The history of Caribbean residents to South LA goes back to the 1960s, when immigrants came to the U.S. via the East Coast, often New York City, and eventually to Southern California in search of warmer weather and career opportunities. A 1985 Los Angeles Times report documented Jamaicans, Belizeans, and Trinidadians settling in South LA neighborhoods, and especially Inglewood, with restaurants serving the cuisine of their home countries. Those flavors, aromatic spices, gently grilled or cooked meats and fishes, and vibrant vegetables and side dishes, are familiar to the cultures and people already in the neighborhoods south of the 10 freeway and east of the 405.
Inglewood in particular has been an epicenter of Caribbean cooking in recent years, with longtime stalwarts Blessed Tropical and Lee’s Caribbean just across the street from the towering SoFi Stadium along Prairie Avenue. However, places like Karuba’s Yardy and Trinistyle represent the new generation of Caribbean restaurants to open in the area, making Inglewood one of the best places to eat island cuisines in Los Angeles. Here now, six Caribbean restaurants to know in Inglewood.
It’s hard to think of a more laid-back place than Blessed Tropical, a strip mall find that has the relaxed pace of a beachside stand. The classics are all here, from a fine plate of jerk chicken, its barky black crust imbued with spices, to a robust selection of patties. The cooking can be a little haphazard sometimes, with hastily placed beans, rice, plantains, and cabbage pushed onto Styrofoam plates, but the chicken is the real star here. 901 S. Prairie Avenue, Inglewood.
One of the older Caribbean restaurants in Inglewood, Lee’s sports a weathered, lived-in look after all its years in service. The dining room might have seen better days, as the operation remains takeout only, but that hasn’t stopped regulars from helping the menu sell out of popular items like the curry goat, which had one order left when we stopped in. They graciously gave us the last portion, packed into a wide Styrofoam tray and served alongside a huge portion of bean-studded rice, steamed cabbage, plantains, and a dense fried dumpling. The spice-laden curry has the hefty gaminess of goat while retaining the meat’s heady characteristics. The menu boasts a range of Jamaican flavors, from jerk chicken and short ribs to escovitch fish. 1041 Prairie Avenue, Unit 5, Inglewood.
Opened in 2018, Karuba’s Yardy is one of the newer Jamaican destinations in Inglewood, where owner Karuba Smith previously worked at the hot food station at Playa Vista’s Whole Foods. The thing to get here are the patties, possibly some of the best in town, which are balanced with tender crusts and delicious fillings (the beef was sold out but the curry chicken was stellar). The jerk chicken is among the best in Inglewood, with moist, tender meat covered in a dark brown sauce. The plates are polished: Entrees are presented with a cupped mound of rice flecked with peas, evenly browned plantains, and savory leafy vegetables. The oxtails are also righteously cooked to a fall-apart bite. Wash it all down with the grapefruit-flavored Ting soda. 1300 Centinela Avenue, Unit 103, Inglewood.
The bustling, almost hectic sounds of Country Style along La Brea Avenue holds court over Inglewood’s western edge. Opened in 2019, Country Style sports great portions and a classic menu of curry goat, brown stew chicken, patties, and even ackee and saltfish, the national dish of Jamaica. But the staff might recommend the red snapper escovitch, served whole and atop a bed of peas and rice, buttery steamed vegetables, and fried plantains. The fish flakes off easily with the vinegary tang of the sliced bell peppers and onions in every bite. The beef patty makes for a nice appetizer. 630 N. La Brea Avenue, Suite 111, Inglewood.
Owner Merlin Garcia successfully parlayed a street food and catering operation into one of LA’s best Trinidadian restaurants, taking over a corner strip mall space in Inglewood just a few blocks from her former stand location, which was parked in an auto shop lot. The rotis are the main draw here, the beautiful flaky flatbread filled to the max with everything from beef and goat to curry chicken. The doubles are excellent too, stuffed with stewed chickpeas, chopped cucumbers, and a spicy sauce that hits the throat hard. The oxtails and rice, meanwhile, are destination-worthy. Hours are mostly limited to weekends, so be sure to call orders in ahead of arrival. 2159 W. Century Boulevard, Los Angeles.
Normally a festive place for beach-style feast, Little Belize comes from Laverne Smith and her sisters, who took ownership of the restaurant nine years ago in 2012. It’s been said that the LA area has the most Belizeans in the U.S., with notable restaurants Belizean Paradise, the Blue Hole, Tracey’s, and Saraba Garifuna as the community’s other stalwarts. At the moment, there’s only a smattering of outdoor tables at the moment as service is mostly inclined to takeout. However on Sundays, the restaurant builds an indoor-outdoor dining with more tables and a live band, and by mid-March, they’ll expand dinner hours and reopen the dining room. Currently, the daytime-only operation is enough to draw locals to the crispy fish panades, tinted almost orange and fried to perfection, while the stew chicken is probably the most popular plate on the menu. Cooked tender and slathered with a peppery gravy, it comes with rice, beans, and potato salad to help round it into a solid lunch. The oxtails are another popular dish worth ordering. 217 E. Nutwood Street, Inglewood.