New York’s West Indian American Day Festival is a nod to Carnival celebrations in the Caribbean and around the world. Vibrant colors and good music are mainstays at the annual event, as is delicious fresh food.
The first Monday of September is West Indian American Day in New York City. It also happens to fall on Labor Day, which is a North American holiday dedicated to working people (essentially, most people have a free day off from work). The national holiday gives hundreds of thousands of people from across the United States the opportunity to flock to Brooklyn to celebrate Caribbean culture.
Events start early that morning with a J’ourvet parade at sunrise, followed by the main parade which travels down Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
One of the best things that revelers encounter along the parade route is authentic Caribbean cuisine being served by local vendors of Caribbean descent. From jerk chicken to fresh mango, the parade route is overrun with delicious unprocessed foods.
Pineapple juice straight from the fruit itself? There are plenty of vendors along the parade route selling fresh, organic pineapple juice served in the shell of the pineapple. It’s sweet, bitter, and super refreshing.
Fresh fruit hailing from the Caribbean is a welcome addition to the parade. The mango, papaya, and passionfruit sold along the route are juicy and flavorful—and they’re not so easy to find year round. Purchase, indulge, and stock up if you need to.
Conch fritters aren’t the healthiest choice of food item along the route, but the fried Bahamian treats are made fresh for consumption at the festival. The tiny snacks are so delicious you won’t be able to have just one.
Much like fresh pineapple juice, you can have coconut water directly from the coconut itself. Served up by vendors along the parade route, coconut water is a cool, refreshing source of electrolytes.
On Caribbean islands from Jamaica to Puerto Rico, whole fish are a meal staple. While most Americans eat their fish in filets, whole fish (baked, grilled, or fried) is a traditional dish for people in the West Indies. Seasoned with the best herbs and spices, whole fish is a nutritious and flavor-packed treat.
Plantains are often served alongside savory Caribbean dishes to give a contrasting flavor. They, too, can be served baked, fried, or grilled but…no matter what…they’re super delicious.