It’s official. I LOVE Belize.
I visited Belize for the first time last year with a group of all women, and this year I returned with John. Returning to a place you’ve been before can always be a bit nerve-wracking. I wondered if I would love the country as much as the first time, I was worried about whether or not John would enjoy it as much as I did, and I hoped the trip would live up to both of our expectations.
Despite my worries, there was one thing I knew I could count on: the food.
I didn’t eat a single bad meal while in Belize this time, but there were some definite standouts. In no particular order, here are the meals (please note that ice cream and alcohol count as meals…my blog my rules) that had my taste buds singing their praises.
Best Dessert: Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Gelato at Tutti Frutti Gelateria – Placencia
I would have eaten here every day, except they are closed on Wednesdays (crying) and the first day we arrived, John and I couldn’t find it. Considering how tiny the village of Placencia is, this is pretty embarrassing.
Tutti Frutti is actually owned by two Italian expats, so my expectations were high. The chocolate and peanut butter combo pretty much ruined ice cream for me forever. It was SO good I hardly ate dessert for the rest of the trip. I just knew it wouldn’t live up to that killer combo. If you love ice cream and are trying to decide whether or not to visit Placencia while visiting Belize, I would say YES go to Placencia just to be able to go to Tutti Frutti.
Best Seafood: Grilled Hog Snapper at Omar’s – Placencia
I did not eat a bad meal in Placencia. The food was fresh and delicious, especially the seafood. And seafood at Omar’s was some of the best. John and I headed to Omar’s on Main Street after a recommendation from Joy at the front desk of our hotel. Spoiler alert: Joy did not let us down.
The restaurant is small and open air – and unfortunately there was no breeze since we were a few streets back from the ocean – but the food definitely made up for the mosquito bites we endured. The chef’s recommendation was the hog snapper; I ordered mine grilled and John tried the creole style.
Both were incredible. The filet was huge, topped with peppers and onions, and perfectly cooked with just a hint of spice. This was absolutely my favorite meal from the entire trip. There was not a crumb to be seen on my plate when I’d finished, and I was reduced to murmurs of satisfaction while eating. Hungry just thinking about it!
Best All Around Food: Everything Claudia Cooked at Vanilla Hills Lodge (Again) – San Ignacio
Returning to Vanilla Hills Lodge was a highlight of our trip. I was SO happy John got to meet Claudia and Franklin, and taste Claudia’s food. We ate breakfast and dinner here every. single. day.
There about 5 options for breakfast to choose from but I couldn’t stay away from the Banana and Pecan Pancakes and the Powerhouse (fresh eggs from chickens on the property, bacon, homemade bread and jam, and a small serving of fresh local fruit). Dinner is a different surprise each evening. My favorite dinner was the bacon-wrapped chicken, stuffed with feta, bok choy and mango.
Best Fry Jacks: Stuffed Fry Jacks at Errolyns House of Fry Jacks and De’Tatch Cafe – Caye Caulker and Placencia
Fry jacks are a Belizean staple…served as a side dish in all their fried dough simplicity/glory or as a meal, stuffed with goodies like beans, chicken, eggs, salsa, cheese, and anything else you can imagine. When in Belize, fry jacks are a must try.
The stuffed fry jacks at Errolyns House of Fry Jacks and De’Tatch Cafe were both equally delicious, so this one is a tie. At Errolyns I indulged in a fry jack stuffed with beans, chicken, and eggs (yep – I ate chicken for breakfast) and topped it off with some Marie Sharpe’s hot sauce. The fry jack itself was a bit thinner and could be opened (for adding hot sauce) but what it lacked in density it made up for in stuffings.
My fry jack at De’Tatch was HUGE and puffy, (just like the ones at Estel’s in San Pedro from my visit last year) stuffed with eggs and beans, and topped off generously with salsa and cheese. In other words, it was a wonderfully balanced (although perhaps not so healthy) meal to start the day along with a glass of fresh orange juice. And you really can’t beat the oceanfront view.
