My favorite place to eat in Belize is Cheers Restaurant. I am a foodie, and it’s great. It is regular comfort food, not gourmet or trendy… you will love it.
Cheers Restaurant is located on the Western Highway just a few miles past the Belize Zoo, on the south side of the road. It’s about 40 minutes from Belize City. So if you are going to the zoo, or continuing on through Belmopan to Cayo or Dangriga, try to end up going by Cheers at a meal time. I have been eating here for years, and I always plan trips to Western Belize around lunch at Cheers.
I don’t know what it is about their location, but it’s always breezy there. It can be God-awful hot out, and it will be cool at Cheers. The whole restaurant is on a covered patio, so the wind blows right through.
Above your head are hundreds of t-shirts representing tour groups from years past, where everyone in the group signed the shirt. It adds to the wonderful vibe of the place. The service is friendly and prompt.
The food is traditional Belizean plus some Mexican and some American thrown in. Rice and Beans, Stew Chicken, Burritos, Tacos, Omelets, Hamburgers & Fries, Salads, Steak… it’s a large menu, and everyone will find something they like.
You might think that the Caribbean has just one style of cooking, but that would be as ignorant an assumption as thinking that every European country has the same type of foods. The cuisine of the Caribbean varies from island to island and coast to coast; you must sample a variety of different types from each location to truly get the real feel for Caribbean cooking. One place in particular that you will not want to miss out on for some unique menu items is Belize. To get us started on this trip around the Caribbean Islands for some of the best foods the Tropic of Cancer has to offer, we’ll start off with this Latin American country:
You may need some adventurous taste buds to explore Belizean cuisine. Their food is a curious mix of all ethnicities living in Belize. A common breakfast is tortillas, beans, cheese, and eggs. For lunch, natives might eat stewed beans and rice with fried plantains, scrambled eggs, and a vegetable salad to top it off (pictured above). Tacos with fish, meat pies, or stew are also popular daytime meals.
One cultural dish of Belize is the Bile-Up aka the Boil-Up. This dish is a combination of boiled eggs, fish, and if so desired-a pig tail to top it off. This meal is served with other traditional Caribbean food such as plantains.
Thanks to the European invasion at Saint Lucia, here you will find a combination of French and British cooking if you follow a visitor guide. Traditional island food is full of flavors like mango, avocado, and salt fish. Most St. Lucia recipes mix European flair with the flavors and ingredients found in the Caribbean. You will find dishes spiced with coconut milk, cinnamon, garlic, allspice, and cloves.
What Saint Lucia is best known for is probably their delicious roti which is similar to Indian naan bread and filled with meats such as beef and spices. There are actually six different types of roti to try from the Caribbean:
Dhal Puri with lentis and meat
Paratha Roti which is brushed with oil, but left plain
Aloo Roti made from mashed potatoes
Pepper Roti with plenty of hot peppers
Jamaica is known around the world for its relaxed attitude about life. The same attitude does not go toward their cooking, however. Jamaicans take their food seriously. A mix of Spanish, African, Indian, and Chinese can be found on the island. You will find dishes that include fried dumplings, cod fish, fried plantains, rice and kidney beans, and many delicious pastries. Here you will also find many tropical ingredients in most dishes including mango, pineapples, and avocado.
If there is one classic Jamaican dish you need to try, its jerk chicken or pork. To make this national dish, Scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, onions and scallions season the meat which is wrapped in pimento leaves and slowly cooked for as long as six to eight hours over a hot coal pit but a grill is just as suitable.
Your tour of Caribbean foods would not be complete without the addition of Dominican foods. Here you will find the unique mix of Spanish, African, and Taino (native) cuisine. Popular dishes include eggs and fried plantains for breakfast, and for lunch; rice, beans, meat, and a salad. Dominica offers flavors not seen in other parts of the Caribbean, as the foods are less tropical and rely heavily on meats and starches.
A favorite dish, Mountain Chicken, is actually just fried frog legs with several seasonings (thyme, garlic, and pepper) and further cooked in thick gravy.
