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Caribbean Islands


Rhone1998
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My wife and I just made a very last minute decision to go somewhere sunny and warm around New Years for some much needed R&R. We're going to try to find a nice place to stay for a few days in the Caribbean, and need some help planning. I figure we're going to get nice beaches and sunny weather no matter where we wind up, so dining options may be the deciding factor in which island we choose. Only thing is that neither of us have ever been to the Caribbean. If you had to choose one place just based on the food, where would you go?

Thanks in advance...

Dan

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St. Martin; St. John

My vote is for St. Martin. Unfortunately, it has been a while and I don't have specific recs, but compared to all of the other islands I've visited, I felt that it offered the best quality food and the best variety. St. John (USVI) was also pretty good.

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St. Martin


My vote is for St. Martin.

+1. Grand Case in St. Martin has many excellent restaurants and what I consider to be among the best French restaurants outside of France. I've also enjoyed a few French restaurants in Marigot (St. Martin) as well. The French side of the island also has some amazing beaches. And if you stay in St. Martin, you can easily take a day trip to St. Barth's and/or Anguilla.
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Cayman Islands

I can't vote for any island, but I can vote against the Caymans. I spent 7 days searching for a good seafood dish, and the only place that served a decent piece of fish was the Hyatt, and it was only ok. The best meal I had during my entire stay was a fajita dish at Lone Star. The Warhol place charged an arm and a leg and the food was abysmal.

Miami is an odd city, and it does have a wide range of excellent cafes, but it only feels like an island after you have been there for several months.

If you had to choose one place just based on the food, where would you go?

Thanks in advance...

Dan

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St. Martin

I was in St. Martin this summer , and heartily echo the recommendation, particularly for Grand Case.

Some specifics:
Le Cottage. Excellent classic French cuisine with island ingredients. We had a multi-course lobster tasting menu which blended traditional presentations (a rich creamy soup) with more innovative dishes.

Le Ti Coin Creole: mid-priced creole in a tiny house on the edge of Grand Case, this intimate restaurant has a half dozen tables which wrap around the verandah of the chef's personal home.

There are also a number of excellent "lolos," or beachside kitchens in Grand Case. This is basically street food with picnic tables arranged to overlook the water. A couple of local dishes really caught our attention; the crabe farci is a crabshell stuffed with the meat and spices, and the stuffed josephine is the vegetable that I know as a choko stuffed with sausage meat. Ribs are also found at many of the lolos.

Outside Grand Case, we had mixed luck. Marigot was mostly closed during our stay (which was during the off season), but we did find a very nice French bakery on the main drag (I don't recall the name but it was south of the market on the main drag with a yellow awning). There was nothing on the Dutch side worth writing home about except for trips to the supermarket, but shopping foreign supermarkets is to me one of the delights of travel).

One final mention goes to BZH, in Les Etang aux Huitres. This is a charming family pizza joint run by a Breton couple who turn out fantastic crispy pies, (try one with an egg on top), plied us with Breton cider, and humored my high school French.

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I can't vote for any island, but I can vote against the Caymans. I spent 7 days searching for a good seafood dish, and the only place that served a decent piece of fish was the Hyatt, and it was only ok. The best meal I had during my entire stay was a fajita dish at Lone Star. The Warhol place charged an arm and a leg and the food was abysmal.

Miami is an odd city, and it does have a wide range of excellent cafes, but it only feels like an island after you have been there for several months.

Miami is probably a good choice. While I didn't eat at many good spots in Grand Cayman, I think many people believe that Eric Ripert's Blue is likely the best restaurant in the Caribbean. We had two excellent meals there, which included several great seafood dishes.

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St. Martin

Another hearty recommendation for St Maarten. Grand Case (on the French side) has fantastic restaurants.

Stop in at the Dinghy Dock in Oyster Pond (part of the Capt Oliver's complex on the Dutch side) before hand for the ultimate grotty happy hour. The Dinghy Dock is the sight of THREE of the worst hangovers I've ever had in my life but don't let that deter you. The "pour your own" HH needs to be approached with caution and maturity. blink.gif

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Bonaire; Belize; Barbados

In the Carribean if you want lots of R&R I love Bonaire, I can't remember all the restaurants we went to, but there were some very good ones.

I also really like Ambergis Caye in Belize for a nice trip down to the tropics. They have good food, it all tends to be a little more low key- Elvi's Kitchen is a particular favorite.

Barbados has the Osings Fish Fry and lots of good places (Google Lois' Report) too, we normally are on the East Coast and go to Champers and some other places near Hastings. There is a great little Italian place on the way to Hastings.

You could always head to Jade Mountain too, that's a lovely resort.

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Belize


I also really like Ambergis Caye in Belize for a nice trip down to the tropics. They have good food, it all tends to be a little more low key- Elvi's Kitchen is a particular favorite.

