NY On A Budget: A Caribbean Getaway in Manhattan
For our next voyage across Manhattan’s international cuisine, we head to the Upper West Side to Freda’s Caribbean and Soul. Co-owners Eleanor and Kai are a dynamic mother-son team who said they felt like the neighborhood could use a little spicing up. Freda’s does just that with its unique blend of island staples mixed with traditional, delicious dishes from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. As always, this food is guaranteed to be worth every dollar you spend, and you won’t be spending many.
The Upper West Side is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Manhattan and that shows in the crowd that gathers at Freda’s. Customers are very diverse. It makes for a very comforting and comfortable experience; you almost feel like you’re walking into your grandmother’s kitchen. The menu is definitely college budget friendly, with entrees averaging at around $10. The entrée dishes include rice and peas, and two sides.
Since this article is all about stepping outside of our culinary comfort zone, I decided to go for the curry goat entrée, with a side of greens and mac and cheese to go along with the rice and peas. I’ve never eaten goat before but its taste is similar to that of other red meat and Freda’s is fall-off-the-bone tender. Eleanor explained that Caribbean food has a lot of Indian influences, especially in Trinidad where her family is from originally. The portions were overly generous; you can easily get full off of half of your meal and take the rest home for later. The great thing about Caribbean food is the bevy of flavor that comes which each meal. The curry had a beautiful, smoky heat that built as I ate but never became too spicy. If you’re someone who enjoys something hotter, go for the jerk on either chicken or shrimp. Rice and peas is known as rice and beans stateside, and the southern greens and mac and cheese was a great way to round out the meal. Or if you want to completely immerse yourself in Caribbean cuisine, try the oxtail.
Another traditionally Caribbean dish is the roti. Roti is bread made from flour and yellow chickpeas that is similar to a crepe. At Freda’s they stuff it with any savory meat you would like, but Eleanor suggests the curry chicken roti for first-timers. In addition to the great food, Freda’s is a Columbia Safe Haven University.
“That means any emergency that happens, whether you feel unsafe or maybe drunk, anything, you can come here,” said Eleanor, “and we will call Columbia University for you and they will pick you up.”
Freda’s Caribbean and Soul has everything you could look for in New York cuisine as a college student. Large portions, good food, and great prices all in proximity to a major university. And Freda’s is right next to Central Park, so you can always head to the beautiful park to relax after your meal.