Katherine Lee of Mom's Triangle Inn & Restaurant, by the bridgefoot in Belize City, long ago
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February 21, 2022

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Photo of Mom's taken in 1978. Clientele was always a mix of locals, Peace Corps and vagabonds. After they closed down Matus Brothers opened their store there. Photo by Alan Jackson

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Katherine Lee of Mom's Triangle Inn & Restaurant, by the bridgefoot in Belize City, long ago

Mom's Triangle Restaurant was world famous; travelers of all nations passed through enjoying a hot brew of coffee, pancakes, waffles, burgers and her delicious rice & beans.

Am quite sure many of us, especially the older generation remember this famous Belizean Restaurant. She used to sit at a table by a window so she could see the passersby. Moms was also a base for mail, deliveries and phone calls for foreigners living without those services. And a great watering hole for food and chat. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas time she normally would put balloons on the tree and with your purchase you get to burst a balloon, there was prizes of food or cash written in them.

The next three paragraphs by Ray Auxillou

Sue Williams on left, her daughter Lisa on right. Sue Williams worked at Caves Branch Jungle Lodge For many years. Lisa Williams Macias also opened a sort of branch/reopening a few years ago in San Ignacio near to the Red Cross building on the main Boulevard!

Sue's mother Katherine, immigrated to Belize back in the late 1960's as I recollect and had a restaurant down by the Swing Bridge in the port of Belize City, where scattered immigrants and pioneers used to gather, particularly on a Saturday for breakfast and lunch, after a grueling trip from the boondocks to the only big city in the country of those colonial British Honduras days. 1970s and 80s, she was right where Dollar Shop is now, Miss Merls and Miss Damclam used to work there. It was here, old rural friends used to meet, after a day of shopping in the only large town then, on a Saturday morning. Sue's mother was a hardy crusty old soul, who arrived in Belize with her son, who had built a tri-maran sailboat, in California. They both sailed down to the Panama canal, went through it, and came up the coast of Central America and ended up in British Honduras flat broke. They started a restaurant called Mom's restaurant. Jim Black, her son, started a marina on the Northern highway, a couple of miles from the then, much smaller port town.

The older lady eventually died, the son eventually died, and Sue was the runner of the restaurant. It was a famous meeting place for at least 15 years or so, for pioneer farmers, Mennonites, plantation builders, parrot smugglers, marijuana smugglers, cash hungry Southern evangelists with their crusades, logging people and a host of oddball eccentrics passing through. Lisa, Sue's daughter, on the right in photo, used to go with me when she was about 4 years old, to stay with the Auxillou girls on Caye Caulker, a trip in those days made by sailboats, with an island village of no electricity. Eventually, rental prices in the port town for the restaurant got higher and higher, and eventually the restaurant was closed as uneconomical, as the port town expanded and grew. Sue went back to the USA for a few years, but gave up trying to make a living there and returned to Belize with her baby child Lisa. Sue has worked at Cave's Branch tourist place for years now and has a few acres across the Southern highway in the bush, inherited when her brother Jim Black died. Lisa has babies of her own, growing up in Belize and is an entrepreneur of some sort. She has also been in and out of the restaurant business, once or twice. True Belizean immigrants and salt of the Earth types. Rugged and determined going back to the history of colonial British Honduras times. You don't get more Belizean than this old British Honduras family. Four generations of them have lived, or died and survived in PARADISE. This was when pioneering in a wild untamed wilderness was the real thing. Sue & Lisa truly added to the diversity of the Belizean community. Lisa still lives in Belize.

Right behind Central Drug Store. It’s a convenient (corner) store now. The little space behind Central Drug store is a small parking space/ food vending location. It’s private property and it doesn’t look like that at all. Photo courtesy Eddie Joseph.

Mom’s, a fixture in Belize City. An ole jolly likable person, always with a cigarette in hand but always ready to serve any and every body - at her cafe behind Central Drug Store at the southern approach of the Swing Bridge. Sweet lady! Good breakfasts. One of my favorite restaurants! The best pancakes, the best waffles and the best beef hamburgers, loved the milk shakes and Johnny cakes! Great conch soup! Enjoyed this place back in the 70's, right by bridge foot, just past Central Drugstore, at the end of Water Lane, in a building used to be called The Triangle. It was named the triangle as three partners got together and opened the business. She moved from by bridge foot to Gabrouel Lane and Handyside Street in the 1980's. She had a hotel upstairs and in the back. I think the building burnt down. Mom's also opened a pizza shop on King Street for a while in the early 1990's. Loved the ruggedness of the place and the fact that Mom's wasn't prejudiced everyone's dollar was green. Moms started out at a Home Ec teacher at SCA before she opened the restaurant. I remembered thinking that she loved us students at SCA and Belize so much that she decided to stay. We WERE very good students! We would stop there, eat have belly full then go movie's or dancing for the night. And early morning rice and beans after the dance. Best biggest fifty cents buga in Belize in the era. Jenny the waitress did a good job of serving us our food on time too.

