New Providence's Rocking Bahamian Roadside Ribs

Hamish's roadside ribs outside downtown Nassau are better than anything in Arawak City
New Providence's Rocking Bahamian Roadside Ribs
Arthur Bovino

Hamish's roadside ribs.

Just outside a plaza housing Kentucky Fried Chicken and Betande Drugs on West Bay Street heading into downtown Nassau in the Bahamas is a sandy patch on the right side of the road. The asphalt is jagged and broken, two inches above the ground on the side of the road where Hamish, a large man with a booming voice waves to passers-by and calls out to many by name while he cooks his roadside fare in an old, black water heater.

Hamish isn't there everyday — just Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, when he barbecues ribs, chicken, and salmon. When asked how he makes ribs, Hamish takes the adage, "I'd tell you but I'd have to kill you" one better, "Seems like you have nice fingers, if you steal my recipe you won't be touching any pretty girls with them much longer," then laughs at his own joke. But there's nothing funny about his ribs — they're excellent.

Hamish warms up a rack of five long sticky ribs in the propped-up waterheater, brushing the rack with marinade that you can see bubbling on the underside when he flips it over. "I just take a base sauce then doctor it up with about 36 different herbs and spices, some from here, but most imported," he explained. (He's more than happy to discuss some of the native herbs and barks used locally for homeopathic cures too, though he won't divulge which ones go in his marinade.)

Hamish separates then packs the ribs in a Styrofoam container ($10) and finishes them with "hot sauce," flies dive-bombing. There's also a square of macaroni pie and a fresh dinner roll. His wife watches over the whole operation sitting in a parked truck a few feet away shouting out the window, reminding him to include napkins and plastic cutlery. It's a nice thought, but Hamish's food is for eating with your hands.

There's not much spicy heat to the ribs despite the "hot sauce" finish. It's more sweet and sticky with thin crackly bits of tasty char, like bites of that blacked essence of grilled meat you know from only the best backyard barbecues. The macaroni pie has a thin crunchy skin, but isn't dry or uniform underneath. And then there's that stretchy, yeasty dinner roll to finish things — part napkin, and then when you wipe the sweet sauce off your hands with it, part dessert.