RESTAURANTS

Couple open CariGrill, a Haitian cafe in Lindale Mall

Server Amanda Brown holds up a spoonful of oxtail stew at CariGrill Creole Cuisine inside Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids o
Server Amanda Brown holds up a spoonful of oxtail stew at CariGrill Creole Cuisine inside Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Anouse Mitial grew up cooking, learning from her aunt and mother, both in her original home in Haiti and then in Florida, where she moved just before turning 10.

“My mom would be cooking in a big pot, and she’d give me a small pot to cook alongside her,” she said. “I grew up in a big family, so I can never cook anything small, so I might as well cook for everyone.”

Now, that’s what she’s doing, sharing the Haitian dishes she loves with Cedar Rapids.

Mitial and her husband, Rony, opened CariGrill Creole Cuisine inside Lindale Mall in August, just three days before the derecho hit.

“I’ve been cooking and baking all my life, for as long as I can remember,” Anouse Mitial said.

The couple previously owned La Vie bakery on the southwest side, which they closed in March after the pandemic sent business plummeting. They hoped the new location in Lindale Mall would garner more foot traffic, and with the move, they also decided to switch from being primarily a bakery.

“We decided to lean into the savory food side of things,” Mitial said.

Their menu includes Haitian dishes like oxtail stew, goat stew, fried pork, red snapper and fried plantains. They also serve three kinds of rice, including mushroom rice, a Haitian specialty made by cooking the rice in water from dried mushrooms, which turns the rice black.

“It has so many flavors, it dances in your mouth,” Mitial said.

Mitial said they source many of their ingredients through Chicago and Florida, because they were having trouble finding them in Eastern Iowa. Those include Haitian spices and the mushrooms for their rice. They also bring in fresh passion fruit to make their own juice, which they sell along with Caribbean soft drinks. They focus on Haitian food but also have other Caribbean dishes, as well.

Rony Mitial’s specialty is Jamaican meat pies.

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“It’s all about the flavor and making sure the dough is flaky,” he said. “The ladies in the kitchen make the dough, and I focus on the meat.”

Delivery is available through DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub, and they just started a partnership with Chomp. The couple said they also will do delivery themselves, but they prefer customers to use one of the third-party delivery services. They also do catering.

Although they have some food on display in a buffet-style presentation, they also prepare dishes to order.

Mitial said with Creole in the name, people often mistake them for a Louisianian restaurant. She said they also have a misconception the food will be spicy. She said it isn’t, although they offer a Haitian condiment, pikliz, for those who want some heat. Pikliz is made with pickled cabbage, carrots, bell peppers and Scotch bonnet pepper.

“We add pepper to our food, but it’s not spicy hot, it’s spicy with flavor,” she said.

The couple moved to Iowa about three years ago for a job opportunity and now live in Marion. Anouse Mitial was working in HR but gave up that job in October. She had a baby just before the pandemic arrived in Iowa, and caring for the baby, working full time and running the restaurant were too much, she said. Now, she’s able to focus on her family and her business.

Serving food is what makes her happy, she said.

“I feel it takes me to a very happy place,” she said. “It’s a part of me. ... In times of stress, I’m cooking.”

Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

CariGrill Creole Cuisine

• Where: Lindale Mall, 4444 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids

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• Hours: 11 to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Hours may change dependent on seasonal mall hours.

• Details: (319) 393-4811, carigrill.com

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