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Looking for paradise in the heart of Birmingham? Discover three Caribbean food restaurants that are sure to give you a taste of Puerto Rican and Cuban culture.
First, let me tell you about myself. I am familiar with blending Southern and island life because I’m a blend of both. As a Puerto Rican growing up in Georgia and later living in Alabama, I’ve often found myself searching for home. And where else to find home but through food, right? These restaurants have those classic Cuban sandwiches that’ll have your belly saying, “more, ¡por favor!”
Nothing compares to a home-cooked meal from Mama, but I implore you to venture out of the norm and try out a different version of “home.” How about some home-style, authentic Caribbean food? Let’s talk about three Caribbean restaurants in Birmingham that will make you want to see the islands ASAP.
Coming to Miami Fusion Cafe feels like coming home. They recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of being at this location, and I was there with my family to celebrate with them.
The restaurant gets every detail right, from the way they fry their food (delicious and true-to-taste) to the bright, yellow-colored walls. Pastel paint is a staple of Latin architecture and aesthetic. One notable item off the dessert menu is the Jesus Cake. For every cake sold, a percentage of the proceeds goes towards future plans to open a multicultural rehabilitation facility with 3-in-1 Ministries, which he also launched.
2015 5th Avenue North Birmingham, AL 35203
What surprised me the most about Kool Korner was that they made the same move I did: from Atlanta to Birmingham! After running the Atlanta location for almost 25 years, Cuban immigrant Ildefonso Ramirez took his business to Birmingham. Here, at 95 years old, he still oversees the shop. Talk about dedication!
Hot pressed sandwiches are Kool Korner’s specialty. Their menu advertises several types of Cubanos. Don’t forget to take a guava and cream cheese pastelito, a delightful Caribbean pastry, home with you!
1360 Montgomery Hwy Vestavia Hills, AL 35216
You might recognize this restaurant from their pop-up in the Pizitz Food Hall, but Tropicaleo has been in Alabama for a few years now. From tents to events, the Puerto Rican food place has grown and finally set up shop. They now have their permanent brick and mortar location in Birmingham. You can’t miss it; the restaurant features a beautiful Puerto Rican mural in their window. The food is specifically cooked with coconut oil, and most of their menu items have vegan and gluten-free options.
Speaking of the menu, their Cuban sandwiches are special in that the bread recipe comes from Morovis, a central town in Puerto Rico. For dessert, how about a flan? This is a savory vanilla custard treat.
4426 4th Ave S Birmingham, AL 35222
I came to this city looking for the definition of Birmingham culture—little did I know that I would find a little bit of my own culture within it.
That’s the best part about these three unique restaurants: they bring island life to the Birmingham area. Come to any of these locations and you will find yourself greeted by images of the islands. When there’s live music, you’ll be entranced by the sounds I grew up listening to, whether that be salsa, merengue, bachata, or Latin pop. Birmingham as a whole is so diverse, and these places highlight that diversity. My hope is that others will find these restaurants to be a vision of multicultural harmony in the city, just like I found.
Let us know your favorite dishes and desserts!