Belize City  is not known for its fine dining. Residents’ priority is a big lunch of stewed chicken and beans. Expect many authentic Belizean options but only a small handful of recommended restaurants.
Southside’s King Street Café (King St., 6:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) is a low-key Belizean espresso bar, ice-cream shop, and tamale joint, with breakfasts from under US$3.
A bit more European in flavor is Le Petit Café (6 a.m.–8 p.m. daily), attached to the Radisson Hotel in the Fort George area ; it offers delicious pastries, cakes, and ham-and-cheese croissants and possibly the best cup of freshly brewed coffee in town.
The Smokin’ Balam (59 N. Front St., tel. 501/601-4510, 7 a.m.–5 p.m. daily) is a café, gift shop, guest house, and Internet hub. They have a comfortable little space, plus a back porch over Haulover Creek.
Up on Marine Parade, Pandora Café (daily lunch and dinner) has all sorts of coffee drinks, smoothies, teas, Chinese and Belizean plates (US$4–10 entrée). There is also an espresso bar in the Caye Caulker Water Taxi terminal while you wait for your boat.
The city is packed with traditional Creole eateries.
Macy’s Cafe (18 Bishop St., tel. 501/207-3419, 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) is one of the best, long-standing options for Creole food at reasonable prices; Miss Macy still welcomes guests and oversees the kitchen after nearly three decades in business!
Another excellent local option is Dit’s (King St., tel. 501/227-3330, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 8 a.m.–3 p.m. Sun.); it’s always packed with Belizeans—a good sign.
Nerie’s (corner of Queen and Daly Sts., tel. 501/223-4028, 7:30 a.m.–10 p.m. daily) was featured on the Travel Channel in a feature on traditional Belizean fare; stew chicken, fish fillets, soups, and daily specials for about US$5–9.
A fantastic Belize City neighborhood experience is a trip to the Ceviche Hut (5672 Vasquez Ave., tel. 501/223-6426, 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Thurs.–Sat.). The proprietor, Don Enrique, works for the fishermen’s cooperative, and he doesn’t mess around about freshness. There’s no menu, just ceviche: shout out “shrimp,” “conch,” or “mixed” as you take your seat (also lobster in season); about US$11 gets you a large plate that feeds three or four people. It’s very popular with locals—fun and friendly. Ask Enrique to arrange a taxi to and from so you don’t have to negotiate the confusing streets in this neighborhood.
Deep Sea Marlin’s Restaurant & Bar (Regent St. W., 7 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) is on Haulover Creek, next to the Belcove Hotel. It’s a cheap and sometimes raucous fishermen’s joint, with Belizean and American staples for US$4; the breakfast fry jacks are said to be out of this world.
Thirsty Thursdays (164 Newtown Barrack St., tel. 501/223-1677, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., till midnight Fri.–Sat., closed) is a popular pre-party joint with a savory menu and breezy patio overlooking the ocean, just north of the Princess Hotel complex. Entrées are US$8–15, appetizers about US$6.
Bird’s Isle Restaurant (tel. 501/207-2179, open Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–midnight) has a long reputation and an excellent waterfront location on a small islet to the south of downtown Belize City. Any taxi driver will know it, or just walk south past the Anglican Church (Albert St.) until you can’t walk any more. It’s a casual affair in a gorgeous outdoor setting. Large portions of local comfort dishes are served, from stew beans to hamburgers.
In Buttonwood Bay, three miles north of central Belize City, the Seashore Restaurant (5865 Seashore Dr., tel. 501/620-6645, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat. with a 2-hour break between lunch and dinner) has an excellent waterfront location. You sometimes see dolphins from the dock as you eat your big Belizean lunch and down a few Belikins.
Pepper’s Pizza (tel. 501/223-5000, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, US$17 large pizza) offers free delivery within city limits.
There are more authentic Chinese restaurants in Belize City  than you can fathom. They all make decent, greasy dishes, but a few stand out, including Chon Saan Palace (1 Kelly St., tel. 501/223-3008, 11 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 5–11:30 p.m. Sun.). In addition to Chinese standards, there are many seafood and steak dishes.
