Caribbean cuisine has been trending over recent years, with jerk and curry dishes titillating taste buds all over the country. On the southwest side of Chicago – in Gage Park – we were told about a Belizean restaurant called Garifuna Flava located at 2518 W. 63rd St., Chicago, IL. Quick history lesson: The story of the Garifuna people begins when South American Carib Indians migrated to the Caribbean Island of St. Vincent and intermarried with native Arawak Indian islanders, almost 400 years ago. In 1635, two Spanish ships carrying indentured Nigerians sank, and many of these Nigerians survived by swimming to St. Vincent, adding to the Crib-Arawak genetic mix. They eventually migrated to areas in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and southern Belize. Hence, Belizean food has Latin, Caribbean and African influences.
We started our dining experience at Garifuna Flava with house-made plantain chips served with freshly made guacamole and kingfish panades served with a habanero slaw. Quoting Ice Cube, we knew it was going to be a “Good Day” with this yummy opening act. The plantain chips were visually appealing, crispy, and simply delicious. We hope Garifuna Flava bags this scrumptious snack and distributes them to local markets. They are that good! Their guacamole has a smooth texture, though we prefer our guacamole slightly chunky with a bit more lime. However, it was still an excellent guacamole that paired well with the plantain chips.
We were eager to sample the kingfish panades. Kingfish is a type of mackerel, and while not as popular as flounder, red snapper or catfish, when properly prepared, is quite a treat. Garifuna Flava delivered mightily with the kingfish panades. The flaky, mild, and lightly seasoned kingfish was stuffed inside a corn masa and deep fried. The end result was pure magic. The panades were light and airy with perfect masa to kingfish ratio. The habanero slaw added just the right amount of freshness and heat. Needless to say, before we left, we had to have these tasty bites to go.
Next, we sampled the sautéed shrimp which came with green peppers, red peppers and onions. This dish demonstrated to us that Garifuna Flava is not afraid to come out of its comfort zone. The shrimp and veggies were expertly prepared. A splash of teriyaki sauce added an unexpected sweet component that took our taste buds on an exciting roller coaster ride. This sweet and savory dish is a great fusion of Caribbean and Japanese flavors.
Moving right along, let us tell you about the national dish of Belize, the Belizean stewed chicken. This stewed chicken has a flavor profile mix of southern soul food and the Caribbean, all rolled into one. Very good eating! The chicken just fell off the bone and was melt-in-your-mouth tender. It came with traditional rice and beans, with a side of Belizean gravy. The gravy was absolutely amazing! Douse the rice and beans with the gravy, and you won’t be sorry.
Garifuna Flava has a plethora of delectable sides. The mac-n-cheese, split pea soup, potato salad, conch fritters and fried ripe plantains are all recommended. Their stewed oxtails, Jamaican jerk chicken, and deep-fried Kingfish are highly commended entrees. Garifuna Flava’s family recipes represent Caribbean comfort food at its finest. The service is friendly and, as an added bonus… yes, they have a parking lot.
We rank restaurants based on number of kisses (one thru five, with five being the best). Garifuna Flava receives a perfect 5 kisses. Check out the video of our review at https://youtu.be/wDr4njcy6Xo
The Black Foodies are food bloggers/vloggers and husband and wife of 25 years. We are also home cooks who believe in group economics and LOVE great food. We write the food blog “Let’s Eat,” where we review Black-owned and other ethnic restaurants. FOLLOW us on Instagram and Twitter @theblackfoodies, SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel “The Black Foodies,” where we review restaurants, share recipes, and give cooking tips. https://youtu.be/f1fsSQ24wgQ. Also LIKE us on Facebook and join our Facebook group, “World Wide Black Foodies.”
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