Garifuna Flava (2518 W 63rd St, Chicago, IL) had been on “our to-eat” list for such a long time! there was another Belizean restaurant on Howard (Tickie’s – now Redz) but it did not feature the unique cuisine of the Garifuna coastal culture of Belize. Garifuna culture, centered on the Caribbean coast of Belize, is a blend of African and Indigenous Caribbean influences, which manifests itself in a totally unique cuisine. When we dined in, the place was doing a brisk takeout service, and it also seemed the place was a favorite of cops, which tends to be a good sign, since they know all the local food options.
For appetizers we got Panades, corn fritters stuffed with curried fish, which was definitely unusual, and spoke to the West Indian influence in Garifuna food. We also heard good things about the guacamole with plantain chips, so we had to give them a try (how could we resist). Also on offer were conch fritters, which we had sampled at other Caribbean joints. For mains, there were a variety of stews (beer, chicken and oxtail) and jerk dishes. Unique fish dishes rounded out the selection, including conch soup and Hudut Baruru with Falumou, a king fish soup with coconut milk and a side of hudut, a plantain mash that is used like fufu in African cuisines. Another feature we were fans of, was the lunch special for less than $7 you got a main, a side (choice of pigeon peas, plantains, rice and beans or cabbage) soup and salad. We selected the jerk chicken and the chicken stew from the lunch specials.
There was such an insane amount of food with the lunch specials, that the pleasant server brought it over on a cart, nay, a 2-level cart. Chicken soup, salad, a huge cup of rice – along with a generous helping of stewed chicken and jerk chicken. Everything was delicious and made from scratch, and we were surprised by the mild and nuanced flavors. For dessert we had to have the sweet potato cake – even though we were already pretty stuffed, and it was worth it – the cake was moist and spicy!
We washed down the meal with a spicy ginger soda and a passion fruit smoothie. It definitely felt like we were in the tropics, especially given the 90 degree weather outside. Garifuna Flava is an excellent place to get a taste of an underrepresented cuisine – we’ll definitely be back to try more of the menu.