The spirit of Haiti is evident in the local art and music as well as in the common practice of Haitian Vodou. All these elements feature dominantly in the restaurant culture, each venue offering a distinctive dining experience alongside tantalising tastes of the Caribbean. Haiti’s unique history of colonialism and revolt have long captivated the imagination of visitors and we check out 10 of the best Port-au-Prince restaurants in which to experience it all.
Courtesy of Acajou Restaurant
Acajou Restaurant & Bar At Hotel Montana
Centrally located on a hill near the commercial centre of Petionville, this is one of the only hotels offering stunning views of downtown Port-au-Prince as well as of the colourfully painted houses adorning the mountain side of Jalousie. Despite the devastating impact of the 2010 earthquake on the Montana, this landmark hotel has now managed to rebuild and regain much of its former glory. The outdoor Acajou Restaurant & Bar offers class and exquisitely prepared local and international cuisine accompanied by an unforgettable view. The menu contains a wide variety of dishes, but the Creole selection (local dishes) is especially good. The lambi Creole, a type of sea conch indigenous to the region, is tender and flavourful, regarded by some as the best lambi dish in the capital. It’s prepared with Creole sauce, a spicy tomato-based sauce featuring a mixture of fresh vegetables and a few secret ingredients, perfectly complimenting the succulent pieces of lambi.
A popular lunch spot for young professionals, this hole-in-the-wall restaurant offers great local cuisine for affordable prices. Encased in a small alcove near the bustling Place Saint Pierre, this gem is concealed enough to provide refuge from the heat and bustle of the town. Lunch comes in the form of several varieties of meat, fish or lambi, served on cafeteria style plastic trays. Don’t let the casual style deceive you – the food is fresh, delicious and plentiful. Each main plate comes with piping hot crispy fried plantains and a small, fresh vegetable salad. Lunch is to be enjoyed as a take-away or al-fresco under the colourful, large umbrellas.
Le Coin des Artistes has a reputation for providing the freshest and widest selection of local fish and seafood in Port-au-Prince, transported directly from the fishermen to the restaurant. Visitors to this intimate establishment are immediately welcomed by the smell of freshly grilled fish. Friday nights feature live music and a large crowd of locals and expats. Delicious complimentary crab cakes, accompanied by spicy pikliz (cabbage salad), usually appear within minutes of arrival. The grilled fish is the highlight of the menu and ordered according to size, great for sharing with a big group.
Legendry Hotel Oloffson has, for decades, lured in writers, artists and expats, igniting the infatuation of many with Haitian art and culture. Graham Greene wrote his novel ‘The Comedians’ about the Oloffson while staying at the hotel and, like him, many have been attracted to the combination of Vodou and art which creates a special magic associated with the restaurant. The magnificent gingerbread architectural features indicative of the colonial era in Haiti and numerous master pieces of Haitian art which cover the walls, are the setting for the lovely terrace where diners can relax and enjoy the hotel’s famous rum sours. The food is enjoyable alongside the music of RAM, a Vodou-inspired ‘rock ‘n’ roots’ band who have been playing at the Oloffson every Thursday night since the early 1990s.
Slightly further afield in the neighbourhood of Croix Des Bouquets, Myabèl Cocktail Bar & Restaurant offers delicious and surprisingly modern local cuisine as well as award winning cocktails. This is the perfect lunch stop after a visit to Croix Des Bouquets’ famous metal market and artist community, where artists can be seen creating intricate reliefs from steel drums using traditional metal-working techniques. The food in Myabèl is all locally sourced and the pick of what is available each day, plates are wonderfully presented and the cuisine is incredibly fresh, try local delicacy cabrit (goat), which comes with fried plantains and Myabèl‘s signature spicy mango pikliz. Refresh yourself with one of the ice cold cocktails, mixed from local ingredients and named after different cultural aspects and regions of Haiti.
The city of Port-au-Prince is positioned within a bay area engulfed by colossal mountains, where one can enjoy an extremely welcome breeze and wander through picturesque villages. Up in these mountains above Petionville, the Observatoire restaurant offers what is perhaps the most magnificent view of Port-au-Prince and the entire bay area. The menu has good Creole and international food, but the main attraction here is the view. Observatoire hosts live music every Friday evening with a stunning view of Port-au-Prince as it stands illuminated against the night. Watch the sunset from this incredible lookout point after a day of hiking or visiting the nearby Saint Soleil artist community.
This Port-au-Prince institution will immediately transport you to a past era. Le P’tit Creux is loaded with an air of nostalgia, infused by local Caribbean music and smartly dressed waiters who attentively care for the customers. A regular lunch crowd of locals and expats lazily enjoy some of the best Creole food in town. The menu is extensive with numerous verities of each Creole favourite. Meat, fish and seafood are accompanied by wonderfully aromatic rice and beans, a common staple in Haiti. In Haiti this traditional rice and bean dish is eaten at the end of the meal and used to soak up the remains of the sauce left on the plate. On Saturday Le P’tit Creux hosts live music and a huge buffet offering endless local delights.
Located across from Place Boyer in the heart of Petionville, Quartier Latin combines the atmosphere of a Parisian brasserie with the sounds and sights of the Caribbean. What makes this place so special is the wonderful contrast between soft romantic and sophisticated décor, dark wood fixtures and the multitude of graffiti created by visitors, which covers almost every empty space on the wall. Don’t hesitate to ask the staff for a pen to leave your own mark on this renowned Port-au-Prince establishment. A line of candles piled on endless layers of wax, which has been kept burning here since the 2010 earthquake, is a reminder of the continued impact of this tragedy on the people of Haiti. Live music every Friday night makes this a perfect spot for catching up with friends over rum sours, followed by some Konpa dancing, the Creole version of the meringue.
Sophisticatedly decorated Vert Galant offers Creole cuisine in a shabby-chic atmosphere. The restaurant is located in the Pacot area, set in a beautiful old colonial mansion built in the typical gingerbread style. Contemporary Haitian art decorates the walls of this relaxed hangout, often frequented by European expats. This is the place to enjoy a drink and a verity of modernised local dishes. Colourful tables are set in the courtyard and terrace of the house, with diners choosing from salads, fish, sea-food and meat, as well as Creole classics such as griot (crispy pork) and cabrit (goat).
Downtown Port-au-Prince is home to several wonderful mansions from the colonial era. Amongst this captivating leafy neighbourhood Yanvalou bar and restaurant populates one of these large former homes. Very popular with aid-workers and locals, this is the place to be seen and mingle. Frequented by local artists and musicians, the atmosphere is as indie as it gets in the Caribbean. Thursday nights are the best time to sample live local tunes and cool down with a bottle of local Prestige beer under the large mango tree in the front yard. The menu is small but features some Creole favourites and the pizza is surprisingly good. Go to Yanvalou for the music, atmosphere and company.