Afrodisiac restaurant brings Creole Caribbean fusion to Gentilly

This popular food truck now has a home on Franklin Avenue.

by Marielle Songy
July 27, 2022

Afrodisiac, a restaurant that melds the flavors of the Caribbean with Creole culture, opened in March in Gentilly. The restaurant opening was a delight of those who have been fans of the popular food truck of the same name.

Shaka Garel is a first-generation Jamaican-American, and his wife, Chef Caron “Kay” Garel, grew up in Lafayette and later moved to New Orleans. They operated their food truck for seven years before opening their brick-and-mortar space.

“This is the food that we ate when we were growing up,” Shaka Garel said. “We combined the flavors of my Jamaican culture with the flavors of Kay’s New Orleans heritage.”

What’s on the menu

Walking into Afrodisiac feels like walking into an island paradise. From the sunbathed patio in the back to the colorful décor and the mural on the wall by artist Lionel Milton that depicts two women surrounded by a bounty of food. The island vibe is welcoming and relaxing.

The menu captures both cultures perfectly — it’s easy to notice how well the flavors of both Jamaican and New Orleans cultures combine. Shaka explained that Kay comes up with the recipes herself and adds her own touches to them as time goes on.

“She always adds her own twists to things. She’ll be inspired to add something in and we’ll taste it and go from there. It isn’t food that’s straight out of a recipe book,” Shaka said.

Crawfish Étouffée fries, which is fried green bananas topped with Monterey Jack, cheddar and Crawfish Étouffée is an example. The jerk chicken — which is bone-in chicken marinated in jerk and grilled served with rice and peas, and Caribbean slaw — also captures both cultures. 

The jerk chicken sandwich, made with boneless chicken thigh marinated in jerk and grilled and topped with Caribbean slaw and jerk barbecue sauce, is a favorite. The Jamaican fried fish sandwich features local drum seasoned and fried crispy with garlic aioli and escovitch sauce (a house made pickly, spicy, oil and vinegar sauce) is another menu highlight. 

One of standout is the curry shrimp stew, which is made with Gulf shrimp, potatoes and smoked sausage cooked down in curry and seasonings. It is served over rice and peas and topped with fried catfish. Shaka   said this is one of Afrodisiac’s most popular dishes. I couldn’t wait to dig into this dish when I visited. The flavors were balanced wonderfully and one of the sides, Caribbeanfries, which are fried green bananas served with dipping sauces, was a delectable addition to the meal.

The cocktail menu

Afrodisiac boasts a full bar and the restaurant’s cocktail menu was developed with the help of Toure Folkes, founder of Turning Tables, a nonprofit organization that addresses racial inequity in restaurants and bars with mentorship and training. Folkes’ program trains those considering entering the bartending and hospitality industry.

Folkes helped the Garels put together a drink menu that would complement the restaurant’s dishes and capture the restaurant’s spirit. 

The cocktails include  Ain’t Nothing Sweet (Trinidad Sour), which is made with rye, orgeat, lemon, and Angostura bitters; Holla if you Hear Me, made with bourbon, pineapple syrup, orange juice, lemon, and Angostura bitters; and Red Gyal Ring (Rum Punch), made with Wray and Nephew white rum, dark rum, strawberry shrub, pineapple juice, orange juice, and lime.“Our drink menu is classic, but it’s tuned into things that we do and uses things that we cook with. The drink menu changes and we’re always adding different things and evolving. It’s the same way with the food; we’re always introducing different flavors and offer different specials,” Shaka said.

The Garels travel frequently and look forward to bringing the flavors they encounter on their adventures into the kitchen at Afrodisiac. 

“We go places and we try to find the spots that aren’t necessarily the popular spots,” Shakasaid. “We like to go to the places that might be the hidden gem and find something good there. Something the locals like.”

Afrodisiac is open Wednesday and Thursday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Price points:

Small plates/Appetizers: $5 to $15
Sandwiches: $9 to $14
Entrees: $14 to $22
Cocktails: $10 to $13

Afrodisiac
Getting there
5363 Franklin Ave, New Orleans, LA 70122, USA
Hours
Mon-Tue Closed
Wed-Thu 12–8pm
Fri-Sat 12–9pm
Sun Closed
More Info

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Marielle was born and raised in New Orleans. She thinks it's hard to grow up there and not let the culture and history of the city become part of you. Whether it be the jazz, food, of fabulous architecture, she thinks most would agree that things are a little spicer down here. You can reach her via email at [email protected]

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