I was so happy that the food on St. Martin was mainly good. Once I realized that there is virtually no source of fresh water on the island, I was worried what that meant for my 2 week vacation. We are foodies in our family, so going somewhere that has awful food (like Holland or Portugal) would have been devastating.
But like I said, there is very little fresh water to be found on the island meaning that all water is treated or at least desalinated, but also meaning that there is very little farming going on as well. Sure, there are some cattle or goats here and there and coconut palms in various places, but anything you see for sale in any of the markets is shipped in from anywhere they can get it.
So let’s start with the markets. Throughout the island, you will get foods that are grown on other Caribbean islands such as mangoes, pineapples, bananas and various tubers. The Sunny Food supermarket, on the Dutch side around the corner from the Zoo, is considered to a great place for cheap prices and these traditional Caribbean foods including “ackee” the main ingredient in Jamaica’s national dish (I mention this here because it is illegal to get in the US although it’s not completely impossible to find here — so if you want a treat….).
The one market that I was really pissed I didn’t get to until a few days before I was leaving was the big Grand Marché — also on the Dutch side — a few miles south of Marigot. They had the best of the best of everything! Both French and Dutch products as well as specialty items. There was one bucket of some sweet French concoction I found in the liquor section. It said something about Grandmother’s recipe, which always gets me. I assume it was some kind of homemade condensed milk, but it didn’t have an ingredient list on it, so I have no idea, but I didn’t have enough time to finish it off, so I had to pass it up. The Grand Marché is known for having a great combination of prime selection, excellent quality and very good prices. Even though it is on the Dutch side, they have all the French specialties such as foie gras, confit de canard, French cheeses and French beer and wines too. Nice clean and bright store too!
On the French side of the island, you can also go to the US Market in Grand Case. They are expensive, but have good French food (avoid the mortadelle, which was really weird tasting for some reason). This is where we did most of our shopping as it was less than 5 minutes from our apartment in Baie Orientale. I liked the fact that you could buy real French meat there. They also sold American meat, which no doubt many people bought because it was cheap, but a good French steak or chicken can’t be beat. Unlike US “farmers” in France meat is raised for quality. In fact, with chickens, for example, they actually label them by how many days it takes to raise them — the longer the better. So they pride themselves in the fact that it takes 90 days to raise a chicken whereas in the states, we want them raised in under 6 weeks — a practice that involves not only cooping chickens up in disgusting little boxes, but feeding them nothing but hormones in the form of GMO corn and soy. Yuck! but I digress…
Don’t think you’ll get a better deal from the small markets or people selling by the side of the roads. As much as I like to help the locals, their produce is often spoiled and more expensive than what you’d find in the supermarkets. You can find locally raised beef at one small shop that is next to the Marigot market. We bought some beef there one morning when we caught it still open, but I suspect that some people might be a bit leery of how “sanitary” the operation was. Well, all I can tell you is that even though the meat isn’t sold in the most hypersensitive conditions mandated by the US, Marigot is French and therefore inspected regularly by French enforcement, so they are in effect doing all that is necessary to keep the food supply safe.
For organics, try the Bio-Man health food store on the main street in Marigot. The guys in there are pretty helpful and nice. Prices are decent too.
We ate out a little bit while we were there. Here’s what we found. Definitely visit:
The Roti truck along the Salt Pond near Phillipsburg. You’ll know her because she has a big blackboard out front with the simple word “ROTI” written on it. She only has 4 types: curried goat, salt fish, chicken and vegetarian, but that’s all you really need. To wash it down, she has partnered with a “the coconut man” a guy who will serve you fresh coconut water in the coconut out front for only $3 each. Who needs soda? This is what every fast food joint should be about!
Grand Case has lots of high end Italian and French restaurants plus lolos, which are more modest local food stalls. We ate in one lolo one afternoon when look for something to tide us over until dinner. It was quite good and cheap. Grand Case is well-known for its one-to-one exchange rate of the US Dollar for the Euro. So make sure you only pay with dollars since the dollar is pretty worthless compared to the Euro these days!
Le Piment in Baie Orientale was a very good restaurant where we enjoyed our first meal after arriving. I had a spectacular foie gras salad and the service was great that time. We went back a week later for dessert only and the waitress complained that she shouldn’t have seated us had she known as she “had reservations”. That kinda tainted the experience since dessert was almost as expensive as a meal and there were more tables free 20 minutes later when we were done, so who knows why she chose to be a douche at that time….
Little Italy (?) I think is the name of the Italian restaurant two doors down from Le Piment on the other side of the Happy Days restaurant. We had a decent meal there, but to tell you the truth, I can’t even remember what I ate. It was OK as I recall though. I’m sure I would have remembered it better if it were awful.
Mai is a beautiful Vietnamese woman who owns this authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Her restaurant is located on the street parallel to the main street along the waterfront. From the waterfront, find the famous Sarafina’s boulangerie (bakery) and walk up the tiny side street next to it. On the next block, hang a right and less than a block away, you’ll find Mai’s restaurant. Mai and her daughter will welcome you with open arms into this quiet little sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the somewhat chaotic city.
Sarafina’s is hands down considered the best bakery on the island. They have very well made authentic French bread including pain au levain naturel (sourdough) and pain aux lardons (bread with tiny bits of bacon in it). We got the latter along with a few fruit tarts for our flight back home — anything to avoid plane food, but oh, so delicious it was as the other passengers looked on in envy! The other bakery two doors down (I forget the name, but it has sucre in the title) wasn’t bad either. And the bakery on the main road in Grand Case next to the fabulous Busco, purveyor of fine Caribbean flavors, was very nice as well.
Top Carrot, not to be confused with Carrot Top, was pretty good for their mixed mezze plate. Basically a vegetarian menu with all the trappings that come along with that such as veggie oils and soy-based crap, but you can get decent food. Of course, it’s the kind of meal that leaves real food eaters wanting for more. Apparently, it does with the regulars as well as quite a number of regulars where lighting up cigarettes over their “healthy” meals.
At all costs, avoid the:
Boo Boo Jam – This was unfortunately the beach restaurant to which our apartment had privileges. With our stay, we had full access to using their transats (lounge chairs) and umbrellas plus a 10% discount on food. Well, the lounge chairs and umbrellas looked to be in tip-top shape (although we never got to use them due to time constraints that day) and the drinks were fine, but the food was absolutely abysmal!!!! Just look at the size of this gross hamburger they served my daughter. One bite and she couldn’t even choke down the rest. My husband and I split the local plate — a concoction of various seafood items. Absolutely disgusting! It was mashed whatever with a sour (but not lemon) bite to it alongside some fried then apparently frozen and microwaved shrimp. They had the nerve to charge 20 bucks for it too!
According to our hosts, they and their partners had bought into the establishment and then they realized that the staff there is grandfathered in and have no desire to change. Because of French law, there is no way to get rid of them apparently. So they basically have to wait until the people die, quit or are just put out of business which is likely because they are losing money every day.
Where have you eaten in Saint Martin? Anything else you can add to the conversation?