Tap Tap Restaurant: Haitian Food, Music, and Art in Miami

By Bryan Schaaf on Friday, April 9, 2010.

You don't have to go to Haiti to start learning about Haitians.  In many cities along the East Coast, there are ample opportunities to experience Haitian culture.  The Tap Tap Restaurant in Miami is a great place to enjoy Haitian food, music, and art at the same time.  If in Miami, it is well worth a visit.





While Tap Tap is a Haitian restaurant in South Beach, it is more than that.  It is also a venue for Haitian music and a gathering place for Haitians and friends of Haiti.  Fundraisers for Haiti are often held here.  In fact, Tap Tap may well be many individuals first exposure to Haiti.  






The servers are quite friendly although less able to socialize when the restaurant gets busy on Friday and Saturday nights.  They wear shirts with the different Haitian loa (spirits) on them. There is a poster remembering Father Jean Juste on the wall.  There are two large rooms and one small private dining room, all wonderfully decorated.  Tap Tap definitely has character in abundance.      


If you've been to Haiti, you no doubt noticed how colorful it is.  Art is pervasive - sure it is in the galleries, but there will never be enough galleries to capture the depth and breadth of Haitian art.  Art oveflows out onto the streets, onto public transportation, onto the buildings, onto the walls, etc.  In a similar fashion, the walls, the tables, and even the chairs at Tap Tap are all works of art.  On the left is a mural of Baron Samedi, the spirit and representation of death, made all the more ominous given the death and destruction caused by the January 12th earthquake.



On the left is another beautiful mural which I believe is a representation of Simbi, the spirit and representation of water.








Another large wall mural. Difficult to see in this photo, but the wood charcoal is not painted - it is acutal charbon that has been attached to the canvas.





Even the bathrooms are full of art as you can see by the photo on the left.  







In addition to art, Tap Tap is a reliable venue for Haitian music.  Haitian musicians play ever Thursday and Saturday, starting on or about eight o clock.  This includes local talent as well as very well known musicians such as Ti Manno.  A short clip of a musical performance at Tap Tap is available here.  A clip of Rosemond Jolissant playing at Tap Tap is also available online.



To the left is the bar.  If you pop in for a drink, you will not be disappointed.  You could get a rum and coke, but why? The excellent mojitos and rum punches are made with Barbancourt rum.  My favorite is the Natif, a simple combination of Five Star (aged eight years) Barbancourt rum, lime, and sugar.





All well and good, but what about the food?  In Little Haiti, you will be hard pressed to find Soup Joumou (Pumpkin Soup) except on Sundays.  You can get it any day at Tap Tap so I had to start with that.  Although it was less thick and loaded with hot peppers than the version I knew from Haiti, it was still very good.  My friends and I also had the Banann Peze (pressed plantain chips) and high octane Pikliz (spicey coleslaw) which were the real deal.




For the main course, I had the goat stew.  The meat was tender and the stew itself was flavorful.  Another member of our party ordered grilled goat, which was cooked perfectly.  Everyone else ordered fried whole fish, also prepared very well.  For dessert, we ordered Kowosol (soursop) and Grenadia (passion fruit) ice cream, which was a light and refreshing end to out meal.


The Tap Tap website is under construction.  However, many reviews are available on Yelp, Citysearch, and Trip AdvisorUrban Spoon also has reviews and e-versions of the menus.  Also, take a look at this five minute "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives" video review.  Also available online is a much shorter TripFilms review.  The address is 819 5th Street, Miami Beach Florida, 33139.  For further information, the phone number of the restaurant is (305) 672-2898. 


If you've eaten at Tap Tap, or have found other good Haitian establishments on the East Coast (or elsewhere!), please share your experiences in the comments section below. 




