22 Best Restaurants in the Caribbean (Slideshow)
January 9, 2014
The Daily Meal ranked the best restaurants of the Caribbean
#22 Banana Tree Grille (St. Thomas)
Overlooking the world-famous Charlotte Amalie Harbor, Banana Tree Grille invites guests to be "romanced by stunning sunsets" while dining on top-notch seafood. Menu items may include moist and flaky swordfish served atop a bed of risotto, corn, and sun-dried tomatoes, or Moroccan-spiced ahi tuna served with almond and forbidden rice pilaf and Burgundy reduction. Guests can sip a mango Bellini while enjoying a view of the water that can’t be beat.
#21 Femmes du Chalet (Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago)
Chalet, better known as The Breakfast Shed, is now a place where anyone to stop in for something quick to eat. Serving local Trini food, the restaurant is said to be one of the best places to experience the cuisine. It offers everything from pawpaw fruit smoothies to slices of yams, plantains, and breadfruit to fish stewed in tomatoes and served with coo-coo (a cornmeal paste) and callaloo (a steamed leaf vegetable).
#20 Scotchies (Montego Bay, Jamaica)
Every Jamaican has a favorite jerk shack, a preferred source of the allspice-and-chile-marinated grilled chicken or pork (sometimes fish) that has become Jamaica's most popular culinary export. Tradition has it that jerk was invented on the beach at Boston Bay, near Port Antonio on the island's northeastern coast, but arguably its most celebrated purveyor today is this roadside jerk emporium about 130 miles to the northwest, in Montego Bay (there are newer offshoots in Kingston and outside Ocho Rios). The place couldn't be simpler: Some open-sided structures with palm-frond roofs (one of which holds a small bar with plenty of rum to be had), rough-hewn wooden tables and chairs (including some barrel chairs), and windows in the side of a building where customers order and pick up their food — assertively but not aggressively spiced chicken, pork, or fish cooked on open-air grills over allspice (or pimento, as it's called in Jamaica) wood, served with such side dishes as rice and peas (meaning field peas), roast yams, roast breadfruit, and "festival" — sweet fried cornmeal dumplings, a bit like hush puppies turned into a confection. This isn't sophisticated food, but it's honest and filling and tastes really good, and the setting is pure Jamaica.
#19 The Bottle Restaurant (Georgetown, Guyana)
You don’t make it to Georgetown, Guyana, without a little bit of the intrepid spirit of an adventure traveler. Sure, there are reasons to visit the country — Kaieteur Falls, turtle trekking at Shell Beach, the Iwokrama Research Centre — but if you’ve found yourself here, you’re most likely to be either visiting someone you know or making the trip either to or from Suriname or Brazil. In any of these cases, at some point you’re going to be looking for something beyond the Guyanese classic pepperpot and even its exceptional roti, and at that point you’re going to want to visit Cara Lodge, a colonial-styled building in the heart of Georgetown built in the 1840s that has seen the likes of kings, princes, presidents, and rock stars. There you’ll find the Bottle Restaurant, which those who know the country will likely argue is the best restaurant in Guyana. Past the mango tree in the center of the courtyard, the ground floor restaurant is decorated with hundreds of Dutch bottles and Portuguese tiles. It's a clean, calming white-tablecloth restaurant that serves many of the traditional dishes of Guyana, including ginger soup, grilled snapper, and baked lamb.
#18 Garam Masala (Providenciales, Turks & Caicos)
Located in the popular shopping and entertainment plaza The Regent Village, Garam Masala stands out among the many beachside dining restaurants by serving traditional Indian fare from the Moghlai and Punjabi regions. If you're looking to switch things up from the standard "catch of the day" order while in the Caribbean, try browsing through Garam Masala's extensive list of Indian curries and kebabs. Menu highlights include the aromatic Rogan Josh mutton curry, with mutton cooked in a yogurt-based sauce with herbs and light spices, and classics such as seekh kebabs, made with delicately spiced minced meat that's rolled into the shape of a sausage and cooked in the a tandoori oven. The restaurant also offers wine, beer, and house cocktails.