She also had a restaurant at the entrance into Corozal Town, coming from Orange Walk, in the trailer park, at least by 1970. Her two grandsons attended St Joseph School back in the 70s. Before Belize became a tourist destination, Mom's Restaurant was one of the places American backpackers (many of them hippies who traveled through Mexico) frequented. There was a mid 1970s magazine article on Belize which mentioned her and the restaurant.

Once dad, a sister and I went to the city. We decided to have dinner there. It was always good. We were hungry the helper was a distant off cutting onions and she literally had us crying. But she kept on. Finaaaally the chicken soup came. We were sóoo hungry. At the third spoon dive into the soup I literally brought up a big fat roach from the bottom of my dish. My sister said throw the roach out and keep eating. Dad Said no. We called and showed them. She took the dish and brought me another soup. Who knows could have been the same one. But the soup was good. I can't believe we kept eating that soup.

Mike Weller: Probably Not on purpose but, Mom's seemed to have attracted more foreign back-packers as clients. Ever inquisitive, I decided to walk in one day and was pleasantly surprised with the courteous service.

Jerome Straughan: I felt the same way Mike. I think in term of Belize City we can construct what I call a "perception index" with places like Moms, Fort George Hotel, Bellvue Hotel, Royal Bank of Canada, Barclays Bank and so forth on the high end (access and good reception). Our perception of some of these places were definitely warranted (based on who you are), once we walked in there. But there were some like Moms where we had the wrong view of the place.

Alan Jackson: I remember Mom’s Triangle Inn in Belize City. When I was a new Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize, and before I very contentedly settled in with a Belizean family that provided for all of my needs, I ate lunch with a few other Volunteers almost daily at Mom’s. The chicken sandwiches were good, the burgers were good, and I’m sure that the rice and beans and stew chicken were good, but I hadn’t yet developed that life-long habit. Mom’s clientele was eclectic: locals, European backpackers, American expats, British soldiers, and vagabonds of all sorts. The restaurant’s big screen door that opened onto the heart of downtown seemed to slam shut behind people coming and going almost constantly. I did not know at the time, but “Mom” was from Pomona, California, my hometown. Here is a newspaper article from 1979 about Mom’s Triangle Inn.

Leisa Carr-Caceres: It was the very first place we went to eat in Belize City when we arrived to Belize! Whenever we went to Belize City we would go to either Mom's or Gon's.

Marsha Trent: Sue once stayed with me and over our veranda breakfast related stories of her Mom and her starting the restaurant along with Her brother who owned Anchor Marine on the northern hwy...She had enough stories to make a book! Action Belize was the name at Blackline Marina.

Mike Heusner: I was a regular there, sampled all the items on the menu plus some specials. I remember some of the other regular customers. Mom, Sue and Jim were special people, three of the best "expats" for Belize. Sue still going strong.

Daniel Meighan: Mom's was one of the only place you can get a good Belizean Breakfast and more back in my time. A Fixture in the Jewel. Mom's visited Belize and didn't want to leave. used to stop by and had some good dialogue with the situation in time's. She was quite a pioneer

Eva Buhler: Lovely lady and source of good information for us newcomers in 1976.

Nancy R. Koerner - Junglepixiebelize:Here we were in a foreign country, far from anything familiar. And to have a place like Mom's? And have it be NAMED "Mom's?" She was respite for the weary. Mom always had a good joke to go with a good story, and a good meal. She had HEART and HUMOR. Mom's was everybody's mom, a place of food and comfort to all of us gringos, who were otherwise "mother-less."

Mom cooks 'em up just like home

EDITOR'S NOTE: Her name is Katherine Lee. She hails from Pomona, Calif. But to U.S. travelers to Belize City, she's just Mom, who dishes out the best home cookin' south of the border.

Belize City, Belize (AP)

Word is out in this Central American city —"Eat at Mom's."

Word has traveled along the hippie underground and the word of mouth Michelin that well-heeled travelers use. Just what is Mom's?

Mom's Triangle Inn is a little corner of Main Street USA plunked down in this city that is built on stilts against future and remembered floods. It's also a Mecca for backpackers, penniless entrepreneurs with big ideas, and bank-rolled wheeler-dealers who are said to close million-dollar contracts over plastic plates piled high with Mom's roast beef and mashed potatoes smothered in brown gravy.

