was born and raised in Brooklyn, and still reside here today. Since I’ve been in this fine borough for over 25 years, I’ve had the opportunity to live in several different neighborhoods. And as a lover of good food from all cultures, my first order of business when moving to a new area is to check out the local eats. I’m not talking about the generic pizza shops or Chinese take-out joints that are found all over New York City: what I seek out are foods that truly reflect the backgrounds of the people who live and work in those neighborhoods.
I recently moved to Crown Heights, an area that’s home to many families of Caribbean descent. People here come from all over, but primarily from the countries that make up the West Indies, such as Jamaica, Haiti, and Trinidad. It’s no coincidence that the West Indian Day Parade, which just celebrated its 45th year, is held here: each Labor Day, revelers don elaborate costumes and party down Eastern Parkway, the area’s main thoroughfare.
Crown Heights’ food is representative of its inhabitants. There’s a rich tradition of Caribbean restaurants here, most of them casual and affordable. And when you live here, you’ll notice a different kind of establishment: the Caribbean bakery. They’re found all over. But if you’ve never been inside one, you might wonder: what, exactly, do they serve?
The answer? A whole lot of delicious things. But if you visit a few, you’ll notice some commonalities: currant rolls, which are rich, flakey pastries with dried currants folded up inside; coco bread, a light, flat round bread imbued with dried coconut; sweet, custardy bread pudding studded with raisins and soaked in syrup; and so much more: turnovers filled with tropical fruit, dense puddings filled with grated root vegetables, and the list goes on.
There are many of these bakeries in my neighborhood, as well as in the nearby neighborhoods of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Bedford-Stuyvesant. I visited a handful and sussed out my favorite of the bunch: below, a guide to where to go and what to order.
03. A&A Bake and Doubles Shop, Bedford-Stuyvesant
A&A Bake and Doubles Shop, Bedford-StuyvesantIf you want to check out a Caribbean bakery but are in the mood for something savory, head to A&A, which specializes in one particular street food: doubles. Doubles hail from Trinidad and Tobago, and are somewhat akin to a sandwich, albeit a messy one. Two baras, pieces of flat fried dough often flavored with turmeric, encase a stew of curried chana, or chickpeas. At A&A, the bara is soft and stretchy, and the chickpeas inside are well-seasoned and nearly totally broken apart. You can’t argue with the price: just $1.50 apiece, two doubles make a filling lunch. If you order your doubles spicy, you’ll get a drizzle of hot sauce inside along with a dash of tangy tamarind sauce.
A&A Bake and Doubles Shop, 481 Nostrand Avenue (between Hancock Street & Fulton Street) (718) 230-0753
Photo by Lauren Rothman.