#17 Le Toucan (Le Vauclin, Martinique)
Beachside dining and French-Creole cuisine are on offer at Le Toucan. For tourists preparing for a day of watersports and enjoying a day at the beach with the family, the simple, no-fuss restaurant offers a choice of prix fixe menus including an "Express" menu and a "Tourist menu," as well as à la carte options. Think Creole salad, grilled lobster, locally caught red snapper, and homemade desserts.
#16 The Cliff (Barbados)
The waves crash against the rocks, the water stretches out into the distance to meet the night sky, and all around you on the outdoor dining patio candles flicker on the tables and warm light shines down from lanterns above them. Maybe you walked, or arrived by car. Maybe you arrived by yacht (it’s situated so that you can, and the restaurant even bears a resemblance to the bow of a ship). However you arrived, if you’re at The Cliff in Barbados, you’ve found yourself at one of the most beautiful and dramatic restaurants in the Caribbean, and you’re in for a treat. Liverpool-born chef Paul Owens’ menu changes frequently, but you can count on char-grilled meats and seafood including mahimahi and swordfish, and spellbinding dishes like Caribbean shrimp in Thai green curry coconut sauce with coriander rice, foie gras and chicken liver parfait, savory snails in puff pastry with chive cream sauce, and even a spicy Caesar salad with chorizo.
#15 Da Conch Shack (Providenciales, Turks & Caicos)
Chef Mark Clayton is onto something at the shabby, open-air, and legendary Da Conch Shack. Just off Blue Hills Road and adjacent to a parking lot replete with an aging boat full of conch shells, Da Conch Shack is the type of beach bar that beach bums yearn for — fresh, tasty seafood and potent rum-laced drinks with a punch. While the menu includes options like shrimp, fish, and jerk chicken, it’s the namesake conch that keeps folks coming back year after year. No matter how you want your conch — as cracked conch dusted with flour and fried, as a conch salad (conch ceviche with tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and lime juice), in a curried conch chowder, or as crispy conch fritters — be sure to pair it with Johnny Fries (Turks & Caicos salted french fries drizzled with black bean and pepper gravy) or island staple rice and peas and a pitcher of rum punch. Don’t forget to save room for the rum cake garnished with rum raisins.
#14 La Guarida (Havana, Cuba)
Its appearance in the Cuban film Fresa y Chocolate isn’t the only reason that discerning diners head to this hidden gem run by husband-and-wife duo Enrique and Odeisys Nuñez in central Havana. This paladar (a small, family-run restaurant typically located inside a home that gained legal status in Cuba in the early 1990s) is tucked up three flights of rickety stairs at the top of a dilapidated turn-of-the 20th-century residential edifice at 418 Concordia. La Guarida’s whimsical setting, which stretches through three small rooms, is adorned with autographed celebrity photos. Start off with the eggplant caviar before moving on to sea bass in coconut reduction, and chicken with honey and lemon sauce. Reservations for lunch and dinner (two seating times) are essential.
#13 1919 Restaurant (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Named for the year its home (the recently renovated 305-room Spanish Revivalist Condado Vanderbilt Hotel) opened, 1919 Restaurant and its executive chef, Juan José Cuevas, have quickly garnered accolades for forward thinking, contemporary cuisine. The dishes are crafted with organic, artisanal, locally sourced ingredients. Cuevas has done stints in the world’s most renowned kitchens, including the three-Michelin-starred Akelare in San Sebastián, the now-shuttered three-Michelin-starred El Racó de can Fabes in Sant Celoni, and the now-closed Alain Ducasse at the Essex House in New York City. The four-course dinner menu includes selections like roasted octopus with organic grains, clams, beans, cucumber, preserved lemon, and herb oil; acquerello risotto with zucchini, Parmigiano, bacon, mozzarella, and coffee; wild king salmon with zucchini, ricotta, basil, olives, guindilla chiles, tomato confit, and pimentón sauce (made from smoky Spanish paprika); and Chocolate Decadence (chocolate tres leches, 65 percent chocolate mousse, brownie with granola, and chile-infused chocolate ice cream).
