>> Culpepper's | Eat the World NYC

11 December 2017



The corner of Nostrand Avenue and Lincoln Road might as well be draped with the flag of Barbados. The blue and yellow of Culpepper's is noticeable from some distance, and unlike many West Indian restaurants, this one does not hide its identity at all.

At first glance this is a simple takeout joint, only one small table is in the front room to sit at, but they do maintain a dining room. Behind a locked door that they can buzz you into, a few more tables are available for meals in house. If possible though, grab that table in the front space and enjoy your meal with all the action. The takeout is a steady stream, people are ordering morning, afternoon, and night.

A Bajan man (the demonym of Barbados is Bajan) was active and chatty to the staff as we were eating, wearing a hat which bore the broken trident that stars in the flag of the country.

Any first visit to a Bajan restaurant and first experience with the cuisine should start with the national dish of the island nation: Cou cou and flying fish ($15, above and below). The flying fish, besides being a delicious meal, is important in Barbados, sometimes referred to as the "Land of the Flying Fish." It also appears on souvenirs and remains an important symbol in the country despite being virtually nonexistent now because of coral reef depletion. This also has led to a price increase, but because of history the fish remains sought after and is imported for meals.

Cou cou is a cornmeal-based dish made with okra, both of which are readily available and inexpensive on the island unlike a lot of other imported foods. The dish is finished off with a good portion of savory gravy that can reach high levels of spiciness. The version here at Culpepper's is pretty tame on that front, but a small bit of pepper here and there will show up.

The tastes of course all work well together, but you can just as easily eat the fish and cou cou separately. As long as some of this delicious gravy was around, I would probably be dipping everything in it.

As this fish was being consumed, orders of the fish cakes ($0.50 each, below) were constant, almost every person coming in tacked on a few with their order. Before finishing, we had to grab a couple for ourselves.

The "cakes" are balls of bread with small pieces of fish. The whole thing is breaded and thrown briefly in the frier. After eating the gravy, it was hard to discern the subtle flavors, so these ended up getting dipped as well.

If you don't have room after your meal, be sure to take home some Bajan jam puffs ($2 each, below) for the next morning. They are available in cherry and pineapple, and the fluffy triangles might be one of the easiest ways to give yourself good island memories.

Walking by any bakery in the morning on Barbados will bring smells of jam tarts and other baked goods. Luckily Nostrand Avenue is home to Culpepper's, which keeps a case of popular pastries for everyone to have these tastes from back home.

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Culpeppers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato