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Tropical tastes 

Foods that beckon you closer to the equator

Stuck in Charlotte for the summer? Want to delight your stomach with some tropical treats? Charlotte has a bevy of island spots to change those summertime blues into Caribbean bliss.

IF YOU GO EARLY ENOUGH, Austin and Yvonne Martin, from Kingston, Jamaica, may still have their coco bread -- the Caribbean take on the Southern yeast roll at Austin's Caribbean Cuisine. Fair warning: buy enough so you can eat a piece or two in the car if you are going far. This is a take-out-only place which serves the astonishingly tasty goat curry. Family recipes are the basis for their dishes, most of which are made in house. Selections rotate daily, and they recommend calling ahead if you want a specific dish. But with the choice of jerks, curries, oxtail and beef stews and ackee and salt fish, it would be hard not to find dishes that are mind-transporting.

Austin's Caribbean Cuisine, 345 South Kings Drive, 704-331-8778.

ANNTONY'S CARIBBEAN CAFE has been serving their Guyanese dishes since 1986, and I typically go just for a double hit of their greens. But their marinated rotisserie chicken is legendary and reasonably priced. Anntony's sauces are also available for sale in area grocery stores.

Anntony's Caribbean Café, 2001 E 7th St. (in Pecan Point), 704-342-0749.

FROM YOUR TABLE you can watch the owner, Addie Roman, of Addie's Jamaican in NoDa preparing her delectable offerings. You can't go wrong ordering goat, chicken and oxtail dishes rendered into bite-sized portions and served bones and all. Her jerk chicken is hot-bathed in a luxuriantly zesty sauce while the mac and cheese is another winner -- if not totally Jamaican.

Addie's Jamaican Cuisine, 3116 North Davidson St., 704-331-0047.

IN THE 4800 BLOCK OF CENTRAL, and neighboring a Salvadorian coffee shop, a pupusa store and acupuncturist, a Lebanese shop and an Asian market is La Canasta Dominicana Restaurant, a family-owned restaurant which features the simple roots and fruits foods of Dominican Republic. Try the sancocho, a stew with impossibly tender oxtails, chicken, plantains, yucca, potato and malanga, all steeped in a gently spiced, rich brown sauce and served with a gargantuan mound of white rice. DR food is not spicy like some other islands, but you can accelerate the heat with a bottle of liquid fire on the table.

La Canasta Dominicana Restaurant, 4808 Central Ave. 704-536-0009.

IF ALL YOU KNOW of Cuban food is the Cuban sandwich, nothing compares to the Cuban sandwich made in the prepared foods section at the Compare Foods on Independence. This sandwich is made on just sliced Cuban bread (you can watch it being sliced) and then filled with slices of slow roasted pork marinated in mojo, ham, Swiss cheese, a dill pickle, slathered with yellow mustard and then pressed Panini-style and served warm. This is handily the best Cuban sandwich in the city.

Compare Foods, 5610 E. Independence Blvd. 704-716-1280

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