#12 Café Matisse (Nassau, Bahamas)
In the Bahamas, it’s difficult to find a charming restaurant with exceptional fare where the clientele are not decked out in T-shirts and sandals, but Café Matisse comes to the rescue. The café is a welcome respite for island visitors looking for a sophisticated meal, as diners are required to wear "proper dress" to dine here. The quaint restaurant — set in a centuries-old colonial mansion where reprints of Matisse’s work deck the walls — is run by a husband-and-wife duo. The menu features simple Italian fare that is best enjoyed alfresco on the café’s courtyard veranda. The couple blends their Bahamian and Italian cultures brilliantly with seasonally changing appetizers like cured beef with Parmesan ice cream and warm shellfish salad with guacamole and citrus sauce, and mains like sliced duck breast marinated in orange and ginger with parsnip flan and T-bone steak with asparagus, arugula, Parmesan shavings, and grilled tomatoes. Save room for the desserts, which include avocado mousse with raspberry sauce and green apple crumble with Calvados sauce and cinnamon ice cream.
#11 Trellis (St. Martin)
The intimate French bistro housed in the oceanfront La Samanna resort serves contemporary cuisine paired with one of the most extensive wine collections in the Caribbean. Executive chef Gil Dumoulin has curated a menu of modern French cuisine infused with Caribbean spice. Each meal can be expertly paired with one of 12,000 wines from the resort's wine cellar; each label is carefully chosen by sommelier Christian Mirande.
#10 San Cristóbal (Havana, Cuba)
This paladar (a small, family-run restaurant typically located inside a home that gained legal status in Cuba in the early 1990s) is one of the top private restaurants in Havana. Named after its owner, Cuban chef Carlos Cristóbal Márquez Valdés, San Cristóbal is tucked inside a ground-level, cozy room in his family’s home, an early 20th-century mansion on Calle San Rafael in Central Havana. The space is crammed with bric-a-brac, with antique furniture and walls adorned with black and white photos, record covers, and posters. The Cuban-Creole menu features simple, native home-style fare like pork in garlic and onions with beans and rice, fried malanga (similar to a yam or potato), yucca; roast pork; spiny lobster cooked with soft sautéed onions, peppers and celery; and pudding San Cristóbal, a rich mix of eggs, fruit, milk, and almonds.
#9 Restaurant L'Esprit Jean-Claude Dufour (Saint Barthélemy)
The arrival of Bordeaux-born chef Jean-Claude Dufour to Restaurant L’Esprit’s kitchen has elevated the French beach bistro’s menu from noteworthy to extraordinary. Dufour has created a daily-changing menu of fusion cuisine served in a casual wooden café, evocative of those found in Arcachon, a town southwest of Bordeaux. Standout dishes include mussels tossed in a wok with lemongrass, tomatoes, onions, white wine, and red chile flakes; grilled jamón Ibérico; and chocolate and toffee pie (a sweet shortbread piecrust filled with toffee and topped with chocolate and accompanied by toasted almonds, pistachios, and vanilla ice cream).
#8 On the Rocks (St. Barthélemy)
Located at the luxury resort Eden Rock - St Barths serves a seasonal menu created by renowned executive chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The globally inspired menu changes based on the season and product availability, celebrating the best of the chef’sfavorite dishes. Expect creations such as foie gras brûlée with dried cranberries, candied pistachios, and white port gelée; lobster with citrus-glazed carrots, passion fruit, and black olive; and lamb chops with smoked chile glaze and crunchy polenta. The international wine list features organic vintages and specially selected wines from Alsace, Vongerichten's native region.
#7 Le Mabouya (Sainte-Luce, Martinique)
Diners at the small and spacious 50-seat eatery at the Hotel Corail Résidence can enjoy a French-inspired meal while enjoying views of the Caribbean. Chef Jean-Paul Debreuil uses local ingredients to create playful, inventive dishes such as fresh fish tartare with tomato-basil ice cream, lobster and sea urchin cream ravioli, foie gras served with rum hibiscus jelly, simply cooked fresh fish sourced from local fishermen, and a simple but delicious fresh fruit crumble.