Mama Chen’s (5 Eve St., tel. 501/223-4568, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) is good for vegetarians, serving very inexpensive Chinese dishes (US$4–6); it’s on the corner of Eve and Queen Streets. Choose from veggie chow mein, spicy beef dumplings, crispy spring rolls, sushi, and bubble tea (the “bubbles” are sweet seaweed balls that are slurped up through a thick straw).
For authentic dim sum, head to Mei Xing (Freetown Rd.), also known as “the green place.” She also has four rooms for rent (US$30 with private bath and a/c).
Belize City’s small but hungry Arab community ensures a few authentic Lebanese restaurants in town: start with Sahara Grill (tel. 501/202-3031, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 5–10 p.m. Sun.), right across the Northern Highway from the Best Western Biltmore Hotel. They have a long menu of kabobs, hummus, and falafel (US$5–7), plus shwarma wraps and gyros for only US$4 and sheesha water pipes for US$15.
There’s also Manatee Landing (tel. 501/225-3461, noon–midnight daily, US$6), near the entrance to the international airport, about 15 minutes north of the city; watch dolphins swim by in the Belize River while you enjoy your hummus, kabobs, burgers, or wings.
Eight white-cloth tables and a gorgeous wine list await at the only true Italian restaurant in Belize City: La Tavernetta Italian Ice Cream and Restaurant (2 Dolphin Dr., tel. 501/223-7998, www.latavernettabelize.com , 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Wed.–Sun.), is just north of downtown in Buttonwood Bay; the homemade ice cream is unbelievable. Pasta and meat entrées cost US$12–15.
For East Indian curries and dal, Sumathi is by far the best (31 Eve St., tel. 501/223-1172 or 501/223-3655, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 6–11 p.m. Tues.–Sun.). They’ve got a great lunch buffet for only US$5 during the week, plus air-conditioning and a large Indian menu. They offer takeout and delivery anywhere in the city, and their food is so good that expats as far away as San Pedro  or Punta Gorda  order takeout via airplane.
Belize’s Belikin brewing family runs the Riverside Tavern (2 Mapp St., tel. 501/223-5640, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., later on weekends, closed Sun.), an upscale sports bar whose massive “gourmet burger” is one of the best in Belize (US$9 for a 10-oz. patty, US$12.50 for the super-sized 16-oz. patty, made of Belizean beef from the Bowens’ Gallon Jug Estate). Or go for the coconut-crusted shrimp or other bar foods. There’s beer on tap, and the very convivial atmosphere is a popular meeting place for Belize’s who’s who crowd.
Celebrity Restaurant and Bar (Marine Parade Blvd., Volta Building, tel. 501/223-2826 or 501/223-7272, www.celebritybelize.com , 11 a.m.–10 p.m. daily) is near the water, next to the national bank and museum. You enter through a dark, swanky lounge into a bright restaurant with a huge variety of seafood, pasta, steaks, and salads (burgers US$9, entrées US$12–20). The best deal is Celebrity’s US$5 takeout menu and the giant plate of fish and chips. They’re also open for hearty breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday (8 a.m.–3 p.m.).
Just outside town, but worth the trip, the Sibun Bite Bar & Grill (tel. 501/222-4153, www.oldbelize.com , 11 a.m.–9 p.m. daily, a bit later on weekends) is part of the Old Belize  complex, 10 minutes west of downtown Belize City on the Western Highway. The tasty, varied menu and excellent service complement the open setting with lots of activities available.
The Smoky Mermaid (opposite the Radisson, tel. 501/223-4759, 6:30 a.m.–10 p.m., entrées US$12–20) specializes in smoked fish, meats, and assorted fresh breads. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner feature Belizean cuisine and freshly baked Creole bread, served on a dining patio under thatch roofs surrounding a porcelain mermaid.
The St. George’s Restaurant (2 Marine Parade, tel. 501/223-3333, 6:30–10 a.m., 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m., and 6:30–10 p.m. daily, US$20) at the Radisson Fort George Hotel serves a grand buffet and has a standard menu of international fare and seafood.
Outside around the bar, the Stonegrill Restaurant (10 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, US$ 15–20) is a fun, meat-sizzlin’ meal on the heavily vegetated outdoor patio.