The Light of Morning: The Cuisine of Haiti (2/28/2011)

By Jocelyn C. Zuckerman
The roosters in Gros-Morne start their screeching around four in the morning, which might explain why life in this Haitian town is already well under way by six. Motorbikes are zipping down the rubble-strewn roads, their drivers honking tinny horns as they navigate around pedestrians and potholes and donkeys. Schoolchildren march by wearing backpacks and neat uniforms; women balancing giant bundles on their heads gossip en route to market. I've come to this part of Haiti to learn about the mango industry—what many see as a bright spot on otherwise grim economic and environmental fronts—but what I mostly hear about is Madame Ti Roche. The deputy mayor? He eats at her Ideal Bar Restaurant whenever his wife isn't around to cook. The head of the region's leading mango cooperative? Sunday nights invariably find him picking his way through a plate of Madame's chile-flecked poisson rouge. The truckers, the priests, the foreigners and NGO folks who rumble through this dusty outpost—they all turn up at Madame's at one point or another. It's a comfort in a place with few of them. When I flew to Haiti to do some reporting just after last year's earthquake, I'd expected things to be rough. But returning this time, I had allowed myself hope for some improvement. On the four-hour drive from Port-au-Prince to Gros-Morne, though, the misery pretty much assaults me at every turn. There are the shantytowns materializing on the hills outside of the capital, slapped-together communities of cardboard and bedsheets and bright-blue foreign-issue tarpaulins. There is mountain beyond mountain denuded of plant life; endless stretches of road bordered by nothing but dirt and debris; plastic bottle—clogged rivers; men far too old for work, sweating beneath the weight of medieval-looking carts.
But there is also the sun-sweetened papaya I pick up in Saint-Marc, and the Madame Francis mangoes that will become the staple of my diet over the next few days. Wildly aromatic, they are also intensely juicy and hopelessly stringy—hard to eat, but impossible to resist. In Gros-Morne (or Gwo-Mòn, in Creole—Big Mountain, in any case), I wander the open-air market, where women sit beneath plastic canopies minding bundles of cilantro, thyme, and parsley, little pyramids of oranges, passion fruits, and mirlitons. From a young girl I buy a gloriously sticky cluster of peanuts and cane syrup vibrant with the zing of fresh ginger. Women motion for me to inspect their garlic and shallots, their plastic basins, enamel plates, and preworn blouses, in a way that suggests they expect something from me, but not really.
In a town in northwest Haiti, putting good food on the table is both a serious business and a reassuring ritual. Food seems to dictate the rhythm of the day. By the time I arrive at Madame's at seven in the morning, the doors have been thrown open and she and her cooks are out back at work. Shuffling around in canvas sneakers, short braids poking out from beneath a jaunty cap, Madame Ti Roche moves from the braziers of the open-air kitchen to the shadows of the enclosed one, checking on the contents of various saucepans sitting atop glowing coals in wrought-iron stands. She shaves beets with a sharp knife, dropping the scraps onto an upturned pot lid, while another cook peels plantains and hunks of snowy cassava. An older woman in a ragged dress and head kerchief stirs a sizzling pot of epis, the Haitian flavor base of garlic, shallots, and chiles, while a fourth breaks down a goat carcass into bite-size chunks. A girl of seven or eight in a Dora the Explorer nightie cuts onions by a storage shed housing a pile of plantains and three noisy chickens. The conversation is minimal, though when I ask how to make the may moulen (cornmeal porridge with pinto beans) simmering in one of the pots, the younger cook patiently walks me through the recipe, my friend translating from her Haitian Creole. Madame's place has neither electricity nor running water, but it's one serious operation: in the height of mango season, when the truckers descend on Gros-Morne, the Ideal Bar Restaurant will send out scores of plates in a day.
