The cuisine on St. Martin and Sint Maarten is as varied and diverse as any other Caribbean island. The small island sets itself apart, however, with classy, European trained chefs who prepare French, Italian, and other continental food in refined and elegant settings.
Culinary style on St. Martin and Sint Maarten is predominantly reflective of the strong French presence and culture on the island. French fare is prevalent even on the Dutch side. While there is little reflection of Dutch cuisine on the island, there is an influence of West Indies cuisine as Creole adds spice and flair to meticulous and crafted French cooking. The stellar French and Creole food serves as a main draw for culinary aficionados from around the world, and in fact in 2014, Conde Nast Traveler listed it as one of the top islands for food in the Caribbean. The island also has a strong presence of other international foods, from Chinese and Indian, to American and Italian.
A fun and adventurous start to sampling cuisine on the island can be at one of island lolos, which are small vendor stands along the beach that serve chicken and fish that are barbecued or grilled at a low price. With the price of importing food from continental Europe and the United States driving prices in regular restaurants higher, these shacks are affordable and satisfying options for the hungry vacationer.
Traditional French culinary items, from pastries and bread, to escargot, foie gras, and game meat are all available at the French brasseries and fine restaurants. Most restaurants also carry wine lists that have an array of fine French and European wines to accompany the rich flavors of the food.
...national dish on Sint Maarten is callaloo soup...
Seafood, such as salmon, lobster (langouste), and red snapper (vivaneau), is also highly popular on the island and is prepared in various Creole and French styles. Creole spices and flavors cater to the more adventurous tastebuds in the form of stews, curries, and items such as blood sausage (boudin). Cocunut, salt-cod, and callaloo (similar to spinach) are also heavily used in Creole cooking.
The national dish on Sint Maarten is callaloo soup made with pork cubes, chicken stock, okra, hot peppers, onion, callaloo leaves and other ingredients. This soup, in various forms of preparation, is popular throughout the Caribbean. Another popular dish is a steak done with lemon, spices, and salsa. Fried or grilled johnny cakes are also widely popular, as are pumpkin pancakes.
A few other useful Creole dining terms to know on the island are: lambi (conch), gambas (prawn), poulet (chicken), and colombo (meaning curry).
Aside from the multitude of French, Creole and Italian restaurants, there are a number of fast food restaurants (especially on the Dutch side), as well as American, Chinese, Indian and other types of international cuisine.
Customs officials in the United States allow vacationers to Caribbean Basin countries to bring back two liters of alcohol as long as one liter is locally produced by a county in the region. Vacationers to Sint Maarten should consider the opportunity to bring back some of the famous guavaberry liqueur that is popular on the island. Made from the local berry, it is popular for use in alcohol as well as desserts. Rum, popular throughout the Caribbean, is another drink of choice.
Because gourmet food plays such an important role in a vacation on St. Martin/St. Maarten, planning ahead is a must. Map out your restaurant route by looking up hotels that interest you on our intricate list of island accommodations (A to Z: Hotels in Detail). When you select a hotel, it will provide you with detailed facts about the hotel's amenities, discuss any restaurants on property, and pull up a list of restaurants directly surrounding your accommodations.
If you are interested in learning which hotels have restaurants right on site, you should also view the Best Hotels for Dining Options page. Our most comprehensive search engine for restaurants is the Restaurant Directory. Here you can seek our restaurants by name, or search for restaurants by the type of cuisine they serve.
Whether you enjoy the pomp and elegance of fine French dining, or opt for the spice and flair of Creole cooking, there is no shortage of salivating dining options for vacationers to Sint Maarten and St. Martin.
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