On the Virgin Islands, you’ll find a mix of spicy and hearty foods with a tropical flair. Strangely, many of the foods are imported. The locals prefer the taste of foods from lands afar. You will find many tropical-inspired dishes, but most of the ingredients will be imported from other lands. This leads to a mix of foods that many Europeans and Americans will find familiar, such as hamburgers, soups, and traditional meats and side dishes.
There are many different types of dishes to try from the Virgin Islands, but one you probably have never heard of is dumb bread, sugary bread that is often served with cheese.
As you can see, the foods eaten in the various Caribbean islands vary greatly from island to island, country to country. The experience of visiting each place and sampling traditional foods is a fun and exciting way to explore the history and culture of each unique location. Trying a variety of foods is one way to explore the beauty and magic that is the Caribbean islands.
Our guest author is Lindsey Mcmahon. She likes to travel, play and read in her free time. Her interests are entertainment, traveling, parenting and health but she is constantly extending her field of view to incorporate interesting news suggested to her by her readers. If you like her writing, make sure to follow her on Twitter.
This post has some great eating advise if you’re heading down to Belize (from fellow Belize blogger LORENZO GONZALEZ.) My favorite part of it was this bit. How true:
Rowdy and crowded places equals good food
Locals tend to gather around the restaurants they love the most. Follow the noise – hearing people laugh loud, curse in Creole and gossip about their day might not be your kind of thing but it typically spells out good food.
The Garifuna people are descendants of Carib, Arawak and West Africans. Today the Garifuna live primarily in Central America along the Western Caribbean coast of Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras, and on the island of Roatán. In the United States, many Garifuna people live in Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Chicago.
Our island cooks are all Garifuna women. There is a dish called Hudut that you can order in Garifuna restaurants in Belize. I order it every chance I get. We don’t serve Hudut on our adventure tours in Belize, but I’m thinking maybe we should. This savory stew is AMAZING.
Hudut is a fish stew made with coconuts, onions, garlic, and thyme, and usually served with mashed plantain. I just found a blog post that gives very detailed directions for how to make your own Hudut, including how to make coconut milk from coconuts (which is the first step). If you have the time an inclination, please make some and let me know how it turns out!
We have owned and operated a Belize adventure company since 1986. Our Belize private island, Long Caye at Glover’s Reef, is very remote. Because of this, we can’t sell rooms by the night, the boat only goes 2 days a week. So our packages are all inclusive, and we also include hotels and meals in Belize City on each end of the island trip.
For the last fifteen years at least we have taken our guests to the Chon Saan Palace after coming off of the island. IMO this is the best restaurant in the city, and I have tried almost all of them, since we live there part of the year. To call it Chinese food doesn’t do it justice, since there are so many mediocre Chinese restaurants in the world. This is the best Chinese food you have ever had. It’s fresh, the recipes are fantastic, there are many, many choices for the vegetarian and carnivore alike. I have taken groups of thirty people there so many times. Everyone loves it. And the service is excellent. It’s a locals restaurant. If you are in Belize City, take a cab to Chon San Palace. You won’t be disappointed. Or call them up, they also deliver!
One of the wonderful things (among many) about having an island resort in Belize is discovering the food of Belize. Many years ago I discovered a wonderful Belizean dish: Dukunu. We don’t serve it on the island because it is too labor intensive : ( But at a locals Belize City restaurant, like Ceni’s, you can sometimes find it.
Dukunu is a fabulous dish! And you can make these marvelous corn packets at home using this recipe. Residents of New Mexico will be particularly interested as it is similar to, but also very different from tamales, a staple in New Mexico.
Dukunu is usually vegetarian, which is one of the reasons I love them since I don’t eat meat. It is not made of masa, but of roasted and ground corn kernals. Also, it uses coconut milk. This corn mixture steamed in corn husks was a favorite of the ancient Mayans of Belize.
6-8 ears of corn, shucked
1/8 cup of water
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 T. of melted butter
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. sugar
corn husks, soaked in water
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Soak corn husks in water. Use 1 T. of butter to coat the ears of corn and then wrap each ear in foil. Place wrapped corns on a baking dish and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes until soft. Slice corn kernels away from the husks. In a blender or food processor blend the roasted corn kernels and water until fully ground. Add coconut milk, 1 T. butter, salt, sugar and baking powder to corn mixture and blend well to combine all ingredients. Put 1 – 2 tbsp corn mixture in each corn husk. Fold the sides of the husks in toward the center and place in a steamer. Steam for 30 minutes.