There is a real American mother, plump and powdered, behind the restaurant in a cavernous corner building that looks like an abandoned airplane hangar.

Not many folks in Belize City know Katherine Lee's real name — "I only use it when I sign checks." Mom likes it that way.

She is, to most all who know her, a comforting senior citizen somehow at home in a strange and exotic backwater. "My outlook about this place is simple. I'm an old woman and I cook. I put the two together and came up with a restaurant called Mom's. I've got more friends here than I ever had in the States. I've done a little bit of everything — run a grocery store, been in nursing — and I'm having more fun now than I've ever had. They'll probably bury me here, but I hope it isn't for a while yet."

Her cheery pats on the back and good grub make strangers feel at home and old timers feel secure. At 68, Mom can relate to both.

"Ten years ago I quit my job in a hospital in Pomona, Calif., uprooted the past 30 years and went sailing with my son on his boat. We spent a year going around Central America and were headed for Florida. I never got there."

When she got off the catamaran in Belize City, Mom had $50 and a few clothes. Today she has the restaurant, a big 200-year-old house with handpainted china plates and needlepoint pictures on the walls.

In between the then and now lie several hundred 16 hour workdays.

"The first few weeks I was here I picked up some bookkeeping jobs," she recalled, sipping her third cup of morning coffee and waving as each new arrival wandered through the screen door.

"I'd been an accountant in the States and back in 1970 nobody here knew how to keep books.

"I got a little room to lay my head and met a group of young feilas who hung around together, about 15 boys ranging between the ages of 20 and 50.

"They started calling me Momma, and once in a while I'd cook for them, things they missed like hamburgers. They badgered me to open a restaurant. So Mom got silly."

A cafe owner who had to leave town owed Mom some money so she took over his lease and $200 in inventory and paid him the $17 difference. She was in business.

"I started out with hamburgers and rice and beans. The place's reputation spread, and gradually people started showing up from everywhere — New York, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Indianapolis, little villages in France. The locals started coming in for breakfast. See that table over in the corner? Millions of dollars have changed hands over there. At least that's what those guys say."

"So far I've been able to pay my girls every week. We may have been two days late, but we got the payrolls out."

Belize's chronic power outages, exorbitant customs duty on groceries and generally poor sanitary conditions have posed many a challenge to the great grandmother born in Michigan.

She's coped with daily blackouts and hurricanes by keeping the freezer closed to keep in the cold. She sometimes has to scrounge to dig up bottled butane gas and enlists patrons for emergency electrical work or plumbing. She's only had two robberies in eight years, "not bad" for Belize.

She doesn't serve steak because it costs too much. But if venison is available, she has it. The menu also features fried chicken, fresh lobster at $4.50 per dinner, pancakes and eggs for $1.25, and fresh, safe milk from the country's Mennonite dairy.

The next four paragraphs by Ray Auxillou


Monday, January 4, 2010

LISA, the proprietor of MOM´s Restaurant and she is the third generation of the Williams family to have a MOM´s Restaurant in Belize, over the past 45 years. Anyway, Lisa with a bunch of kids of her own, organized a Christmas Party for the poorer kids of the TWIN TOWNS out here in Western Belize. She got some volunteers, donations gifts and wrapping paper and generally herded a lot of volunteer people together to make it happen. The Christmas party expected to cater to 300 to 400 young children, with each being given a present

SURPRISE! SURPRISE! Somehow around 600 and 700 children showed up with their parents. Hopefully there were Christmas presents for each one. Yet to find that out! There was a Santa Clause and what I saw on the local TWIN TOWNS ¨"PLUS TV" local cable TV channel on the PANDY SHOW it seemed like all the children got a present. I could see LISA moving around keeping things moving on the video.

For a couple of years we had a Salvation Army family out here in the TWIN TOWNS, but the last couple of years they seem to have disappeared, which is disappointing. Without the SALVATION ARMY we don´t really have any organizational stuff like this Christmas Party here, and it is needed. MOM´S RESTAURANT is on the boulevard of the by-pass road, just past Sacred Heart College on the opposite side, going around the center of San Ignacio Town side of the Macal River, which divides the TWIN TOWNS of San Ignacio and Santa Elena Town.

Santa Claus greets each child with a present.

