerto Ricans of Greater Houston This local nonprofit was founded to promote the Puerto Rican culture via social events, highlighting historical, linguistic, and artistic achievements of Puerto Ricans throughout the world. Check out its Facebook page for updates and upcoming events.
  • The Gite GalleryAfter an inspiring trip to Cuba, owner Llyod Gite added an Afro-Cuban art collection to his impressive gallery, which also showcases beautiful and unique art and artifacts from sub-Saharan Africa.

Caribbean Food & Drink

Restaurants

  • Caribbean Cuisine HoustonGet a taste of island-style eats, from Caribbean red snapper and brown stew chicken to salted mackerel and coconut-curry shrimp.
  • 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.
  • Caribbean PepperPot Over in Missouri City, Caribbean PepperPot brings the flavor and spice with dishes from curry chicken and goat roti to saltfish.
  • 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.
  • 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 to fried festival, brown stew and jerk burgers. Just save room for rum cake.
  • Island Spice Bar & GrillEnjoy 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 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 rhum bar and kitchen to find more than 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.
  • 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 its a la carte items.
  • Cafe Cuba Tostones (fried green plantains), tamales cubanos, and pan con lechon are all on the menu at this casual Katy café.
  • Café Piquet Catering to local Cubans since the ‘90s, this family-owned cantina offers authentic dishes like ropa vieja (shredded beef in tomato and wine), masitas (juicy chunks of fried pork), and camarones al ajillo (garlic shrimp) alongside rice, black beans, yuca frita, and platanos.
  • El Mojito Cuban Cuisine Over in Spring, this family-friendly joint offers everything from ropa vieja and whole red snapper to Cuban-style sandwiches and flan.
  • Flor de Cuba This family-owned restaurant and bar has been operating since 2007, feeding Houstonians authentic specialties like lechón asado en pua (roast pork) and tostones rellenos (fried stuffed plantains) alongside traditional Cuban music. Check out the bakery for fresh pastries or hit the restaurant for breakfast, lunch, dinner or late night.
  • Havana Houston This high-end international spot has a Cuban touch, offering Havana-style plates like osso bucco in Cuban spices, lechon asado with mojito sauce and seven mares paella, a Cuban version of the classic packed with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster, and fish. Save room for yuca buñuelos, a traditional dessert made from yuca in sweet syrup.
  • Rice and Beans Cuban Cuisine This Cypress restaurant rocks traditional Cuban and Creole fare—think fried stuffed yuca, Cuban sandwiches, breaded steak, and Cuban Creole picadilla.
  • Rincon Criollo Cuban Cuisine Hit the lunch buffet or go for a full feast, starting with ropa vieja-stuffed tostones rellenos, hot wings with chicharritas, and croquetas de jamon and finishing with bistec de milanesa, camarones al ajillo, and conos capuchinos (Cuban cone cakes).
  • The Cuban Spot Two Cubans from Miami brought the flavors or Cuba to Houston. Find the food truck to smash buttery Cuban sandwiches, chorizo-and-beef fritas stacked with cheese and potato sticks, and fries loaded with hunks of ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, and pickles drizzled with mustard and habanero aioli.
  • La Casa del MofongoYou’ll find all kinds of mofongo at this Caribbean and Latin American restaurant. Get the mashed plantain dish served with everything from garlic pork and fried fish to shrimp stew and crispy chicken skin.
  • Punta Cana Caribbean Restaurant This northside Caribbean spot focuses on the flavors of the Dominican and Puerto Rico, with authentic dishes including bistec encebollado, bacalao guisado, chicharrón de pollo, alcapurria (stuffed yucca fritters), and a lineup of mofongos topped with things like garlic shrimp, fried pork skin, and adobo beef steak.
  • Tex-Chick Puertorrican Restaurant This tiny Montrose haunt rocks big flavor in the form of pastelitos (meat pies) and mofongo with bistec encebollado (steak and onion), bacalao (cod), and pollo guisado (chicken stew).

Grocery Stores & Cafes

  • Fiesta Mart Shop for Caribbean staples like rice, plantains, beans, cassava, and coconut.
  • Campesino Coffee House – Hit this cozy Montrose coffee house to sip café cubanos and cortaditos, a type of espresso originating in Cuba.

Language Classes, Education Centers, Groups & Meet-Ups

  • Berlitz Language Center This learning center offers flexible programs for adults and children, with languages including Spanish, French, Dutch, and Haitian-Creole.
  • Habla Houston Learn to speak Spanish through weekly classes, interactive meetups and more.
  • Spanish over Coffee Brush up on your Spanish language skills with all-level classes that help you learn through conversation. Program experiences include dinner parties, game nights, scavenger hunts, and grocery shopping.
  • Caribbean Students Organization – University of Houston This University of Houston student group promotes the diversity and uniqueness of the Caribbean culture. Look out for socials, meetings, game nights and more.
  • Houston Caribbean Professionals Association This group was created for professionals of Caribbean heritage who are looking for a network and a hub of inspiration and collaboration between like-minded individuals.
  • Houston Caribbean Social Meetup Join fellow Caribbeans around the Houston community to build a network of friendship and support.
  • Latin Women’s Initiative This nonprofit organization strives to make difference in the lives of Latin women and their families by providing both financial and volunteer support to several local nonprofit organizations in the Houston community.
  • Houston’s Puerto Rican Culture Meetup This public meetup brings together enthusiasts looking to celebrate the culture of Puerto Rico, whether you are Puerto Rican or are looking to relive your last trip.
  • Latin Dance FactoryLearn to salsa or try your hand at bachata, a lively, social dance style originating in the Dominican Republic, and look out for mixers and salsa bachata parties at places like El Big Bad.
  • Strictly Street Salsa Try your hand at the street salsa program, which guides you from beginner to advance skills in salsa (casino), merengue, bachata, rueda, and other Latin dances. The studio also offers Latin drumming classes.

Other Notables

  • El Cubano Cigars This family-owned and operated cigar factory offers hand-rolled cigars. The family’s tobacco history dates back to 1904 Havana, when eight brothers worked at a plantation that produced 400 tons of tobacco a year. Generations later, the Lopez family continues to handroll special blends.
  • Club Tropicana Dance the night away to Latin and Caribbean music at one of Houston’s hottest dance clubs, which hosts people from all over the world.
  • Metropolis & Extravaganza Check out Wednesday’s Ladies Night, Caribbean and Latin mixes on Friday, and Latin Saturdays at this poppin’ dance and nightclub.

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