We all know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, but contrary to your questionable elementary school curriculum, he originally landed in the Caribbean, not the continental U.S. The Caribbean has since been transformed into a sprawling tourist attraction, famous for its lavish resorts and Instagrammable beaches. For those of us who can't afford the plane tickets, this list of the best Caribbean food in Austin is guaranteed to give your mouth a mini vacation.
1. Habana Soco
For over 16 years, Habana SoCo has been blessing Austin with its famous ropa vieja, a traditional Cuban dish of stewed beef and veggies. Legend has it that the dish originated from a starving man who ripped his own clothes, cooked them, and prayed for a miracle. Though old laundry is not on the menu at Habana, you can find a variety of other classic Cuban dishes.
Sway to island reggae while stuffing your face with authentic jerk chicken on Tony's green-and-yellow striped patio. It's traditionally marinated with a variety of hot peppers and allspice, then slowly cooked over sweet pimento wood. Its origins are debatable, but the lip-smacking is guaranteed.
If you've ever wondered what that long potato-looking thing was at the supermarket, let Chago's be the hand that guides you to the underestimated world of yuca, a starchy root vegetable similar to potatoes. The queso-filled bolitas de yuca will not disappoint.
Bad news — not all empanadas are jam-packed with tangy fruit. The good news is that the Doughminican offers savory empanadas made from scratch with a touch of corazon. Each one is the perfect ratio of crisp and flaky, a handheld-perfection that gives you the perfect crunch with every bite.
5. Cuba 512
For a more intimate Cuban vibe with a solid drink menu, Cuba 512 is the place to grab killer mojitos and a solid plate of masas fritas (fried pork). Get it with a side of yuca or sweet plantains for a truly authentic Caribbean meal.
This bright yellow food truck touts itself as being "100% Borinqueño," or 100% authentic Puerto Rican. Their menu is constantly updating, but you can find the usual Puerto Rican staples like tripletas and empanadillas. If you're new to the Borinqueño scene, try their mofongo, a healthy heap of fried plantain heaven.
Skip the KFC and Popeye's and head to La Tropicana for some real pollo frito, Cubano style. What's the difference? The light notes of orange citrus in every soft crunch will definitely keep you salivating. Bonus: their cafecito comes in a cute Cuban flag mug.
Although Christopher Columbus never lived to see the delicious fruits of his exploration, his wayward legacy lives on right in our backyards, where Caribbean restaurateurs are taking recipes from the islands and generously sharing them with our grumbling bellies. Why pay for air fare when you can experience the Caribbean at home? Step outside of the typical Austin fusion scene, tuck in your napkin, and get ready for some authentic Caribbean cuisine.