Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Crown Heights for a neighborhood gem that's been serving up West Indian dishes for over a decade.
Gloria's Caribbean is a counter-service restaurant in Crown Heights that, like many other spots in this part of town, specializes in Trinidadian and other West Indian dishes. There's nothing immediately enticing about the fading signage and busted up menu board, nor the utilitarian stools and high formica tables inside, and if you weren't curious you might walk by the place dozens of times without ever going in.
That would be a mistake. Those who are in the know, know the team back there in the kitchen put a lot of love into everything they make. Plus whoever's behind the counter always hits you with a warm welcome and will efficiently guide you through any unfamiliar menu items.
In years past grabbing a bite during warm weather meant gazing out onto bustling Nostrand Avenue while you ate. In the winter they keep it extra toasty inside, the big windows fogging up almost completely, and there's no better place to wolf down a fat roti on a cold night. Things are different during the pandemic era, obviously, and for now Gloria's is offering takeout or delivery only, with no outdoor seating. If you don't live nearby, Brower Park a couple of avenues away is a solid picnic spot, and the benches on the Eastern Parkway promenade make for a pleasant perch as well.
The Gloria's menu consists mostly of curried and stewed meats and/or vegetables served on top of rice as a "dinner" or rolled up in a thin, springy flatbread known as roti. I usually alternate between the two — the rotis are excellent here — but stuck with the dinners for this review. You can also choose between regular white rice or the well seasoned peas and rice as your base. I always get the latter.
Stewed Oxtail and Curry Conch have been good to me in the past, but my usual here at Gloria's is the tender and funky Curry Goat, served hacked-up and bone-in, so plan on using your hands. The Curry Chicken (available without bones, which can be handy when hidden in a roti) is also a winner, never dry and full of flavor. You can't go wrong with any of the sides, though I most often get the Pumpkin, pureed and just a little sweet, and the Callaloo, which is like a fiery, garlicky version of creamed spinach. Macaroni Pie is nice and cheesy and brings some heft, and the Bhaggee, which is kind of like Callaloo without the coconut milk, is also a fine choice.
There are Doubles at Gloria's of course, listed in the menu's "Appetizers and Delights" section, and they are first-rate, if super messy, versions of the ubiquitous Trinidadian street food, the curry chickpeas spilling out from between two baras, or craggy, fried rounds of dough. The Alloo Pie, fried and filled with curry potatoes, satisfies as well. Nothing needs more seasoning, but getting a crock of Pepper Sauce (for heat), and/or Tamarind Sauce (for tangy sweet) for dipping or dumping, is never a bad idea. The Sour Sop and Sorrel juices are both superb refreshments.
There's no shortage of great West Indian food in Crown Heights, but Gloria's is my absolute favorite. Worth a trip if you have the craving, or make it your go-to if you're a local.
Gloria's is located at 764 Nostrand Avenue, at the corner of Sterling Place, and currently open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily (718-773-3476; gloriascaribbeanbrooklyn.com)