Tag Archives: St. Martin

St. Martin: Beach Food

Some of the main draws on St. Martin are the beautiful beaches (no surprise there), but what did surprise me was there are excellent food options to be had at many of the more well-trafficked beaches. Not just your typical concession stands, these beach-front restaurants churn out reasonably-priced and well-executed food ranging from simple sandwiches to extravagant seafood dishes.

The Key
Islet Pinel (Orange Umbrellas)
St. Martin

Pinel island is a beach eats mecca. On the beach there are three different colors of umbrellas  – orange, yellow and blue – each corresponding to a different restaurant. If you are feeling so inclined, you can have your food delivered right to your umbrella on the beach! On our visit we ate at the Key – the place with orange umbrellas. The platters at the Key (ranging from €16-18) include classic fare like hamburgers, BBQ Chicken and fresh grilled fish. Though simple, the food was excellent. We all ordered burgers, which were generously proportioned and charcoal-grilled. Alongside the entrees there were fries and a rather impressive salad of carrots, grapes, sprouts and carrots with a sesame vinaigrette, which was cool and refreshing in the hot weather.

pinelfood

Tropical Wave
Le Galion Beach
St. Martin

Tropical Wave, on the beautiful Galion Beach was this was the first outdoor dining experience we had in St. Martin. There is an open air dining area, with long wooden picnic tables under a canopy. The menu is classic fare like sandwiches, sodas and ice cream, along with an array of cold beverages (most important). We ordered the grilled chicken (€7.50) and a shrimp salad (€13.50). This was definitely a casual place, and was mostly full of beach-bound families grabbing a quick bite.

Do Brazil
Shell Beach
St. Barths

In keeping with the upscale feel of St. Barths, this restaurant is more expensive than any of the others we had been to. More than a simple grill with a few benches and an awning, Do Brazil is a full-fledged, multi-story restaurant with a bar, with a more casual al fresco seating area right on the beach. We were impressed by the extensive interantionally-flavored menu (sashimi, Brazilian pomelo salad and foie gras were among the offerings).We ordered a Lobster Club Salad (€22) and a Thai Chicken sandwich (€19). Though expensive, it turned out the food was quite good, and more sophisticated than a typical beachside lolo.

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St. Martin: Il Nettuno

Il Nettuno
70 Grand Case Boulevard
Grand Case

At one end of French St. Martin’s restaurant row, Grand Case, are the low-key lolos. At the other end, are a variety of higher-end restaurants ranging from nouveau French to Indian to Caribbean. In the mix is Il Nettuno, a hidden gem – which turned out to be one of the best Italian meals we have had in a long while. The restaurant is in the classic trattoria model, but boasts the unusual combination of an owner who spent 25 years in America, a Caribbean location and a French wait staff. Eating at an Italian restaurant smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean was definitely an interesting experience, but it didn’t take us long to be charmed. Our Maurice Chevalier-esque maître d’ notwithstanding, one of the biggest selling points were the gorgeous views of the ocean right of the shaded deck. We arrived just at sunset, and were treated to some amazing vistas

The menu at Il Nettuno boasted a variety of Italian classics, with an emphasis on seafood dishes. It’s definitely a bit pricier than the lolos, at about 16-25 euros for most main dishes. As we were perusing the menu, we were served a free plate of delicious bruschetta on crusty French bread.

For my dinner, I selected the special of the day: lobster ravioli in vodka sauce (€17). The menu claimed that seafood was a specialty of the house, and given the location, I didn’t doubt it. The lobster was fresh and sweet and the vodka sauce was a perfect blend of cream and tomatoes. We also ordered Rigatoni freschi con prosciutto, funghi, e rucola (€17): rigatoni with mushrooms, prosciutto, garlic and butter and Fusilli con melanzane alla Siciliana Fusilli (€17): fusilli pasta with eggplant, mozzarella and Sicilian tomatoes. Both pasta dishes were generously portioned, tasty and contained absolutely fresh produce (surprising given the location).

However, we all agreed that the best dish of the bunch was my mother’s pick – the Chicken Marsala (€19) with a delicious sweet potato mash, whipped potatoes and green beans. Since we eat a certain amount of Italian food at home, one of the best judgments of quality we have – is ‘could I have made this better myself?’ My mom makes a mean Chicken Marsala, but this one was even better. The chicken was not heavy or over-breaded (as often happens) and the Marsala sauce was rich and not too salty.

To finish off the meal, we let them know that there was a birthday in the group, so they brought out a free slice of tiramisu. It just happened to work out that the birthday girl’s favorite dessert was in fact tiramisu, and it didn’t hurt that Il Nettuno makes an excellent rendition. All in all we were extremely pleased with our dinner at Il Nettuno. The ocean-side atmosphere was charming, the food excellent and the service was great. We would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a slice of Italy with a little Caribbean touch.

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St. Martin: Lolos

“Lolos” are what locals call informal outdoor barbecue restaurants, and are found all across St. Martin. Two of the most famous lolos are located in Grand Case, in the French half of the island. Grand Case is St. Martin’s restaurant row, and a single narrow street running parallel to the ocean, filled on each side with restaurants ranging from fancy to very simple. Any choice on Grand Case is probably at least solid, but some of the most popular are the lolos. The proprietors of these open-air restaurants are frequently seen pounding the pavement offering “1 dollar to 1 euro” currency conversions. Given the weakness of the dollar at the moment, that offer certainly caught our eye. However, the real draw is the laid-back atmosphere and tasty food.