#6 Il Nuovo Perugino Enoteca (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Franco Seccarelli opened Il Nuovo Perugino to showcase the cuisine from his native Umbria in the heart of San Juan. Here, diners can sample such authentic Italian dishes as veal entrecôte with porcini mushroom sauce, pappardelle with wild boar ragù, and pork tenderloin with grapes and pine nuts. The striking interior, using stone, glass, and various metals, with accents of bright color, was designed using advanced computer design technology.
#5 Michael's Genuine (Grand Cayman)
The motto of Michael's Genuine, both the Miami original and this bright, bustling Cayman Islands offshoot, is "Fresh. Simple. Pure." Michael Schwartz's cooking lives up to the promise of that appealing trinity. The menu here is similar to that at the Florida original, but with local seafood, fruit, and other products worked in seamlessly. Schwartz's flavors are vivid, with Asian, Latin American, and Mediterranean accents: crispy snapper salad with pickled mango, red onion, and soy-lime vinaigrette; duck confit with whipped calabaza squash, wilted greens, and pumpkin seed pesto; grilled Niman Ranch pork loin with local guava chutney and grilled green onions — real food, the genuine article.
#4 Mi Casa by José Andrés (Dorado, Puerto Rico)
Renowned chef José Andrés' Mi Casa is located in Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort. The restaurant offers everything from breakfast to dinner to in-room dining, all in the signature playful style of chef Andrés. Start with tapas like jamón Ibérico served with fresh tomato bread or yuca "churros" with house-made peanut butter and honey. For an entrée, try the traditional Puerto Rican rice stew, with chayote, ham, and your choice of spiny or Maine lobster, served with plantain chips and meant to be shared between two people. Or simply go all-out with the 11-course José’s Tapas Experience menu.
#3 Restaurant Le Gaïac (St. Barthélemy)
This St. Barts classic serves innovative French cuisine with local Caribbean flavors on its open-air terrace overlooking Hôtel Le Toiny’s infinity pool. The restaurant sources 20 different vegetables from its own organic greenhouse. Chef Sylvain Révélant’s menu includes marinated cobia with oyster whipped cream, Sichuan pepper, and French caviar; breaded sea bass with chestnuts and cardamom; and venison with salsify and gingerbread, prickly pear, and juniper berry jus. On Tuesdays, the restaurant also offers a "Fish Market" dinner, when the catch of the day is grilled "à la plancha" in front of diners.
#2 Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
After 20 years of working in top restaurants around the world, including the renowned Le Cirque in New York City, chef Peter Schintler settled in Old San Juan and opened Marmalade. With a focus on supporting small local farmers and producers and utilizing organic ingredients when possible, Marmalade’s menu is a mix of European-influenced dishes made of classic Puerto Rican ingredients. Diners can choose between a four-, five-, or six-course tasting menu, with highlights including the signature "Tiny White Bean Soup," a creamy concoction of white beans, scallions, black truffle oil, and pancetta "dust;" pan-roasted foie gras with a warm black berry sauce, confit sausage, and toasted brown bread; and the vegetarian "R3," a market selection of organic radish carpaccio, Roquefort cheese, and red apples, dressed with apple cider vinegar, raw honey, and petite peppery sprouts. Marmalade also offers a separate vegetarian tasting menu, and can substitute any meat dishes with seafood on request. Chef and owner Schintler himself is often seen making the rounds in the dining room, talking with diners and bringing out dishes.
#1 Blue by Eric Ripert (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands)
Ranked at number 34 on our list of the 101 Best Hotel Restaurants, Eric Ripert’s Caribbean outpost is also the only AAA Five Diamond award-winning restaurant on the island of Grand Cayman. After being closed for a few months for a complete renovation, the restaurant re-opened in December 2012 with a new look that Eric Ripert himself described as "contemporary, luxurious, comfortable, and sexy." Focusing on locally caught and responsibly fished seafood, executive chef Frederic Morineau prepares an impressive set of five different tasting menus, including the Eric Ripert Classics Tasting Menu, inspired by the menu at Ripert's renowned Le Bernardin in New York City. Familiar dishes include sautéed Dover sole with almonds, pistachios, and brown butter, and poached halibut with black truffle and pot au feu. Awarded the Wine Spectator "Best of Award of Excellence" for six consecutive years, Blue also features a wine cellar with more than 800 selections.