Best Eats in Barbados

The ultimate guide to what you can’t leave Barbados without trying

When in Barbados, you have to do three things at least... One, go to Cuz's. Two, go to Oistins, and three, go to a rum shop. The why’s and wherefore's are below, plus some other can’t-miss suggestions...

The Only Fish Sandwich You'll Ever Need to Eat in Life:

Go to get the blue marlin cutter (a sandwich) at Cuz's fish stand. It's on the beach at Needham Point, right by the Hilton hotel. If you do nothing else, go here and eat this sandwich. So far in my life, it's the best fish sandwich I've eaten in the world. No hyperbole. And others think so, too.

I say get it with the works — pickles, lettuce, tomato, fried egg, cheese, mayo, and hot sauce — but fixings are a very personal matter to people, so I leave that to you. Whatever you do, make sure you get this sandwich, even if you're not staying at the Hilton or nearby. At some point during your trip, you should be going into Bridgetown anyway (it's the main city center) and Cuz's is only a 15-minute walk from there so there's really no excuse not to go.

Oistins:

Go to Oistins fish market. Seriously, if you do two things when you're in Barbados go to Cuz's and go to Oistins. You have to go on Friday night. It's the night for it. If you go on any other night, most of the stalls will be closed and the ones that are open don't have the energy level of Friday nights. Get grilled fish, get the legendary fish beignets with scotch bonnet sauce (don't leave Barbados without eating their hot sauce), get lobster... get whatever you want. Just go. And go on a Friday.

Baxter’s Road:

In downtown Bridgetown, Baxter’s Road is lovingly called “the street that never sleeps,” but it’s not just a nightlife spot. Go during the day for the fried-fish stands, where they use old oil drums to make fried fish balls along the side of the road. It gives off a real local feel and there’s music playing at all hours. It really does turn into a great nightlife spot after-hours, so either stay on after lunch or come back for a second visit.

St. Lawrence Gap:

Class it up at Waterside Restaurant in St. Lawrence Gap, where fine dining replaces street vendors. Think coconut and lemongrass seafood dishes and crispy duck and orange salad. Or stop into Pisces for mussels in white wine, coconut shrimp, or seasoned Bajan flying fish right on the water. Get your nightcap at McBride's Pub nearby.

National Dish:

It's true that Cou-Cou and Flying Fish is the national dish. I don't much care for it, truth be told, but you should probably order it, taste it, and then order something else. The national meal should be Cuz's blue marlin cutter with a side of macaroni pie, a Chefette roti, rum, and coconut water. The macaroni pie is truly amazing.

Day Activities:

There's a company, called Island Safari, that does island rides. On the back of a truck, you can be buckled in and bounce along under the sun (or covered if it starts to rain), and given a complete tour of the island. It's great for getting an overview of the place — ideal for the beginning of the trip. You'll see coast, you'll see plantations in the middle of the island, you'll see bluffs, cliffs, architecture, and fields. And there are a few stops, each with a rum punch. How's that for sight-seeing? Just beware of tourist-preying dudes with monkeys…

Beaches:

I never had much time to explore the beaches, but make sure you do. I did have a few sunset and midnight swims at the Hilton and Colony Club, where the water is gorgeous and the stars are bright.

Splash Out: 

The Cliff (pictured) is the place to go. With a gorgeous setting, cigar humidor, and expensive bill, it’s a perfect, romantic place to take your loved one. You really can't go wrong. Stingrays supposedly swim up to the outdoor seating area where the water is all lit up.

What to Avoid:

There are lots of restaurants in Barbados. While I can't speak to them all, I can tell you one that I'd never go back to: Brown Sugar. It's by the Hilton and it’s supposed to be an island gem. Not so much. Mushy food. Also avoid Mustor's or Apropos in Bridgetown. Bad news.

 

Drinking:

There's Mount Gay (which you can find everywhere) and St. Nicholas Abbey (you have to go to the source). Go to St. Nicholas Abbey’s artisan distillery to buy a pretty bottle to take home that they'll engrave for you. In fact, spend an afternoon touring distilleries — Mount Gay is close to Bridgetown and has a rum shop in it where you can sample the product at the end.

When drinking out, though, there is one drink you should try at least once: rum with lime and tonic. It’s practically the national cocktail. Beyond that, drink your rum with only coconut water or straight with ice. For non-alcoholic drinking, make sure to try coconut water, which you can find at most roadside stands (including Oistins). They’ve got fresh coconuts that they’ll slice open with a machete, stick a straw in it, and let you drink. Hand it back to have them hack a piece of coconut off and give it back to you with a spoon so you can eat the jelly inside.

2nd Street in Holetown:

You could start and end your night well on 2nd Street in Holetown. Start at Nishi on the corner, which has great sushi, move on to Mews for a cocktail or two, and finish off the night at Lexy's Piano Bar. Technically speaking, Lexy's isn't on 2nd (it's a stone's throw), but they've got amazing drinks.

Rum Shops:

Ask a Bajan where his favorite rum shop is and you'll get more than 1,000 answers. That's how many (good) rum shops are there. Bajans love their rum shops. While I can’t vouch for it, I’d be sure to go to Cutter’s on my next trip. It’s about a 15-minute ride from the airport, so you could make it your first stop on arrival or last stop before departure.

Speaking of the Airport:

Right next to the airport is the Concord museum. Barbados was one of the destinations that the Concord flew to before being discontinued, and if you get a chance, the museum is really worth checking out.

Also, if you fall in love with Chefette, you can get one at the airport and get it through security to eat while waiting or on the plane (I have discovered that three hot sauces per roti is the perfect ratio). And even better, if you call ahead, you can buy them frozen to take back home. Even if you didn't call ahead, the Chefette at the airport often has frozen rotis that haven't yet been claimed. Claim them. And do yourself another favor — don't order anything else there. Say no to the pizza, say no to the wingdings (wingdings?).

As for Security:

Don’t try to bring hot sauce through security in your carry-on. They’ll point to signs all through the airport and throw it out, though it’s mostly a ploy to get you to buy the same stuff at the airport. They won’t let you go back to put the bottles in your checked bags either, so plan ahead. The good news is, if they do confiscate any of the delicious sauce, there is plenty more to buy at the airport.

(All photos courtesy of Arthur Bovino)

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