Children at Xmas party 2009-10

Eating area for children at Mom's Restaurant Christmas Party

Lisa got some financial backing from expats living in the area and just opened her restaurant venture early in 2009. Her MOM ( Sue ) had another such restaurant in the port of Belize City, until rising rents forced her to keep moving away from the downtown business center and eventually she went bankrupt. Her mother´s mother, Lisa´s grandmother, ran a MOM´s restaurant, the first Mom´s Restaurant at the foot of the SWING BRIDGE in the center of the port of Belize City on the coast, for several decades until she died. The old lady, Lisa´s grandmother sailed from California in a homemade 30 ft tri'maran with her son, Jim Black, back in the 1960's down the North and Central American coast, and came through the Panama Canal eventually ending up in what was then the colony of British Honduras. The son´s name was Jim Black and he eventually bought a piece of river bank and dug it out and built a marina, which he sold in his old age and retired to a citrus farm on the Hummingbird Highway. While his mother built and ran the famous MOM´s Restaurant of those decades. Sue her daughter grew up there, as did her daughter Lisa. All of this early expat USA pioneer family to British Honduras enjoyed dual citizenship. They just could not fit into the lifestyle of the USA. It cost too much for one thing up in the states, besides being overregulated, expensive and crowded. This LISA, with the THIRD MOM´s Restaurant, now out Western Belize are a relatively famous local pioneer frontier family. Mom´s restaurant has always been a favorite of the expat crowd particularly, locals and Mennonites. Often they were the only good restaurant in town. They also were a center of rural gossip, a place to park things you bought on your trip to town when shopping, before returning to the outer jungles, farms, ranches and offshore cayes. I remember it always as a place to catch up on gossip of people in remote areas of the country, pioneering in what back then, were really primitive conditions. It was always great fun though and fond memories. If I had to live my life over, I would do it all again.

Here's a story about Mom's...

by Nick Pollard

There was one place I really liked and that was Mom's Triangle Restaurant which many years before her was known as The Triangle Store just at the corner near to Central Drugstore, the foot of the Belize City Swing Bridge, Water Lane and Regent Street West. Mom's Restaurant was the place to be... hot brewed coffee, pancakes with eggs and bacon, waffles with bacon and cheese – my favourite or delicious oversized beef burgers. One afternoon I went to Mom's for lunch and sat alone; I don't know how it happened but just like in the movies, someone pointed me out to two young white guys. They came and asked to join be and I gestured it was fine. They complimented Mom's Restaurant and told me they heard that the diving at Glover's Reef was great. I assured them it was – elaborated a bit about our yacht the Laughing Bird. And then it happened, they told me that they were interested in shipments of marijuana. At the beginning of the late 1970s, marijuana gold had become a big business. They wanted me to get people to dig a large hole somewhere on the northern end of Long Caye and stock the sacks in there until we had a plane load. They would organize a sea plane to land there and pick up the shipment. They assured me that there was millions of dollars to be earned over time. Eventually I ended the meeting by telling them I had absolutely no interest in the deal. They said no more, got up and left; I asked for my bill, paid and left. Once I was outside of Mom's Triangle Restaurant, I had time to stop the shaking of my legs and figure out how to proceed. Rumours had reached me that DEA agents were spying on the Lomonts from across Middle Caye to see if he was moving drugs. I was in a predicament where I could not tell Gill about my meeting and neither could I speak to anyone. I had a gut feeling it would be a sting operation. About three Saturdays later we had a full house of divers to take to Glover's Reef. I had purchased all the supplies from early in the week and we loaded the Laughing Bird on Friday. All we had to do now is load suitcases and miscellaneous equipment the divers brought. By eleven o'clock those two GM 671 Diesel engines were rolling over and our engineer was ready. What happened next was the most embarrassing incident as the Comptroller of Customs Mr Telford Vernon came down to the boat with his Cockswains and informed Gill that Customs would be conducting a search of the yacht. I tried to act indifferent to all that was going on; Gill did not ask any questions and neither did I approach him. The only way sacks of marijuana could have been stocked below deck was during the night when only the engineer and two crew men stayed on board. After a thorough search, the Customs officers came up empty handed. It was a good feeling that the sting had failed. By mid-day, all the guests were on board, ropes were let go and the Laughing Bird rolled out from the Customs Wharf at the Fort. It was very important for Laughing Bird to leave not later than mid-day because the run from Belize City to Long Caye, Glover's Reef was normally six hours. With calm seas Gill could pull in at Long Caye not later than 5:30 p.m. I never saw those white guys again at Mom's Triangle Restaurant and neither did Customs conduct another search. Gill never discussed the sting with me....never did and neither did I.

Francis Paul Ripp: I took some tourists to Mom's and they could not believe that I would eat there. After breakfast each had a little Belize in them and admitted they were wrong, they all cleared their plates.

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