Here's a quick recap of places on the island where I enjoyed eating, on a too-short recent visit. The number of fine places to eat on Ambergris is exploding. San Pedro is fast becoming truly an international food destination as well as a great place to relax, snorkel, dive and fish.
Pinocchio's, open less than a month, is attracting a local crowd and, I suspect, will soon get a bunch of hungry visitors, too. It serves authentic Italian food (the owners are from Rome), including antipasto with salami and cheeses imported from Italy (BZ$30). I love the fettucine with Italian sausage (BZ$28) -- complimenti al cuoca! Good pizza, too, from a wood oven.
Aji, on North Ambergris near Grand Caribe about 2 1/2 miles from the center of town, has delicious tapas, along with other dishes, not to mention a lovely al fresco setting on the water.
The Lazy Croc, also in the same area, serves real slow-cooked barbecue. It's open only on weekends.
With its minimalist decor and cold air-conditioning, Red Ginger could be in Los Angeles instead of San Pedro, but I enjoyed dinner. Just wish the chef would leave well-enough alone. My beautiful, tender, and huge grilled lobster tails with mashed potatoes and broccoli (BZ$55) would have been wonderful if served as nature intended rather than overloaded with herbs.
Hidden Treasure, which has been open for a year or so, has amazing ribs and a lot of other good dishes. The setting at night, with kerosene lamps on tables and lit sconces, is delightful.
I also revisited some old favorites, including Rojo Lounge and Market (always hip and fabulous), El Divino (always comfortable and friendly, with good steaks) and Blue Water Grill (best coconut shrimp in the world, BZ$22). Our appetizers at Wild Mango's also were pretty good.
Cheapest beer this trip: 12 oz. Bravo at a little cafe in Flores, Guatemala -- 6 quetzales or about 78 U.S. cents. Speakin' of drinkin', don't miss the new Traveller's Rum Museum or Heritage Center on the Northern Highway in Belize City. It's small, and free, but it's full of history and interesting displays, and you can get free samples of all kinds of Traveller's offerings.
One place I'd avoid: Warugama. It has the reputation for being a good, cheap local place. But success must have gone to its head. Its new larger space two doors down from the original hole-in-the-wall on Middle Street felt like a tourist trap. The menu on the wall doesn't have prices, which should have warned me. We learned that basic dishes such as tacos and burritos were priced at BZ$20 to $30 for lunch. Food wasn't bad, but hardly worth the prices.
ELSEWHERE IN BELIZE
A few other spots where I really enjoyed the food this trip:
Nahil Mayab in Orange Walk Town -- what a great new place! Lovely and not overdone Maya-themed decor, good service and the best ceviche I've had in years, only BZ$6 for an appetizer serving of shrimp ceviche, beautifully presented and really big enough for two.
Y Not at Tony's Inn in Corozal Town (Tony's spelled backwards, get it?) Always the best fajitas in Belize, in a pleasant, breezy bayside setting.
Patti's Bistro in Corozal Town -- where you can eat your fill of fried chicken, pork chops, stew chicken and other local dishes for literally almost nothing. What a bargain!
Barracuda Bar & Restaurant at Beaches and Dreams, Hopkins -- the restaurant was closed but Tony invited us for appetizers, which were delicious.
Bistro at Maya Beach Hotel, Maya Beach -- still one of the best restaurants in Belize, with lots of interesting new things on the menu.
French Connection, Placencia Village -- their new location next to the police station is going to be terrific. We loved the snapper and grouper. Tha-ank you!
Chef Frank DeSilva at the Inn at Robert's Grove in Seine Bight turns out consistency at a high standard. Everything is perfectly prepared, and that's something you rarely can say about a restaurant in Belize. And the Saturday evening barbecue (heaps of lobster tails, fish, chicken, shrimp and more) is unsurpassed.
Mystic River Lodge, Cristo Rey Road near San Ignacio -- one of the best jungle lodge dinners I've ever had in Belize. Another delicious jungle meal I enjoyed was at Pook's Hill near Belmopan. Here it's serve buffet style, but it's healthful, well-prepared and in bountiful quantities.
Tutti Fruiti, Placencia Village -- it's worth a trip to Placencia just to try the gelati here, the best between at least New York City and Buenos Aires, maybe the best anywhere outside Italy.
Hickatee Cottages -- we had the best breakfast on the entire trip. Kate is a wonderful cook, and Hickatee is a wonderful place to stay, at very reasonable rates.
And I can't overlook the cheeseburger and fries at Riverside Tavern in Belize City. In my book, and I know my beefburgers, this is the best burger in Belize. Even the 6 oz. version is huge. And of course the beer is fresh and cold.
Best French fries: At Pelican Beach in Dangriga. Crispy on the outside, soft and with a real potato taste inside. And the ketchup was thick, not the watered stuff you get at some restaurants.