Photo courtesy of Alfie Photography/Shutterstock
At first glance one might think a tropical island where food stalls line sandy roads, pastries are sold from a man on a bicycle, and a fruit vendor delivers produce via golf cart would not offer experiential upscale dining. Don’t be fooled. Behind the lazy carefree exterior of Ambergris Caye in Belize lies enough fine cuisine to satisfy the taste buds of even the pickiest critic — especially those looking for experiential culinary options.
Photo courtesy of Pineapples Restaurant
1. Cook With Volcanic Stone At Pineapples
If you want to dine under a thatched roof surrounded by lush tropical landscape and Mayan statues or outdoor on a veranda with magnificent Caribbean views onAmbergris Caye, and you’re ok with wearing a bib to dinner, than Pineapples may just be the place for you. Chef Rommy Kie prepares large wooden trays with 500-degree hot volcanic stones of his signature Steak on a Stone. Actually, you can make it chicken or shrimp on a stone, if you prefer. Your waiter begins cooking your meal; however, you can jump in and take over the reins adding farm fresh vegetables and a variety of sauces. It takes just about 10 minutes to prepare this unique and flavorful local entrée.
Photo courtesy of Blue Water Grill
2. A Meal For A Cause At Blue Water Grill
Started by a hometown girl who partnered with local Chef Chris Aycock, Blue Water Grill is known for island cuisine, wood fired pizzas, and their Tuesday and Thursday sushi night featuring tuna, salmon, shrimp, yellowtail and lobster. A varied wine list, a creative cocktail menu and a dazzling Caribbean view make this open air relaxing restaurant an island favorite. Family owned and operated means something special at Blue Water Grill. In a community where the cost of going to school can be a barrier to many families, the owners provide educational scholarships for their employees’ children. In addition, every month they support the community by matching money donated by their customers to fund much needed local projects for schools, medical clinics and other community needs.
Photo courtesy of Rain Restaurant & Rooftop Terrace
3. Aerial Ocean Views At Rain Restaurant & Rooftop Terrace
Picture delicious world cuisine dishes like Shrimp Paella Crispers or Chicken Saltimbocca, an extensive wine list (many of which are not available in the US), breathtaking views and a modern vibe atmosphere. This is what you’ll find at Rain Restaurant‘s 4th floor rooftop deck. With glass barriers all around, you enjoy an unobstructed view of the ocean on one side and magnificent sunset vistas on the other. Whether you stop by for cocktails, their Wednesday night wine pairing dinner, or a romantic dinner for two, Rain offers the best view on the island. Don’t worry if it really does rain, the restaurant has a bit more formal inside dining as well.
Photo courtesy of Casa Picasso
4. Art Meets Themed Meals At Casa Picasso
Imagine having a private 4-star chef create a multi-course menu for you. Add wine pairings for each course and you have Tastings Thursdays at Casa Picasso. Sometimes the menu has a theme such as coffee: Coffee Expresso Martini on the Rocks, Grilled Shrimp and Grits Latte, Coffee Encrusted “Jerk” Chicken, Lobster Cappuccino, Turkish Coffee Pork Ragu followed by Irish Coffee Crème for dessert. Other times it’s just five delicious courses like Lobster Rangoon, Seafood Caldereta (traditional Spanish seafood stew) or Cuban Media Noche Spring Roll. Either off the menu or at a Tastings Thursday, Casa Picasso offers a warm relaxing atmosphere surrounded by Picasso replica and Picasso-esque artwork.
Photo courtesy of Pirate’s Treasure Restaurant
5. A Seasonal Chef’s Table at Pirate’s Treasure
Don’t let the thatched roof plain interior of Pirate’s Treasure Restaurant deter you. Inside guests can choose to have an intimate dining experience by gathering with a small group at the bar surrounding an open kitchen, aka Chefs Table. Chef Maresha interacts with her guests as she chops and dices, cooks and artfully arranges your meal. The menu changes depending on what ingredients are fresh and in season, so you’re sure to be dining on local farm fresh ingredients. One night it might be Spider Crab Cakes topped with julienned citrusy jicama, or pork chops smoked over coconut husks. If you get a chance be sure to try one of their lionfish offerings. As the only island restaurant offering lionfish, not only will you enjoy a tasty white fish but you can help Belize eliminate a pesky problem. Lionfish is an invasive reef destroying fish and the capture and eating of them is highly encouraged.
CONTRIBUTED by Rebecca Johnson
Jessica Festa is the editor of the travel sites Jessie on a Journey (http://jessieonajourney.com) and Epicure & Culture (http://epicureandculture.com). Along with blogging at We Blog The World, her byline has appeared in publications like Huffington Post, Gadling, Fodor’s, Travel + Escape, Matador, Viator, The Culture-Ist and many others. After getting her BA/MA in Communication from the State University of New York at Albany, she realized she wasn’t really to stop backpacking and made travel her full time job. Some of her most memorable experiences include studying abroad in Sydney, teaching English in Thailand, doing orphanage work in Ghana, hiking her way through South America and traveling solo through Europe. She has a passion for backpacking, adventure, hiking, wine and getting off the beaten path.