An island shared by two nations and inhabited by hundreds of different nationalities, is bound to produce an explosion of cultures and not to mention flavors. Aside from being known as the Vegas of the Caribbean for its late night partying, cheap happy hours and amazing night life, tiny St. Maarten has also managed to get another title under its belt: that of Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean. Seems like I might have picked the perfect place to call home after all.
This is foodie heaven. Restaurants and charming shacks line up pretty much every street here. Just walk down Grand Case, the Boardwalk in Philipsburg, the waterfront in Marigot or the beach at Orient. World class restaurants are rubbing shoulders with BBQ shacks and there are fish fries, food trucks, something for every taste.
If you are like most visitors, you are very well aware of this fact. It may not even be your first rodeo here. So for all visitors, frequent or new, I have gone on an expedition to find St. Maarten’s top 5 secret places to chow down.
Connie’s Bar and Grill
Known to locals as Horny Corney’s (don’t ask why), Connie’s is boss when it comes to the ultimate local breakfast on the beach. By now you are probably aware of our local “bread” the Johnny Cake. Connie serves his baked not fried with scrambled eggs, cheese or ham with a nice cup of “bush” tea. Come early cause the Johnny Cakes are usually finished by 9:30. You can find this little breakfast gem on the boardwalk in Philpsburg.
Every year around mid-April our festival village or Carnival Village opens its doors to carnival revelers and foodies alike. Imagine Burning Man, Lalapolooza and Coachella but with food everywhere. The Village is the place for concerts, calypso contests and carnival queen pageants and there is always something going on on stage. But what interests me most is what goes on off stage. The Village is surrounded by booths selling all kinds of food, from BBQ and local dishes to food from the region. I love the fact that I can have a saté stick with peanut sauce together with some tutu from Curaçao and some doubles from Trinidad all with a $1 beer. The Carnival Village is open from Mid April until the first week of May but there are talks of making the food part of the Village a more permanent gig.
Hidden in a little alleyway on Backstreet, next to the Philipsburg Cultural Center is Shieka’s, one of the best lunch places in town. Shieka’s serves an incredible local breakfast buffet until about 11am when she breaks it up and sets up for an even more amazing lunch buffet. What I like about this place is that it has something for everyone, meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans. Eat in their charming courtyard and don’t forget to try their fresh juice bar.
Freedom Fighters Ital Shack
Speaking of vegetarian and vegan, I came very close to turning into a complete vegan after trying the lunch at the Freedom Fighters Ital Shack. The food is super tasty and all organic. The owners are Rastafarians with their own little farm in the back of the restaurant and house, where they cultivate their own products. Ask owner Ras Bushman Joe for a little tour. The Ital Shack located on Bush Road is open for breakfast and lunch from Sunday till Friday.
Another hidden lunch gem is Le Source in Marigot. Nicely tucked away in the alleyway behind La Main a Plate at the Marigot marina, Le Source serves a menu that I can best describe as a mixture of Thai and French. It is a tiny little tastefully decorated place with great wines and scrumptious food. The host is a petite shy lady, always graceful and welcoming.
Bon Appetit, buen provecho, smakelijk and enjoy!