Fine Island Cuisine
San Pedro is blessed with an ever-evolving selection of trendy restaurants offering international fare and flair; if you don’t pay for such indulgence with an expanded waistline, you’ll surely pay for it in cash. If you’re really dining out—appetizer, a couple of drinks, entrée, and dessert—expect to pay as much as you would in New York City: US$40–80 per person, more if you like your wine. Remember: Many fancy restaurants add a tax and service charge (and a credit card charge), so bring plenty of cash. Reservations are recommended at all of the following restaurants, especially in the high season.
Of the finer restaurants, Blue Water Grill (on the beach behind the SunBreeze Hotel, tel. 501/226-3347, 7 a.m.–9:30 p.m. daily) is known to offer some of the best values and biggest portions. The menu has hints of Hawaiian and Southeast Asian cuisine; try the coconut shrimp stick with black bean sweet and sour sauce. Sushi is offered on Tuesday and Thursday; there are dishes like snook with banana curry and comfort plates like lasagna (entrées from US$19).
In central San Pedro, Crave (tel. 501/226-3211, www.cravebelize.com, Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m., Sun. from 5 p.m.) has a nice corner location on Barrier Reef Drive and Black Coral Street, serving Latin American and Caribbean cuisine. There’s an air-conditioned dining room and a bar open to the street, and it serves savory fish and meat dishes, including an entire lobster tail appetizer for US$11, Caribbean jerk snapper (US$20), and a towering Seafood Treasure (US$35).
Red Ginger (tel. 501/226-4623, 7:30–10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., and 6–9:30 p.m., closed Tues.), in the Phoenix Resort toward the north part of San Pedro, has an indoor air-conditioned dining room and trellised outdoor patio. They specialize in local cuisine with an international twist—grouper ceviche with mango, empanadas with pork, and plantains with buffalo mozzarella and sautéed basil. There are homemade bagel sandwiches for breakfast, Indian chicken curry and Cajun gumbo for lunch, and a variety of appetizers, salads, pastas, seafood, and steaks (entrées US$9–37), plus a five-course tasting menu (US$45), big wine list, half price wine on Monday, and tapas on Wednesday and Sunday.
South of San Pedro
For authentic Italian dishes and gourmet 12-inch pies (US$12), try Pinocchio Italian Restaurant and Pizza (Seagrape Dr., tel. 501/226-4447, http://pinocchioitalianrestaurant.com, 5:30–11:30 p.m. Thurs.–Tues.), a US$4 taxi ride or 10-minute walk south of San Pedro. On Sting Ray Street past the gas station, Casa Picasso (tel. 501/670-5326, hours vary, US$38–50) is an exclusive supper club, serving tapas (mini crabcakes with chili lime sauce), pastas, and locally made wine and spirits—including the owner’s special absinthe verde, a.k.a. The Green Fairy. It’s prix fixe, including proprietary cocktail pairings with each course; reservations only.
Hidden Treasure Restaurant (4088 Sarstoon St., tel. 501/226-4111, 5:30–9:30 p.m. daily, US$15–22) is an open-air intimate restaurant under a palapa roof. They have a long list of appetizers, lunches, dinner, and desserts; from seafood bisque for US$16 to Maya accented snapper and spare buhurie (Garifuna spiced ribs, US$20).
The chef at Victoria House’s Restaurant Palmilla (at Victoria House two miles south of San Pedro, tel. 501/226-2067, 6:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 6–9 p.m. daily, US$24–50) was born in Mexico City, trained in the United States, and comes from a family of renowned chefs. His unique style is “Mayan Bistro,” which combines the chili peppers of Mexico with fresh local produce, seafood, and meats. Start with crispy snapper cakes with chipotle beurre blanc, black bean, and roasted corn succotash; follow with black bean or chilapachole (corn) soup; then savor main dishes like cashew-crusted grouper.
North of San Pedro
A common Ambergris evening involves taking a golf cart, bicycle, or water ferry to one of the beach restaurants north of the bridge. The cheapest, most casual places are Palapa Bar and Ak’Bol. Then there’s a handful of expensive options that require reservations, most serving dinner 6–9 p.m. at tables with stunning settings on the beach. Many (but not all) do not turn tables, so you can stay until the water taxi comes to take you home.
Glen and Colleen at the Rendezvous Restaurant and Winery (tel. 501/226-3426, lunch and dinner) offer free wine tasting to anyone wandering by. They blend, ferment, and bottle their own wine in recycled bottles. The restaurant has a stellar 12-year reputation for its blend of Thai and French cuisine. Start with escargot with lemon-garlic butter sauce for an appetizer (US$10); then have grilled shrimp (US$22) or chicken with coconut red-curry sauce (US$15).
A couple more miles up the coast, Mambo’s (Mata Chica Beach Resort, tel. 501/220-5010, www.matachica.com, lunch and dinner) is pure indulgence, serving rich and artful heaps of snapper, scallops, shrimp, lobster, and calamari—you can try them all in the amazing Deep Blue entrée (US$34). Appetizers like soy-glazed snapper carpaccio are US$10–16; save room for the chocolate mousse.
Rojo Lounge (at Azul Belize, www.azulbelize.com, tel. 501/226-4012 or 501/226-4013, lunch and dinner Tues.–Sat., entrées from US$27) has a succulent, sophisticated menu that will leave you grasping for adjectives. Or maybe you’ll just reach for your peppered cocktail in stunned silence after each bite of shrimp-stuffed grouper or conch pizza; it’s spendy but worth every savory cent. The self-made chef, Jeff Spiegel, is a former punk record producer from California.
Portofino Restaurant and Green Parrot Beach Bar (tel. 501/226-5096, lunch and dinner) is six miles north of San Pedro and they’ll give you a complimentary boat ride to join them for dinner; expect local cuisine with a European flair including spider crab–laced snapper and other creative seafood specials (US$18–35 entrées). Lunch is also excellent with out-of-this-world quesadillas and an enormous vegetarian selection (US$6–14), and they’ll set up a romantic table on the end of their pier if you like.
© Joshua Berman and Avalon Travel from Moon Belize, 9th Edition