Chatting on the dusty stoop out front with Madame's husband, Wesnel Timothe, I learn that she hasn't always been a cook. She and Timothe grew up together in Gros-Morne but left in 1978 to find work in Port-au-Prince. After saving what they'd made at the textile and shoe factories that employed them, says Timothe, a burly man in his 50s with a skinny gray mustache, they moved back home and found work as a seamstress and a tailor. They opened their restaurant in 1984, posting a menu not unlike the handwritten sheet you'll find taped to the Caribbean-pink wall today: poulets creole (spicy, citrusy stewed chicken), cabrit (goat's-head stew), and a half dozen other classic Haitian dishes. But life was better then, says Timothe. "We used to have electricity. Then it became sporadic, and now we hardly have it at all." People also had faucets in their yards. Now he and Madame, who haven't had a tap since 1986, have to pay for water—and for someone to deliver it. In addition to helping run the restaurant, Timothe drives a truck and farms, but he and his wife and six kids still have trouble making ends meet. "We do our best," he shrugs.
It isn't easy. Though Gros-Morne is part of Haiti's fertile Artibonite region, this place faces the same environmental problems as the rest of the country. (For the past several months it's also been battling a cholera epidemic.) Whereas in 1923, 60 percent of Haiti was forested, by 2006 trees covered just 2 percent of the land. "Gros-Morne used to be very green," Deputy Mayor Ruben Beaugé tells me later in the morning. "But when people wake up and don't have money for food or school fees, they chop a mango tree and sell it for charcoal. Or they sell it to a dry cleaner or a distillery." Despite reforestation efforts and the introduction of solar cookers, Haitians still rely on wood and charcoal as primary sources of fuel, and the impact has been devastatingly apparent. And then came the earthquake that rocked the capital last January. In the days following the disaster, Gros-Morne's population swelled by more than 5,000, says Beaugé, taxing the city's limited resources even further. "People who hadn't been back for 15 years have now come home," he says. (Among them is Madame's niece Sheriline Petit-Homme, who jumped from the second floor of her Port-au-Prince school and was hospitalized for eight days before decamping to the countryside, where she now helps out at the restaurant.) The World Food Programme showed up with a convoy, but after locals rioted, donors stayed away. "People are starving here," Beaugé says.
He is a regular at Madame Ti Roche's, and he envisions a day when more locals will be able to appreciate her talent. "Most people here can't pay 200 gourdes [five dollars] for a plate of food," he says. Even so, today the 20-seat place is filling up by noon, as men drop their weary bodies into the molded-plastic chairs. (Other than the staff, I'm the only female in the place.) I'm trying to work out the logic behind the products displayed on the shelves—laundry detergent, straws, cornflakes, canned sports shakes, Bermudez, El Dorado rum—when a teenager in cutoff denim shorts and patent-leather flip-flops approaches to tell me what's available. (The posted menu represents the Platonic ideal of what might be on offer on any given day.) Staticky West African music floats up from a transistor radio; a faint breeze blows the ivory curtains in and out of the open door. Eventually she returns and sets a plate on the plastic place mat.
My poisson rouge, a whole red snapper from the nearby seaside town of Gonaives, swims in a brick-colored sauce rich with garlic and the heat of Scotch bonnets; it comes with hunger-busting mounds of rice and cornmeal mush and dense cylinders of boiled plantain and cassava. The preacher at the next table stops dismantling his cell phone the moment his goat's-head stew is set down, and he doesn't look up until his plate is clean. In fact, with food on all the tables, conversation in the place has come to a halt. Hours later, as the sun begins to ease its way behind the mountains, and smoke from cooking fires rises in the distance, Madame and her crew are still at it. The women at the market have begun to pack up their wares and head for home; the men are throwing back beers in the local shipping-container-cum-bar. By ten, the staff of Ideal Bar Restaurant will finally clamp shut the padlock and step into the moonlit night. The roosters will be crowing before they know it.