Elvi's is about the only "tourist" place that I'd eat at. We find that most of our daytime eating is at the roadside stands (especially near the schools or in the main square off Middle St). The Reef is where locals go for simple but fresh seafood. But otherwise, I can't say that AC is a place I'd go to because of the food (which is what I think the thread starter was asking for).

By the way, AA has a fare sale to Belize ($392 r/t incl taxes and s/c from BWI to BZE). The money you save will keep you going for a few happy hours at The Tackle Box!
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St. Barthélemy

it's probably too late for your planning purposes, but IMHO the best food in the Caribbean is on St. Barth. The island itself is small but spectacular, the people are amazingly friendly, no "island" attitude anywhere, the food is mostly flown in from Paris, the chefs are amazing, and it is just the best vacation you could possibly desire. We've been to: Jamaica, Grand Cayman, several Bahamian islands, St. Thomas, St. John, several BVI islands, etc... nothing compares to St. Barth.

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St. Barthélemy


We've been to: Jamaica, Grand Cayman, several Bahamian islands, St. Thomas, St. John, several BVI islands, etc... nothing compares to St. Barth.

My (antiquated) experience with St. Barth matches yours: It's certainly the best food I've had in the Caribbean - but boy oh boy is that island expensive!
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St. Thomas

[Any recent meals in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas? The last and only time I was there was in 2004.

Craig & Sally's in Frenchtown - open for lunch & dinner - is the best on the island. Excellent wine list and creative food. Parking is tough. Most restaurants on STT are absurdly expensive (ingredients must be shipped in) for the product offered and the product is decidely unsatisfactory. There is a luncheon place in the center of Frenchtown, called something like Hook, Line & Sinker, that has a pleasant setting on the docks and the food (esp. fresh fish) is not bad.

Also, near the Tutu mall, Randy's offers a nice wine bar (and wine shop with a surprisingly good selection) with a menu highly praised by islanders. Ate there twice several years ago and I do agree that Randy's is a cut above most others on STT - but only average when compared to DC area. Caveat emptor with regards to almost all other STT restaurants. Choose a nice setting and bring low expectations.

In Red Hook, you are best served by going to the upscale market and buying groceries/prepared foods/wine/booze to bring back to your room if you are staying on the East Side. Restaurants in Red Hook range from mediocre to awful.

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St. Thomas

One breakfast at Glady's - sauteed salt fish with onions and tomatoes (not great but at least I got my salt fish). Strangely the saltfish isn't even on their otherwise boring breakfast menu and is their only breakfast special. Two dinners at A Room with a View (we were staying on the property) - good view, overcooked pasta, decent fish (fish sticks and seared ahi tuna), expensive. One dinner at Herve - expensive, slightly better than A Room with a View with a more interesting menu, again good view. One place that I would like to try again is Amalia Cafe - they seem to be closed on weekend evenings, even in high season - interesting tapas items like baby eel, grilled razor clams, piquillo peppers stuffed with cod. The place was pretty good back in 2004. My favorite item of the trip was the saltfish pate picked up the airport this morning, saltfish with onions stuffed inside a fried bread, I think it was $3. We went over to Marriott Frenchmen's Reef for a wedding - the property looks really nice although you will pay more for everything (you'll need a car or taxi to go anywhere). We stayed at Bluebeard's Castle, built on a hill next to Charlotte Amalie. It's a short stroll from the property to downtown but a bitch to walk back up. Even on the property, it's a pain in the butt to climb from our unit to the restaurants and pool. No general store on the property so you'll have to buy water and booze from the convenience stores in town. Bluebeard's is actually a timeshare so we got a bedroom, living room, balcony, full kitchen and jacuzzi tub (but the water heater is tiny so you can't fill the whole tub with hot water), and it's pretty cheap compared to other options on the island.

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BVI's

As there is no specific thread on the BVI's I am posting it all here.  I posted on the separate threads regarding St. John and St. Thomas.

The British Virgin Islands are definitely going through some economic depression right now.  Not that it would affect your vacation too much.  We went to Tortola and Virgin Gorda.  Virgin Gorda is probably the prettier island, but has more private homes, less restaurants and way more tourists due to the Baths.  We did a daytrip to the Baths, that were completely worth seeing, but I was glad we weren't staying there.  A quick bite to eat on the dock bar at Spanish Town, the Dove and the Bath I think it is called was fine.  I just had a bbq sandiwch with slaw and fries, their $10 lunch special.

