San Ignacio  has a higher than average number of cheap Mexican fast-food places, and a few pupuserías (serving an El Salvadorean dish: fried tortillas stuffed with beans, cheese, and meat) for good measure. Check out the stalls in the basement of the Burns Avenue Mall or across from the Belize Bank. Saturday morning, super early, is the best bet for cheap eats, as organic farmers, local cooks, and produce vendors congregate at the outdoor market. This is the best place to chow down before catching a bus to other areas.
On the road right before the market, the Old French Bakery (7 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat.) serves delicious breads and pastries with a semi-outdoor patio. The tiny coffee shop connected to the Serendib Restaurant (27 Burns Ave.) sells ice cream as well as meat pies and generous vegetable patties: a perfect meal on the go.
The best barbecue chefs set up in Santa Elena, just over the Hawksworth Bridge, and they cater especially to weekend party crowds, offering greasy mounds of meat, rice, and beans used by many customers to soak up all that beer sloshing around in their stomachs.
For ice cream, go to Cayo Twist (near the western exit to town, nearly across from the Texaco station, tel. 501/667-7717, 6–9:30 p.m. Thurs.–Sun.), which has delicious soy ice cream.
Some say Erva’s (4 Far West St., 8 a.m.–3 p.m. and 6–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., US$3–10) dishes out the best, most reasonably priced Belizean food in the country. It is a cozy, quality, family-run restaurant that often caters to groups. Dine inside or out and choose from breakfast, stew chicken, rice and beans, burritos, and a full menu of comfort dinners, including chicken cordon bleu.
Pop’s (tel. 501/824-3266, 6:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. daily, US$3–6) may be the closest Belize comes to a small-town, cramped American-style diner, with booths, bottomless cups of coffee, and customers watching CNN and talking religion and politics—except Pop’s is owned by a 100 percent Belizean Hemingway look-alike. It’s just to the south, around the corner from the five-way intersection; ask anyone nearby for directions.
Ko-Ox-Han-Nah (5 Burns Ave., tel. 501/824-3014, 6 a.m.–9 p.m. daily), which means “let’s go eat,” offers Belizean fare plus a huge, cosmopolitan menu that includes Asian, Indian, and vegetarian dishes (and an ample wine list), all prepared with organic ingredients and meat raised by the owner himself. Entrées are in the US$5–12 range.
Serendib Restaurant (27 Burns Ave., tel. 501/824-2302, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. with a break 3–6 p.m., closed Sun.) is owned by a Sri Lankan family and serves excellent curries and dal, along with reliable hamburgers, steaks, and chow mein,. It’s reasonably priced; a broiled lobster dinner or San Ignacio Giant Steak for US$12.
Mr. Greedy’s (34 Burns Ave., tel. 501/804-4688, 5:30 a.m.–midnight daily) understands the importance of a super-hot oven in the production of succulent pizza crust (US$14 for a large cheese pie). They also do a kick-ass breakfast, burger platter, wings, sandwiches, and a long cocktail menu. The environment is very casual, and wireless Internet is available.
Maxim’s Chinese Restaurant (23 Far West St.) has a good reputation among the locals; a family-run café, it serves mainly lunch and dinner. Prices are moderate; you won’t pay much over US$10 for the best meal in the house and a beer.
Martha’s Kitchen (10 West St., tel. 501/804-3647) has some of the best pizza in Cayo, plus a full menu including stir-fried vegetables (about US$6), T-bone steak with gravy and fries (US$8), and a simple club sandwich (US$4). Visitors also give high praise to Yoli’s Pizza (West St. next to Plaza del Rio Mall, tel. 501/804-4187), which also delivers.
Flayva’s (22 Burns Ave., tel. 501/804-2267, 6:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m., closed Tuesday) is the place for hearty breakfasts and, later in the day, creative comfort dishes like stew sheep, mango shrimp, nachos, sandwiches, and curries. Check out the patio through the back door; there’s Internet access and you can book tomorrow’s tour while you wait.
For ambience, you’ll want to try Sanny’s Grill (E. 23rd St., US$6–10), which is a bit out of the way (toward the western exit to Benque , just down from the Texaco station) but well worth it for the fine menu and nice lighting and music.
In addition to steaks, pork chops, and seafood entrées from US$10, the Running W Steakhouse & Restaurant (in the San Ignacio Resort Hotel, tel. 501/824-2125) also serves up an open-air dining patio above the Macal River. Belizean classic plates start at US$5 and feature meat from the restaurant’s own ranch.