We have a fantastic menu serving Belize food and other great recipes out on the island. I am the one responsible for the menu (with many suggestions incorporated from guests and staff alike), so I LOVE all of the food we serve as a result.
I can state that my favorite meal on the island, hands down, is Fish Tacos. I could eat them 3 times a week, they are that good.
The reason they are so good (besides the tortillas being freshly made and the fish being freshly caught) is the secret sauce. Charlie Woodward, one of our managers, is responsible for this gem of a recipe. And now I am going to publish it right here!
All you need is 3 ingredients: cilantro, freshly squeezed lime juice, and mayonnaise. Use 3 parts mayo to 1 part lime juice and 1 part finely chopped cilantro. Mix them together to the consistency of a salad dressing.
For fish tacos serve the taco ingredients buffet style (each person makes their own taco) with tortillas, fried fish, slivered cabbage, chopped tomato, onion, and bell peppers, grated cheese, and cooked beans. Pour the secret sauce over your taco and enjoy!
Usually, the only time a tropical island in Belize makes the news is when a hurricane hits (a rare event) but last week, when Discovery Channel’s new series, Alone In The Wild, featured TV celeb Jason Gardiner stranded alone on a Belize island for 5 days, it became a news story. Apparently, a highlight of his experience was finally catching and eating a fish after failing to do so for five days. Happily, you will experience no such deprivations on Adventure Island as our kitchen features a down-home, made-from-scratch cuisine that our guests rave about.
Years ago a guide trainee, whose name escapes me now, was on the island for a couple of weeks. He was a super guy but never did come to work for us; he didn’t quite have enough experience. Much of his work history was in the restaurant business.
On one of his last nights on the island he made this chicken dish that everyone flipped out over. I got him to write it down, and we have been serving it ever since. I even tried to take it off the menu once, to substitute Jerk Chicken because it is a more regional dish. Our Belizean staff begged me to put this back on, and take Jerk Chicken off, so I did.
Toby Chung joined us on the Adventure Island at Glover’s Reef trip in January of 2007. I remember him because he came back with these incredible snorkeling photos that are still on our Belize snorkeling page. The other day, after I posted the Lime-Rice recipe, he posted a request for this recipe on our Belize island Facebook page. Four and a half years later and he is still thinking about this meal!
We serve this dish with mashed potatoes. The marinade is so good that we hold some out for the vegetarians for their potatoes. I am a vegetarian, so I can say for sure it’s fantastic as a ‘gravy’. So, by popular demand, here it is.
1 cup water
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey
1 T coriander
1 T cumin
1 T oregano
½ T chili powder
1 T garlic salt
1 T paprika
1 T thyme
½ T black pepper
3 whole chickens, cut into pieces
1 14 oz can stewed tomatoes
½ cup water
Whisk all marinade ingredients in a bowl, same some marinade out for mashed potatoes for vegetarians. Pour the rest over the chicken and marinate 1 hour. Remove chicken from marinade, place it on baking pans and brown 15 minutes is a 425 degree oven. Turn oven down to 350 and bake ½ hr. to 45 minutes until done.
While chicken is cooking, put the marinade that you pulled the chicken out of into a frying pan and add tomatoes and water. Bring to boil, thicken with cornstarch or thin with water to make a nice consistency. Pour this sauce over the chicken to serve.
Our Belize island menu is extremely popular… every trip at least 3 people tell me to publish a cookbook. This just never rises to the top of the list. I think instead I’ll just put them on the blog, a few at a time. This is a VERY simple, VERY good recipe!
Serves 3 – 4
¼ cup minced onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T. vegetable oil
2 cups white rice
4 cups water
2 T. fresh lime juice
½ cup of chopped, fresh cilantro
Sauté onion and garlic in the oil until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir until well coated with oil. Add the water and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and stir. Reduce the heat, cover, simmer without stirring for 15 – 17 minutes. While cooking make the fresh lime juice. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice and cilantro. If you don’t like cilantro, just leave it out, it’s still fantastic.