Haiti’s culture and history are inextricably connected to France, and the two countries have ties that go back more than 400 years. In the 17th century, enslaved Africans were brought to the island by the French for the production of sugar, and in 1804, Haiti famously gained its independence from France after a revolution that started in 1791. In the aftermath, France crippled Haiti by demanding 100 million francs (an estimated US$21 billion today) as reparations for lost revenue from enslaved labor, and it took Haiti more than a century to pay off the colonial debt.
Although it’s been centuries since France occupied Haiti, France’s colonial influence on the small Caribbean island lives on. Both French and Creole are the official languages of Haiti; Creole is spoken in homes and rural neighborhoods, while French is the language of elite schools, government documents, and official business. Haitian names still carry the legacy of slavery and colonization with French names like Jacques, Louis, and Pierre among the most common names on Haitian birth certificates.
But even with France’s colonial influence, Haitians kept many cultural elements from their West African ancestors. The Creole language has traces of West African Fon and Ibo languages. Haiti’s religious voodoo practices also stem from West Africa; the word “vodou” means “spirit” in the West African Fon language. In addition, Haitian epis (a blend of peppers, garlic, and various herbs) is used in many Haitian dishes and is thought to have West African origins.
Throughout the past few decades, because of political and economic turmoil and natural disasters, Haitians have left the island, bringing their beloved traditions with them to new countries. Today, the Haitian diaspora is scattered around the globe, with large Haitian communities in Miami, Boston, Montreal, and Paris. Though exact numbers are hard to come by, there are an estimated 85,000 Haitians living in France; many have made their home in the capital.
The Haitian community living in France’s capital has continued to preserve and share their rich culture through food, and for those looking for a taste of Haiti in the City of Lights, here are four restaurants in Paris serving Haitian cuisine.
1. Au Paradis Tropical
Au Paradis Tropical is located in the 18th arrondissement in an area dubbed “Little Africa.” The area is home to North and West Africans and offers textiles, spices, and an outdoor food market. Au Paradis Tropical’s Caribbean flavors are a great fit for the colorful neighborhood; the interior is decorated with oversized paintings of beach scenes, and there are plenty of small tables for two inside the warmly lit dining room.
The menu features some of Haiti’s most loved dishes like poulet à ’Haïtienne (chicken in a spicy, tomato-based sauce), tassot de cabri (fried goat), and poisson, a whole fish entrée that can be ordered fried or grilled with a side of plantains. Dessert options include an airy pineapple upside-down cake or the mont blanc, a sweetened chestnut puree topped with whipped cream.
The drinks menu includes the Barbancourt sour cocktail made with Barbancourt, Haiti’s national rum, and lime and cane sugar. The restaurant also offers nonalcoholic drinks like the Florida cocktail made with orange and pineapple juices, lime, and grenadine.
2. Caffé Creole
Caffe Creole serves French Caribbean food in a “hard to miss” blue and yellow restaurant, and the menu represents the French islands of Martinique, Mauritius, Guyana, Réunion, Guadeloupe, and Haiti. The restaurant has outdoor bistro seating and an interior that will transport diners to the West Indies with white cottage-style chairs and tables, rattan lamps, and painted tropical murals.
The restaurant has an eclectic offering of Caribbean Creole food, and one of the menu highlights is cod fritters, a popular Haitian dish made by frying breaded bite-size pieces of spiced codfish. A popular vegan dish, bol kreyol, includes plantains, avocado, red beans and rice, and cashews.
The bar at Caffé Creole also has over 60 kinds of rum that represent the French Indies, including 15-year-old bottles of Barbancourt. During a daily happy hour from 4 to 8 p.m. you can get discounted cocktails, beers, and nonalcoholic drinks.
3. Ti Case Creole
Ti Case Creole is a bright, airy Caribbean restaurant with several Haitian entrées and drinks. With light wood floors and teal and brown plush seating, the interior is reminiscent of the sand and turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
One of the starters at Ti Case Creole is Haitian pikliz, a spicy slaw made from pickled red cabbage, carrots, and red pepper. The restaurant also serves another popular Haitian dish: a hearty stew made with chunks of beef that have been marinated in a sauce with garlic, chopped onion, and cumin.
There’s an ample selection of draft beers, cocktails, rums, and wines to pair with your meal, and our favorite is the Port-au-Prince nonalcoholic cocktail. The name pays homage to the Haitian capital, and drink is made with pineapple, orange, and mango juices.
4. Riz DjonDjon
Riz DjonDjon overlooks Rue Saint-Denis, one of Paris’s oldest streets. The exterior of the restaurant has a modern black and white facade, but inside the contrasting cobalt and yellow walls and straw hat–covered light fixtures welcome diners in search of Caribbean comfort food.
The restaurant’s name refers to the Haitian black rice that’s made with black djondjon mushrooms that give the rice its color. The main entrées here include a choice of lamb chops, chicken, or fish that can be paired with the savory black rice. Another tasty entrée is beef mafé, a creamy beef stew made with peanut sauce and stewed vegetables.
Some of the cocktails are named after Haitian cities, like the Jacmel, that’s made with coconut milk, mango, and pineapple juice and can be ordered with or without alcohol. And for beer lovers, be sure to order a bottle of cold Prestige, Haiti’s national beer.
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