Best Dining Experience: Jerk Chicken at Wish Willy – Caye Caulker
The vibe of Caye Caulker is a 180 from mainland Belize. There are hardly any cars on this tiny island near the reef – bicycles, golf carts, and walking are the preferred methods of transportation. Distant reggae music floats through the air, the Caribbean sea is a new shade of turquoise each day, and life just naturally flows slower. There’s also barbecue found just about everywhere…including Wish Willys.
Eating at Wish Willy is a true culinary experience. The setup is a collection of picnic tables in someone’s yard, string lights haphazardly strung between two houses, a chalkboard menu, and a single BBQ grill. Eating here requires a little initiative on your part: pick a table and know what you want to order. Don’t be afraid to grab your own beer out of the cooler or call for more rum punch. And know that you WILL wait awhile for your food…but the wait will be worth it. Just be patient.
After a few minutes of deliberation, I went for jerk chicken and John had the pork. We both agreed this is some of the best barbecue we’ve ever had. John’s pork was more comparable to a delicious, tender steak. And at about $30 BZD/person (including the unlimited rum punch) there’s no question of value.
Best Rum Punch: Maggie’s Sunset Kitchen – Caye Caulker
Okay…not a food I know. But it was delicious, okay? Located on Back Street, I expected Maggie’s to offer a pretty stellar sunset view. However, upon arriving I discovered that while the view is pretty, it’s more peek-a-boo style. Luckily, it was easy enough to jog down the road a bit for sunset photos. And the papaya rum punch totally made up for everything.
After spending $10 US per drink earlier in the day at The Split, John and I were both thrilled to find out the rum punch was not only delicious but also on 2-for-1 special for happy hour. We had 6. Oops…
The rum punch was love at first sip but the food was also wonderful and our server, Kayla, was so sweet. I had the jerk shrimp (basically had jerk everything on Caye Caulker) and am SO glad I took Kayla’s advice to have it mildly spicy. This shrimp has a serious kick even at “mild” so beware. 🙂
Best Chicken, Rice and Beans: Fry Chicken at Syd’s – Caye Caulker
Chicken, rice and beans is a typical Belizean lunch – the chicken choices being stew or fry chicken – and Syd’s claims to have the best fry chicken in Belize. A bold statement…and one I unfortunately can’t comment on since it’s the only fry chicken I ate in Belize. This place looks like a dive, but service was good and the fry chicken was delicious with a perfectly crisp exterior and tender, yummy chicken on the inside. Served with the staple side of rice and beans, this was a great lunch for our first day in Caye Caulker.
Honorable Mention: The no name food shack on Main Street in Placencia attached to a fruit market where lots of locals were having lunch. The stew chicken sat atop a literal bed of rice and beans as big as the plate.
Best Breakfast: Nutella and Whipped Cream Bubble Waffle at Ice n’ Beans – Caye Caulker
Imagine if a funnel cake, a pancake, and a waffle had a baby and topped it with chocolate and whipped cream. This is the only way I can adequately describe a bubble waffle. Its a large, pancake shaped breakfast treat (really this is dessert I’m just trying to justify it here) with raised “bubbles” all over. It sounds weird, it looks weird, but it definitely does not taste weird. The bubble waffle is every bit as unique as its name. I love you, bubble waffle.
There are a variety of toppings to choose from but this was the last day of vacation so nutella and whipped cream were the obvious choice. I’m glad we discovered this greatness on our last day, or else I would have definitely gained 5 lbs as a result of eating too many bubble waffles.
Seaweed Shakes at Brewed Awakenings – Placencia
Tacos and Brazilian Ceviche at Rumfish y Vino – Placencia
Coconut Curry Shrimp at Cozy Corner – Placencia
Eggs and Toast at Amor y Cafe – Caye Caulker
All of the Stew Chicken, Rice & Beans we were served for lunch on tours – San Ignacio, Placencia
The food alone is reason enough to visit Belize. It’s fresh, there’s an incredible diversity in options due to the melting pot of cultures in the tiny country (Maya, Creole, Mennonite, Chinese, Garifuna to name a few) and even the staple items (fry jacks, stew chicken, rice and beans, ceviche, etc) are unique from restaurant to restaurant.
This trip lived up to my expectations and then some. Perhaps the best of all was getting to experience it with John, who continually pushed me out of my culinary comfort zone, making the food a true experience for both of us.