Belize is an intriguing new culinary destination. Chefs use fresh seafood from the Caribbean, herbs and vegetables from organic gardens and tropical fruits from local markets to create culture-blending dishes. Here are 10 top spots all over the country where you’ll enjoy the best of contemporary Belizean food and drink.
1. Bistro at Maya Beach Hotel
This is our favorite restaurant in Belize. An Australian-American couple, John and Ellen Lee, worked in 20 countries around the world before settling in this barefoot paradise on the Placencia Peninsula. The Bistro has open-air views of the sea. There’s always something unexpected on the menu, such as passion-fruit and snapper ceviche, lobster bread pudding or rabbit potpie, along with traditional dishes such as the grilled catch of the day. Expensive.
2. Chef Rob's Gourmet Café
The metal sign outside Chef Rob’s in Hopkins is made from a red 1964 Peugeot, but don’t worry: Rob Pronk serves more than French food. His oeuvre is an eclectic blend of seafood, Belizean favorites and American dishes. Service is first-rate. Rob’s companion restaurant, Love on the Rocks, serves meals cooked on 700-degree lava slabs. Expensive.
The last place you’d expect to find authentic Italian gelato is in a little Creole village at the end of the Placencia Peninsula, but Tutti Frutti, run by Italian expats, may serve the best gelato between New York and Buenos Aires. From the frequently changing rainbow of homemade flavors, try the soursop, mango, banana, coconut or crunchy Nutella. Inexpensive.
New in 2013, Fuego brings fire and class to downtown San Ignacio, with beautiful presentations of dishes such as duck liver pâté on plantains. Chef Jesse Mas calls the cuisine “farmers market to table,” as many of the ingredients come from the town’s nearby market. Drinks are special, too, with libations such as a margarita with habanero- and orange-infused tequila. Expensive.
This upmarket lounge is the most romantic spot on Ambergris Caye to enjoy a cold drink and a hot bite. Laze on a seaside couch under a high, thatched ceiling and look out over a mint-green sea to surf breaking on the barrier reef a few hundred yards away. Order an icy rum creation and lobster pizza by chef/owner Jeff Spiegel, a former record producer from California, and partner Vivian Yu. Moderate.
Francis Ford Coppola’s luxe getaway in the Mountain Pine Ridge has its own organic garden, supplying vegetables and fruits for Blancaneaux Lodge’s dining room. Montagna specializes in Italian dishes, including Coppola family recipes from Italy’s Basilicata region. Get a seat by an open window and take in the sweep of jungle and the Privassion Creek. Order a glass of Coppola’s wine in the Jaguar Bar, whose ceiling fans are from the set of the director’s Vietnam epic, Apocalypse Now. Expensive.
7. Rain Restaurant & Rooftop Terrace
New in 2014 at the Grand Caribe resort, Rain has an indoor dining space that is more formal, which, on Ambergris Caye, may just mean “no bikinis.” The rooftop terrace, meanwhile, has gorgeous views of the sea and reef, plus sunsets to the west. Chef Hugo Meyer, formerly of Aji Tapa Bar, focuses on seafood. Try the coconut shrimp and lobster ravioli, with creme brulee for dessert. Expensive.
This is where Belize City’s power elite gather, either on the patio overlooking Haulover Creek or inside, where it’s cool. The beef here, from the Bowen family’s Gallon Jug ranch, is the best in Belize and includes signature burgers and steaks. There’s a guarded, fenced parking lot, so safety isn’t an issue. Moderate to expensive.
Under the same ownership as The Lodge at Chaa Creek, this charming café is a new option for casual, healthful lunches and dinners near downtown San Ignacio. There’s outdoor seating that overlooks a park, and the presentations of even fresh salads and paninis are above what you usually find in Belize. Save room for red velvet cheesecake. Moderate.
Few visitors stay long in Orange Walk Town, the heart of sugarcane country. What they miss at Nahil Mayab is the best ceviche in Belize; we love the conch and shrimp versions. Dine in a flower-draped courtyard or in cool comfort inside. Moderate.