Haitian cuisine differs from its Latin-Caribbean neighbors in that it is derived from African and French cuisine with the addition of local spices. Only moderately hot, Haitian food contains manje kreyol, a liberal use of peppers and is usually accompanied by rice and beans. Other flavors brought over by Arab immigrants add to the complex taste. Since Haiti was a former colony of France, French food can also be found alongside imported wine. Like many other countries in the Caribbean, the Haitians love their rum. Rhum Barbancourt is famously exported worldwide, and is a unique sugarcane juice used in the distillation process instead of molasses as the main ingredient in many types of rum.
Bars and Pubbing in Haiti
Petionville in Port-au-Prince is the main district for nightlife in Haiti and you will find most of the late-night entertainment and nightclubs here. Caramel (Petionville, Port-au-Prince) and Barak (101 Petionville, Port-au-Prince) offer dancing well into the night. The music is a mixture of western and local sounds, including merengue (known locally as “kompa”), hip-hop and mizak rasin. Many hotels double up as bars, such as the Kinam Hotel (Petionville, Port-au-Prince), Kaliko Beach Club (Cote des Arcadins, PO Box 1670, Gonave Bay, Port-au-Price) and Cormier Plage (Route de Labadie, Bande du Nord, Cap-Hatien). Often livelier on the weekends, some provide traditional African drumming and exotic dances, as well as DJs.
Columbus Café Bar (Labadee) at Labadee Beach provides a sumptuous place to sip a rum-based cocktail or daiquiri while watching the sunset over the sea. Another popular beachside bar in Labadee is Sunset Bar (Labadee), near the Lawn Club. Or you could try Pool Bar (Labadee), offering delicious frozen drinks, cocktails and a selection of martinis.
If you are in Cap-Haitien, you could try at drink at Cheers (Cap-Haitien) or Café Cubano (Cap-Haitien); both with a lively atmosphere and warm Haitian welcome. Crystal Palace (Cap-Haitien) is the busiest nightclub in the area, whereas the Regency (Cap-Haitien) or Olaffson (Cap-Haitien) hotels open up for dancing on the weekends. The Choucono (Cap-Haitien) and El Rancho (Cap-Haitien) casinos also make for a fun night out.
Dining and Cuisine in Haiti
Petionville in Port-au-Prince has the widest range of restaurants in Haiti, and you will find plenty of choose from as the area is the city’s main entertainment district. Along with the local Creole food, there’s Italian and French fare, and fusion restaurants. Don’t let the word café deter you because in Haiti cafes are more what a westerner would call a regular eatery.
The most reputable restaurants in Petionville include Café Marabou (Petionville, Port-au-Prince), Café des Arts (19 Rue Lamarre, Petionville, Port-au-Prince), Beyrouth (Petionville, Port-au-Prince), and Au Coin des Artistes (Petionville, Port-au-Prince). They each have a decent lunch and dinner menu, allowing you to sample some of the local cuisine, including the seafood specialty of Haiti, conch. For an alternative dining experience, try Altitude 900, which is perched atop the mountains to the north of Port-au-Prince. A commanding view over the city and sea are to be enjoyed while sampling some of the chef’s favorites in a tranquil atmosphere.
You will find many other small, family-owned restaurants in Cap-Haitien and other places around Haiti. If you are uncertain of the quality, just head to one of the bigger hotels for a tasty dish. Hotel Florita (Rue du Commerce #29, Jacmel) in Jacmel offers a great selection of Haitian food, while Lolo’s (Cayes Jacmel, Jacmel), has international platters located at the beach.