Talk of the Town
Grand Case
St. Martin

The menus at Talk of the Town are displayed on wooden easels right on the sidewalk, and the delicious smell of shrimp and ribs on the grill draws passersby in. The lolo itself was a series of picnic tables covered with a canopy, adjacent to an open grill and a wooden bar. For less than ten dollars you can choose a main dish with a plate load of sides, cooked to order. I wish I had a picture of Talk of the Town itself, since it is no simple affair (we’re talking 30+ picnic tables), and is usually packed to the brim with an assortment of locals and tourists alike.

Our table ordered the Creole shrimp, Barbecue Ribs and BBQ chicken. The plate came with a heaping helping of side dishes, each of which can be ordered as a side dish for a couple of bucks. As you can see, the creole shrimp above came with a smörgåsbord of sides: a green salad, coleslaw (which was quite good and fresh), mac and cheese, red beans and rice, and spaghetti in creole sauce. The shrimp was beyond fresh, and with a beach-side location dotted with fishing and shrimping boats it’s no surprise. The ocean-fresh shrimp were well-complimented by the creole sauce, which was was a piquant blend of curry, onion, peppers, garlic, and hot sauce. The barbecue dishes were tangy and spicy with a tomato-based sauce that rivals any Southern BBQ joint. We would highly recommend Talk of the Town to anyone visiting St. Martin. It’s a unique experience with some excellent food. Beyond that, the high turnover and constant crowds assure all dishes are fresh to order.

Sky’s the Limit
Grand Case
St. Martin

Located right next to Talk of the Town, we just narrowly chose against Sky’s the Limit. Both have a similar laid-back vibe, feature open grills and outdoor seating at informal wooden booths.

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St. Martin: Patisseries

Nowhere has the St. Martin benefited from its European heritage than in its lovely patisseries. Throughout the island, little French-style boulangeries and patisseries dot the landscape, offering crusty baguettes and flaky croissants for a pittance. Especially on the French half of the island, where it is not unusual to see several of these oases on a single street. It was truly an interesting global experience, to see a little bake shop overflowing nearly onto a tropical beach! Below I talk about some of our favorite bakery experiences on the island.

Sarafina’s
Marigot
St. Martin

Sarafina’s was far and away our favorite Patisserie on the Island. It looked like it could have been teleported right off of the streets of Paris to Marigot. Sarafina’s is an open-air cafe, with a long glass pastry case along one side and a gelato case to the right side. And who could ask for more? While Sarafina’s boasted a nice variety of savory items, including a quite good chicken Panini and adorable little quiches, the pasties took the cake (no pun intended). We dropped by several times throughout our trip to sample their wares.

The tarts were to die for. For only a couple of euros (thankfully, especially with the weak dollar) you got a perfect custard filled tartlet topped with fresh strawbeeries or raspberries with a sugar glaze that managed to be perfectly sweet but not cloying. Also of note was the chocolate mille feuille. ‘Mille feuille’ means “thousand sheets” in French and this nice dessert was indeed countless sheets of pastry layered with rich chocolate cream. Despite it being upwards of 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside, we truly could not get enough of these decadent treats. The Baguettes and croissants were ludicrously cheap and delicious, at less than one euro a pop.

Piece of Cake
Plaza Del Lago, Simpson Bay
Sint Maarten

PoC is a tiny, cute sandwich shop/patisserie and gelateria in Simpson Bay. Located in an unassuming shopping mall, the little shop is unassuming by day, however, at night, the gelateria is lit by some pretty crazy Vegas-style neon signs. Taking cues from the nearby casinos (which are somewhat common on the Ducth side), PoC lights up with tons of signage including a huge ice cream cone and a gingerbread man (the logo of the store). Though they have a small selection of pastries and sandwich menu, what people come to Piece of Cake for is the gelato. They had a wide variety of Ciao Bella flavors, from Cassis to Mango to Cookies and Cream, all delicious. Even better, the shop is also open until 11 PM, making it a great post-dinner stop.

Zee Best
Plaza Del Lago, Simpson Bay
Sint Maarten

When you arrive at Zee Best in St. Martin, your table is given a basket of pastries. They don’t tell you then but A. It’s not free, and you are going to get charged for any piece you eat, and B. Everything in the basket is going to look really good, so chances are you will eat it. Not just pastries though, Zee Best offers a full breakfast menu including a plethora of choices. The omelets are tasty and generously portioned, as were the crepes. For the sweet tooths, Zee Best offers a variety of Nutella-based crepes, for those who would prefer something heartier, a basil, mozzarella and tomato crepe fits the bill.

Au Pain de Sucre
Pelican Resort Club, Simpson Bay
Sint Maarten

Off a winding road deep into resort territory – Au Pain de Sucre did a respectable job of providing a mostly-tourist crowd with solid pastries and continental breakfasts. Not much else to report, since we just popped in for a bite.

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