Tap Tap Restaurant: Haitian Food, Music, and Art in Miami
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 Advisor. Urban 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.