Street Food and Haitian Hot Wings (2/24/2011)

Christian Science Monitor
By Maggy Keet
I’m in Haiti this week, mainly for work. But if I’m traveling for business, I always make time for a bit of pleasure. As I prepared for my trip, however, I wondered how much pleasure I could find in a place that has experienced disaster after disaster for over a year. A lot, I found. Veteran cookbook author, Pam Anderson, and daughters, Maggy and Sharon, believe that just about anything worth being part of happens in the kitchen. Each week they share their thoughts about recipes, cooking, eating, and anything that comes with it (which in their world, is just about everything). There are three cooks in their kitchen. Sometimes that’s too many, but usually it’s just right. Port-au-Prince is still very much a city of tents and rubble. While there are signs of reconstruction everywhere, around every corner is a home or a shop that looks like it came crashing down just a moment before. On every free wall there are competing campaign posters for this highly-charged, contested election and graffiti everywhere alluding to the “Kolera” which first plagued St. Marc and has now crept into the capital city. But despite the last year of horrors, Port-au-Prince is vibrant and lively, the people warm and friendly. When I was stranded at the airport without a phone or money, I had at least a dozen offers to use people’s phones. Without asking, a young man went and bought me a bottle of water.
As in any bustling city, the senses are overwhelmed with sights, sounds and smells. Life is abundant here. The markets are heaving, the roads are crawling. Motorcycles carrying four (and sometimes five) passengers and dangerously overflowing trucks have endless near-misses. Traffic laws don’t exist here; the only constant is the sound of horns. I must also say that the people in Haiti are (in the words of Derek Zoolander), “really, really, ridiculously good-looking.” The children are unquestionably the most beautiful I have ever seen. Of course what interests me is the food. Street food: lining the streets, cluttering the corners, clogging the intersections. I strain my eyes to see what’s cookin’ as we zip through the streets in our Land Rover. Women are hunched over bubbling pots of beans and steaming bowls of rice, or standing over barbecuing meat, while young boys carry buckets of popcorn and crispy fried plantains on their heads. In my short time here I have already tried everything from meatballs and chicken (with a spicy coleslaw) to crab stew with rice and hot wings.
With this variety of delicious food everywhere, I wonder why New York street food is so limited. I have heard about popular food trucks (and experienced them on the West Coast), but I have never really seen them in my own city. For me, street food consists of dry, over-salted soft-pretzels and boiled hotdogs in a cold, white bun. This may have a certain charm for tourists, but being here in Haiti I’ve got street food envy. I don’t have a recipe for any of this street food (at least not yet). It’s likely been made the same way, and the technique passed down for generations. But there is one thing I did eat a lot: wings! All different kinds. Here is a recipe that is similar to what I had during my time there.
Haitian hot wings
Makes 2 to 2-1/2 dozen wings
2 large shallots, peeled
1/2 medium onion, peeled
2 hot chili peppers such as serrano or jalapeno, stemmed and deseeded
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/3 cup juice from 2 lemons
2/3 cup juice from 2 oranges
Salt and ground black pepper
3 pounds split chicken wings
3 tablespoons olive oil
Process shallots, onions, chiles, thyme, lemon and orange juices, 1 tablespoon salt, and several grinds of pepper in a food processor until pureed. Put wings into a large zipper-lock bag; add marinade and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Bring wings, marinade, and 2 cups of water to boil in a soup kettle over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until liquid has nearly evaporated, about 45 minutes.
Heat a oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When wisps of smoke start to rise from the pan, add as many chicken wings as will fit in a single layer (depending on skillet size you may need to cook in 2 batches); sauté, turning only once, until crisp and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes total. Serve.
Maggy Keet blogs with her mother and sister at Three Many Cooks.

Did they pay the Food Channel to come here?

Way over price for nothing special to me. The lamb stew so bragged about was a hunk of fat meat on bone with in a bowl of greasy soup (reminded me of red eye gravy). Not any veggies in the so called stew. Red rice and beans are a cheep side dish. The roasted corn is not as good as mine I do on the camp fire in foil. The mixed drink we had was in a small highball glass and was over $8 for some fruit punch mixed with rum. My boyfriend had the 1/2 chicken and did not taste as good as what I can grill myself. All this was over $70.00. Now the colorfulness of the painted walls was was nice..but not a place I would take children with the necked painted women in the women bathroom.

Tap Tap Hosts Fundraiser for Haïti Liberté (10/13/2010)

