By now it's already old news that The Arcade Fire's Régine Chassagne and Win Butler are opening "Agrikol", a new Haitian restaurant/community art space. Of course, a Haitian restaurant in our city shouldn't be breaking news at all if we consider that there are over 100,000 Montrealers of Haitian descent contributing to the culture and atmosphere of the city. And yet, somehow, Haitian eateries remain relatively unknown outside of the Haitian community.
So, in anticipation of Agrikol's opening later this summer, we felt it was time for Haitian food to shine in the spotlight.Jwi manje ou! (Translation: Bon Appétit!)
Photo - Marché Méli-Mélo
1. Marché Méli-Mélo
Almost everyone that has to pick a favourite Haitian joint will recommend Méli-Mélo, and it's a great place to get into creole food if you're inexperienced with Haitian fare. In many ways it sets the standard for the majority of Haitian eateries you'll find. A) It's a bit out of the way, so expect a slight adventure to find it. B) It's not really a restaurant, more of a Caribbean grocery store that happens to sling out delicious munchies. C) Don't expect silverware or tables, it's more of a Styrofoam box kinda joint. But if you like huge mountains of diri kole ak pwa (rice and peas), fried plantains, and super spicy pickliz (scotch bonnet-marinated cabbage slaw), then Marché Méli-Mélo is your best friend.
Photo - Sous Le Palmier
2. Sous Le Palmier
Unlike Marché Méli-Mélo, Sous Le Palmier is a full-on sit-down restaurant with waiters, plates you don't recycle, and the whole shebang. There's some other Caribbean influences going on in their menu, but they stand out best for their delicious griyo, a traditional Haitian dish of pork shoulder slowly braised with scotch bonnet peppers and then fried until crispy.
Photo - Tassot Creole
3. Tassot Creole
"Tassot" refers to a dish made of fried strips of beef or goat, so Tassot Creole's name makes it pretty clear which dish is their speciality. The chef comes from a long line of Haitian cooks and makes everything from scratch, so expect simple, honest soul food made from the heart and without pretension.
Photo - Casserole Kreole
4. Casserole Kreole
Casserole Kreole breaks the mould of casse-croute dinettes by featuring two catering chefs specializing in French Antillean cuisine who offer both a lunch counter, along with elevated Haitian-fusion cuisine through their catering service. It may not be the best place to go for late night Haitian eats, but Casserole Kreole is definitely the best way to have the French Caribbean come to you!
Photo - Restaurant Caraïbana
5. Restaurant Caraïbana
Breaking away from the casse-croute style that dominates Haitian cuisine, Restaurant Caraïbana is another rare gem that serves their gargantuan portions of delicious creole classics on actual plates with actual cutlery. Plus there's a full bar if you're craving 'ti Punch, a dangerously easy-to-drink mixture of rhum agricole, fresh lime juice, and sugar cane syrup.
Photo - Resto Griyo
6. Resto Griyo
To get a good idea for the culinary vibe we're expecting at Agrikol, you'd be best to check out Resto Griyo (also in Montréal-Nord, go figure). What Resto Griyo is doing differently from other Haitian joints is that they've repackaged Haitian comfort food into a tapas-style aesthetic. You can expect flaky, fried accras de morue, but more surprising is their ridiculously addictive griyo poutine.
Photo - Fourchette Antillaise
7. Fourchette Antillaise
Table service? Check. All the best Haitian dishes cooked up perfectly? Check. Barbancourt agricole rum? Double check. Fourchette Antillaise is authentic through and through, and offers a nice little patio where you can sit and sip your rum, eat spicy fried fish, and pretend for a moment you're on a beach in the Caribbean.