TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
I hit the jackpot last year when I chose AirBnB for my accommodation needs in Port of Spain, Trinidad. I chose the "Entire Apt" option, but was also given a family and friends, who all immediately took my comfort and happiness in their country as priority #1. When my love of food and cultural experience was mentioned, my host's friend, who also lives on the compound, thought I should know about the Breakfast Shed, apparently the place to grab cheap eats downtown.
I needed no further convincing and we promptly arrived down near the port, an area that has seen obvious recent major development and is very polished. A nice open air building has been built to house many vendors, selling foods mostly for lunch but also open for breakfast. The building opens both ways, onto the busiest street in Port of Spain, and right back to the waters of the Caribbean. All manner of Creole Trinidadian food is available and listing it would be ridiculous, but there is also a lone Jamaican vendor for a bit of variety.
It was only after my visit to Port of Spain that I learned this cleaned up spot was actually a post-oil boom reincarnation of the original breakfast shed that stood for decades and served a rowdy port crowd exclusively made of men. Even this was pre-dated by an original "shed" that was created to feed hungry children around the port.
Back in Brooklyn, home to a large Trini population, Church Avenue in East Flatbush is home to its own Trini Breakfast Shed, an homage to the originals, but just a small restaurant where you order at the counter and most people take their food to go. During the week, men occupy most of the spots at the four tables, not all of them ordering. When the weather is good, the door is open and the spot seems to be a bit of a social gathering place, if not quite a shed.
There are a few different ways to approach things here. The roti here is very well done, and is probably the dish I have seen most ordered on a couple visits. The goat roti ($7, below) was one of many meat options, and like usual had to be opened and emptied rather than eaten like a burrito.
Inside the meat is very well curried and mixed with potatoes, one order is plenty for most.
On both occasions I stopped by I wanted to try the doubles but they are usually unavailable at any Trini place after a certain time of day, and my second visit came on a Sunday, a notoriously bad day to get food in the neighborhood. Most places are open, but you are very likely to find your selections not made on Sundays. I was therefore unable to try the buss up as well, but settled on a plate of stewed pork ($9, below), which I added a $1.50 side of macaroni & cheese.
The pork was extremely fatty, probably less than 50% of what you see was meat. It was tasty however, and the sauce makes a nice mixture with their rice. The macaroni pie is excellent.
The menu also offers an array of bakes for an actual breakfast if you make it here early enough, as well as a heavy lean on Trini-style Chinese food. I have never been much for Caribbean takes on Chinese food, so I have not tried anything here yet. I noticed that their menu also says "Home of the Paco Water" and enquired to a customer about this item, she smiled and turned to another customer not wanting to be the one to answer. Finally she suggested it was "...good for men's... you know." Looking it up at home, it seems to be more commonly referred to as "Pacro water," pacro being the term Trinis use for chitons, a type of mollusk used to make the soup. Bring some mints for after taking this aphrodisiac, please.
A sign in the window says that beer and wine are available, but that may work in reverse of the soup. Good to know for future dinners here though.