Miami New Times
By Michael Miller
​When a 7.0 earthquake hit Léogâne, Haiti on January 12, the shock waves completely destroyed the small town and much of the nearby capital of Port-au-Prince. The damage was horrific: at least 230,000 dead, 300,000 injured, and a million Haitians left homeless. Also crippled in the catastrophe was Haitian-American newspaper Haïti Liberté. One writer was killed in the quake while dozens more were left living in tent cities. On Saturday evening, Miami restaurant Tap Tap held a fundraiser for Haïti Liberté. Among the highlights: a book release by local author Edwidge Danticat, a set by Haitian music legend Manno Charlemagne, and a fierce critique of the relief effort in Haiti by Marleine Bastien.
Haïti Liberté editor Kim Ives said the event raised several thousand dollars for the cash-strapped weekly, split between Brooklyn and Port-au-Prince. The newspaper is published primarily in French with a small English section and costs 50 cents. "We don't get any money from the big businesses or the bourgeoisie in Haiti because we bash them pretty regularly," Ives said. "Add that to the earthquake and the problems facing all newspapers these days, and these are tough times for us." Jacques Elie Leblanc, a writer and member of Liberté's editorial board, made a trip to his native Port-au-Prince in July and found writers living under plastic tarps.
"We didn't even know how bad it was," he said. "Communication between the two countries is so difficult now." When he arrived. Leblanc learned that one writer, a Jerson Philippe, was killed when the Ministry of Social Affairs collapsed on him. Leblanc, like his newspaper, criticized the relief effort.
"Most of the money is not going to filter down to the masses who need it," he said. "The Americans have made restoring downtown, the commercial section, their #1 priority. But we have to take care of the people first!" Local politician Marleine Bastien -- who lost her Aug. 24 primary race for Florida's 17th Congressional district -- echoed Leblanc's frustration. "The situation is a disgrace," she said. "Less than two percent of the money promised has actually been given baby."
"Haïti Liberté is the only one telling the truth," added Bastien, who is co-chair of the Haiti Relief Task Force. She also criticized the presidential election coming up on November 28. "I don't think we need a president right now," she said. "The nation is in crisis. There should be a council of 10 to 12 people who should manage the country." Bastien and others who donated money to Haïti Liberté received a free copy of Danticat's new book, Create Dangerously. Like Liberté, the book seeks to explain Haiti to readers overseas. But perhaps neither can truly capture the panorama of sorrow and devastation in the hemisphere's poorest country. "We see it on TV and in pictures in the newspaper, but you have to be there to really feel it," Leblanc said of his last trip to Haiti. "The scene stays in your mind forever."

Review: Mojitos at Tap Tap (Rum Connection - 5/14/2010)

By June Coleman
On day-two of the Rum Renaissance Festival in Miami, as others from the Rum Connection crew participated in a rum Tasting Competition, I meandered my way down Collins Avenue. As the Miami heat took its toll, I decided to partake in a little tasting of my own at the TAP TAP, a restaurant known for their award-winning Mojitos. Located at 819 5th Street in a less “touristy” side of South Beach, this little Haitian bar offered a getaway from the mid-day heat and an opportunity to quench my thirst for well-made rum drinks.
My spirit peaked as I stepped onto the front porch of this originally designed Haitian “house” and heard the melodic sounds of Caribbean music piping from the surrounding speakers. The TAP TAP has been in business for 16 years and is owned by Gary Sanon-Jules, who is of Haitian descent. Gary met me and graciously gave me a guided tour of his laid-back restaurant. Nearly every square inch of the walls and ceiling are covered in traditional “conversational art” murals.
An extended hallway is decorated with artsy T-shirts, artifacts, and masks. The homey setting is divided into several individual rooms with hand-painted chairs and wooden dining tables. Art and color are everywhere. After sunset, a back room transforms into a dancehall where traditional music is performed by their live house band.
Back at the bar, Gary and I continued our chat about rum. They keep it simple here and offer only three kinds; Barbancourt 4, 8 and 15. They also offer a nice selection of wine, beer, and soursop juice. As the conversation turned to mojitos, he tells me that the TAP TAP won 1st place in a mojito competition held at the Delano Hotel-Miami Beach in 2009. Intrigued and thirsty, I order the Haitian Mojito made with Barbancourt 15. Victoria, one of the TAP TAP’s veteran bartenders muddles a bunch of untorn mint leaves and raw sugar in a wooden bowl and adds it to a cocktail shaker. She pours in a measure of their freshly-made lime juice/soda/white sugar mixture, and then a generous amount of rhum.
After a series of light shakes, it is strained into a charming hand-painted glass, topped with a lime wedge and a sprig of mint. I took my first sip and immediately understood why the TAP TAP has such a great reputation. Their mojito is light, refreshing and definitely the perfect way to cool off from the mid-afternoon Miami sun. There are many great mojitos out there, but the TAP TAP combines quality ingredients and bar know-how with a friendly staff and groovy atmosphere. All that makes for a very tasty beverage!

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