Anyone who has driven through Little Haiti lately knows that businesses are disappearing fast. But before the vibe in South Florida’s Haitian-American neighborhood goes completely Wynwood, there are few things you should do in order to say you’ve had a genuine Little Haiti experience.
But hurry. Already a few places are no more, like Daleus Museum and Art Gallery, across from the Little Haiti Cultural Center. The Haitian art gallery shuttered its doors months before owner and painter, Daleus Wilfrid, died in December 2017. A few bontanicas, religious stores, have also closed. But no worries. A few remain so you can pick up all of your spiritual needs, everything from candles and religious figurines to love potions and the perfumed cleansing potions known as Florida water.
If you’re more the organized religion type, there is no shortage of churches, including the living room of the Haitian community — Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church— to drop in for a fiery sermon or renewal.
So here’s your list on what to do in Little Haiti before it becomes unrecognizable:
Taste lambi or griyo at Chef Creole
Visitors to South Florida are always asking for the best Haitian restaurant. What I can say is there are some great Haitian dishes like griyo (fried pork) and lambi (conch) that come grilled or sauteed in creole sauce. And what better place to enjoy these dishes or any Haitian staple (with a bit of Bahamian flare) than at Chef Creole, where stars like Wyclef Jean dine when in Miami.
Chef Creole Seasoned Restaurant, 200 NW 54th St, Miami
Learn to dance
We’re not talking konpa here, but Haitian folklore and you can take a class at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. While you’re there, you might as well participate in a Haitian drumming circle.
Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami
Stroll down NE Second Avenue
Take in the barber shops and variety stores while strolling down Northeast Second Avenue and 59th Street while trying to say ake Pase? (Creole for What’s happening) while enjoying Haiti’s oldest soft drink, Cola Couronne fruit champagne, and Pate Kòde (a Haitian patty).
You don’t need to be able to read French or Kreyòl to enjoy the offerings of this Haitian bookstore. Inside you will find not only books, but also Haiti’s version of eggnog/coquito and colorful paintings.
Libreri Mapou Creole & French, 5919 NE 2nd Ave, Miami
So you always wanted to own your piece of Haitian art. Take a visit to Edouard Duval-Carrié’s gallery — but make sure you call first, and bring a truck to haul away your opulent piece of art.
Catch a game of Dominoes
Little Havana may have Domino Park, but on a Friday night in Little Haiti you can watch a game just behind the memorial statue dedicated to revolutionary hero Toussaint L’Ouverture on 61 Street and North Miami Avenue, while scouting out the neighborhood. Just look for a tree and clothes pins. In the Haitian version of this beloved game there are no double nines, just sixes and the loser is almost always covered in clothespins. If not clothespins, listen to hear the sound of a bark, or see if someone is standing. It’s the Domino Chen version where losers are forced to bark or stand after losing. Ouch. You probably are better off observing from the sidelines, even if they do invite you to play.
Sounds of Little Haiti
The third Friday of every month offers a free musical showcase focusing on a Haitian konpa band. The family-friendly event in the courtyard of the Little Haiti Cultural Complex features a festive atmosphere with a DJ and live music, along with food vendors.
Little Haiti Cultural Complex, 212 NE 59th Terr., Miami
Enjoy a Rara
Of course no party is done until the Rara closes the event. The traditional foot band has become a staple in South Florida where cylindrical bamboo and trumpets made from recycled metal, drums and other instruments join to make for a festive atmosphere. If you stay long enough at Sounds of Little Haiti you can dance the night away by joining Rara Lakay as they dance through the streets.
Get yourself a Haitian flag
Of course, no visit to Little Haiti is complete without getting your own flag, or t-shirt with a flag. Haitians so love their flag that there is even a special holiday, May 18, dedicated just to its founding.