Mrs. Elvia Staines, known as Doña Elvia, is the proud
owner of Elvi's Kitchen which has become one of the most popular and
distinguished restaurants on Ambergris Caye. With their excellent seafood menu,
their great service and wonderful ambience, Elvi's Kitchen has become a
favorite among tourists and locals.
Mrs. Staines was born in San Pedro and has been living on the
island for 66 years. She married Mr. Enrique Staines Sr. and is the proud mother
of six children - two men and four women. She has raised them to adulthood and
now, together with her daughter Jennie Pinelo, runs the restaurant. She was left
a widow after Mr. Staines passed away nine years ago.
Elvi's Kitchen started about 25 years ago with a
'hole in the wall' takeout window and Doña Elvia's
fondness of the kitchen. "I have always loved to cook," said
Doña Elvia. "After cooking for myself, family and friends I decided
to open a small takeout restaurant." Doña Elvia explained that she
loved to cook all sorts of foods and desserts. She also cooked to help in
fundraisers and special community events.
This small take-out window which she operated underneath her
house was known as Elvi's Burger Isle. The burger isle had a small menu of
burgers and fries and frescos. Doña Elvia cooked and managed the kitchen
with the help of her husband and three other employees. For about five years,
the Burger Isle prepared delicious, finger-licking burgers until Doña
Elvia decided to add more food to their menu.
Her first addition to the menu was the tasty Belizean rice and
beans and gradually she started cooking more local dishes. By now, she had built
two palapas underneath the now long-standing flamboyant tree located adjacent to
her house. "The Burger Isle was doing good," said Doña Elvia.
"I liked what I was doing and decided to expand the place. Now people could
stop and have a bite to eat underneath the beautiful tree." Soon after
Doña Elvia changed the name of her business to Elvi's Kitchen. The
place had slowly grown from a takeout window into a restaurant. The takeout
window was closed and the entire area underneath the flamboyant tree was
Today, Elvi's Kitchen has been registered as a restaurant
for twelve years and Doña Elvia explained that a lot of changes have
occurred. "It definitely is a lot more work to run the restaurant than it
was to run the Burger Isle," she said. "We now have 29 employees who
run the kitchen, bar, tend to the tables and work in the office." The
restaurant has completely changed throughout the years with a complete
remodeling of the dining area, the installation of a bar and a lounge and
waiting area. The dining area which is located underneath the famous flamboyant
tree provides a cozy and comfortable atmosphere in which to have a relaxing and
wonderful dining experience. Elvi's Kitchen has become very popular due to
its savory seafood menu which they have specialized in.
Elvi's Kitchen has been awarded and recognized for their
excellent food, distinct service and notable establishment. Their most recent
recognition has placed them in the pages of the Sol y Luna Central American
Guide Book as one of the best restaurants in San Pedro and Belize.
Doña Elvia has also traveled to Europe to receive an award from the
Business Initiative Directors in Europe recognizing them "for immeasurable
contributions to the business world for high standings and professionalism
demonstrated by prestigious performance." Recognition has also come from
the United States and Guatemalan Embassy in Belize and the Civil Aviation and
Port Authority of Belize for their excellent service while they were hosted at
the restaurant. On November 1996, Mrs. Elvi travelled to Madrid, Spain to receive an award for Elvi's Kitchen, the International Gold Star Award for Quality and Excellence.
The Mundo Maya Organization has also recognized them for their
wonderful establishment and for being the only restaurant in Belize to include a
Mayan buffet into their menu and preserving a part of the Mayan culture. Jennie
Pinelo, who is the cook, participated in the Cocina Maya Festival in Cozumel,
organized by the Mundo Maya, which showcases the delicious and typical food of
the Mayan culture. Jennie was picked among many Belizean cooks who applied to
participate in the festival. Through USAID, Jennie went to study the culinary
arts in Airfield Beach, Florida at the CM Meur Restaurant, an establishment
which owns 19 seafood restaurants in the United States.
"Just as an example that we are also recognized in the
Caribbean, the CHIC Festival in Jamaica invited me to compete in a cooking
contest," said Jennie. "This was in 1994, but we had to cover all the
expenses and at the time it was too much for us."
Elvi's Kitchen has certainly proved to be one of the
finest restaurants on Ambergris Caye and Belize. They offer exceptional service
and food through a family owned business. "It takes a lot of
dedication," said Doña Elvia. "You must really like to do it if
you want to run the business. A lot of things have changed on the island that
one must adapt to. Tourism has surely changed the way of life on this quaint
little island. People are a lot busier and always working."
During high tourist season, you might encounter a waiting line if you plan to
eat at Elvi's Kitchen, especially for dinner. But, the food is definitely
worth the wait and you may relax in the lounge area while nursing a cocktail or
beverage of your choice. Elvi's Kitchen is also brought to life with live
entertainment from local artists on special Caribbean and Mexican Nights.
Through a lot of work and dedication, Doña Elvia has proved to be another
exceptional entrepreneur in the community. Elvi's Kitchen is the proof of
A huge flamboyant tree grows right through the palm thatch roof of the sand floored dining room that was built three years ago. This is the same tree that has been watching the diners at Elvi's for more than twenty years.
Pescador Drive, San Pedro Town Ambergris Caye, Belize