Tortola has more hotels, although we stayed at probably the only "resort" Long Bay.  Although it was very nice, it wasn't the resort it must have once been.  You can see the empty swimming pool and on area that is no longer being occupied, but only really if you go looking, or are up on the hill in one of the houses.  It reminded me a bit of a Wes Anderson movie really.  The dive shop, reception and one restaurant have all moved to a building closer to the beach which really is fine, unless you really want an all inclusive never leave the place type place.  We had a duplex beachfront cottage that was lovely with kitchenette, big porch and hammock.  A few steps to the beach.  The beach was vast, expansive and never crowded, but there was no beach attendant to bring you drinks or etc, it just isn't that type of place anymore.  Apparently American Airlines pulling out of Tortola had a really big effect on tourism to the area, and the lack of cooperation between the BVI as a county and Ilat the main small flight company in this area.  Tortola is a pretty big island, Taxis are hard to get and expensive, I would recommend renting a car.  We ate at our hotel one night and one lunch.  The lunch menu was actually really good, I had a curry chicken roti I loved, Matt had a burger, it had normal beachfront hotel things.  Dinner they tried to go Italian if you are eating there just get the fresh catch, which was good.  Over the hill is Sebastian's which has more fresh seafood.  We had curried conk, lobster and I forget the appetizer we had, but everything there was good, in a more home cooking type of way then fancy restaurant.  At the end of the meal we had key lime pie that was fantastic good graham crust, real homemade from real key limes pie.  They also brought us their house rum, which was really good.  We ended up buying a bottle for $18.  A great deal for a really good sipping quality rum.

We also found the Fish'n Lime Inn, which is on the road if you go behind the ferry stop at West End and keep going up the road just a tiny bit.  This was a great find, bread made from scratch, hamburgers freshly made with meat they grind, we saw their fresh fish coming off the boat, freshly cut thick steak fries.  Good drinks, decent prices.  We ended up having one meal then going back for drinks before our ferry.  I would have gone back again, I loved this place!!  The food was great and it was right on the harbor at Frenchman's Key.  We got to watch part of the sailboat regatta from our tables, and it was just great, open air, but covered and just great food and people.

We had a rental car and drove around to the various beaches and enclaves.  The snorkeling at Smuggler's Cove wasn't really worth the bother, too much surf not enough fish.  The north shore has a good amount of swell and surf.  Brewer's Bay was really pretty so was Trunk Bay.  East End is lovely and has less surf as does Beef Island where the airport is.  We used UBS Dive Shop for diving, they are a private charter, but not much more money than the big boats, and lovely people who will tailor to your needs.  They took us to Virgin Gorda, again took pictures and did diving and great snorkeling.  And so responsive.  We also ate in Cane Garden Bay which is a lovely area, but I hear it is a cruise ship spot on nice days.  We ate at Myett's which I would recommend.  I had fried conch to start then grouper with veggies and polenta (my request they had options).  It was in a butter lemon sauce, so just simple, but really good.  The conch was lightly dusted and fried so it was like calamari and was very good.  Matt had conch chowder he liked.  I forget what his entree was, but he also really liked it.  Our server was a lovely woman too.  Our day there no cruise ships were there when we got there and it was lots of families and locals and just a relaxing spot.  Our other night we had sushi at Origin- they didn't have tons of fresh fish that was local, so we ordered what was.  Their sushi was huge portions, so we over ordered.  Road Town isn't very interesting, at least it wasn't to us, but we enjoyed driving around the smaller areas.  Snorkeling wasn't as good on the island, but Scrub Island, which we hopped over to had great snorkeling.

We enjoyed Tortola and it definitely had the best food, but you did need to go a bit for the diving, snorkeling.  The beaches were very nice though.  I would definitely go back, but I appreciated island hopping a bit, I wouldn't want to have gone to just Tortola.

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Ah! Sebastian's rum- down to our last 2 bottles- will need to do a real rum run soon. Having spent much time on Virgin Gorda over many years, I can safely say the good scene is pretty dismal. The restaurant at Long Bay on Tortola had been excellent 20 years ago but the curry and roti are still pretty good. I wouldn't call the BVI a food destination, although Biras Creek on Virgin Gorda had a famous kitchen in the late 70's.

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Very uncharacteristically of my wife and I, we stayed at an all-inclusive on St. Lucia (Rendezvous). Generally we prefer to do our own thing, searching out good places to eat - cheap stuff, expensive stuff and in between. But this time we wanted to make no decisions pretty much. My post here is not to call out specific dishes from the three restaurants at this (pretty small - maybe 100 rooms?) - but rather to mention the types of things that were new to us, food and ingredient-wise.

We gorged on fish (especially snapper and dorade) and tried all kinds of new things like callaloo leaves, christophene, breadfruit, coconut yogurt, banana ketchup, bananas prepared as a savory side dish, pepper pot, and salt fish salads of all kinds. Of course there was also delicious jerk chicken, goat stew, and rice and peas. This was not the limit of what we tried, of course, just some of the stuff that was new and interesting. It's a cuisine I'd like to explore more and try out at home.

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