Barbados is a dream destination for food lovers who resolve to try a bit of everything. You can go from from delicious fresh-caught fish to down-home Bajan delicacies like cou-cou, the national dish. Desserts range from spicy tamarind balls to sweet guava cheese, and it’s best to wash it all down with an awesome local drink.
Here are 10 of the best eats and drinks in Barbados and where to find them.
When in Barbados, focus your meals on fresh-caught fish such as flying fish, kingfish, marlin, dorado, mahi-mahi, red snapper, swordfish and tuna. You won’t need to hunt for a seafood restaurant; they are prolific on Barbados. Try the blue marlin “cutter” (fish sandwich) at Cuz’s Fish Shack on the beach at Needham Point on Carlisle Bay near the Hilton (a 15-minute drive from the cruise terminal).
You can also dine at the Oistins fish fry, but keep in mind that it’s only open on the weekends. This fishing town on the south coast in Christ Church — a half-hour cab ride from the cruise terminal — is the place to go for grilled and fried fish in a relaxed outdoor setting. In addition to the food stalls, you’ll find live music and vendors selling jewelry, pottery, woodcarvings and straw crafts. A fish fry also takes place each night at Baxters Road Fish Fry Village, which is about a 10-minute cab ride from the cruise terminal.
As you dine your way around Barbados, you will no doubt see cou-cou and flying fish listed on menus. Cou-cou, the national dish, is reminiscent of polenta or grits but is made with cornmeal and okra. It is served as an accompaniment to steamed flying fish. You can find this menu item at restaurants such as Waterfront Cafe at The Careenage in Bridgetown (a 10-minute drive from the cruise terminal).
Every Bajan has his or her own version of macaroni pie. This island version of macaroni and cheese is made with long tubes of pasta instead of elbows or shells and includes some additional ingredients: evaporated milk, ketchup, mustard and onion. The pie is baked and sliced and can be eaten as a main course or side dish accompanying fish, poultry or meat. You can sample a slice at many roadside stalls and restaurants like Brown Sugar at Aquatic Gap in St. Michael (about a 15-minute cab ride from the cruise terminal).
Chocoholics rejoice on Barbados because the island has its very own Agapey Chocolate Factory, churning out delicious flavored chocolate bars. Try Agapey Mount Gay Caramel Rum bars or Agapey Mount Gay Coconut Rum bars, both at 70 percent cacao. Agapey chocolate is sold across the island, or you can buy some after you tour the factory in Bridgetown.
The name “guava cheese” is deceiving because this sweet treat is not a dairy product at all. Instead, it’s a chewy, fudge-like candy that is made from the pulp of guava fruit mixed with sugar, lemon or limes, and sometimes various spices. You may see it thinly sliced or cut into small squares. These bite-sized treats are ideal for snacking, served as part of a cheese course, or as a dessert in and of themselves. You can pick up a pack of guava cheese at the checkout counters of any grocery store or market. Try Jordans Supermarket on Baxters Road.
For another sweet treat, try tamarind balls. Tamarind pods are grown on trees across the island. When the fruit is ripe, it’s picked and then the pulp is rolled into balls and dusted in sugar. While the fruit itself is acidic, these treats have a sweet/sour taste and are particularly enjoyable after a large meal. You can find tamarind balls at supermarkets and farmers markets.
Like on other Caribbean islands, the hot Scotch bonnet pepper is revered on Barbados. As such, islanders have come to rely on a hot sauce made from these peppers to add a dash of spice to nearly everything from meat and fish dishes to dips and dressings. Every restaurant will present its own version of this concoction, but you can also buy prepared sauces to take home from local brands such as Aunt May’s, Lottie’s or Delish.
Locals at roadside stands will lop off the top of a coconut with a machete for you, then you get a straw so you can suck down every last drop of delicious coconut water. It’s particularly refreshing on a hot day.
When it comes to island-style drinks, you’ve got some excellent — and unusual — choices. Spicy non-alcoholic ginger beer is sold just about everywhere. Sorrel and mauby drinks are probably the most unique Bajan beverages you’ll try. The sorrel drink is crafted by letting dried red sorrel (leafy lettuce like vegetable) seep in a mixture of water, sugar, cloves, ginger and orange zest. It’s served over ice with an ounce or two of rum and a lime wedge. Mauby is a bittersweet drink made from tree bark, sugar and water; it can be an acquired taste. Drink wisely, because mauby can have a laxative effect on first-time drinkers. If you enjoy these drinks, go to any local market to pick up some ginger beer, sorrel and mauby syrup so you can make these beverages when you get home.
If you are a rum connoisseur, you must sample some of the island’s finest. The liquor has been distilled in Barbados for more than 350 years, and some people say Barbados rum is the best — and strongest — in all the world. Start your sampling with a tumbler of Mount Gay rum at the Mount Gay Visitor Centre in Bridgetown. This brand has been refining its process right on the island since 1703. You also must try Rum Sixty Six Family Reserve. It is distilled in very small batches (usually just 112 barrels), aged for 12 years, and bottled at the Foursquare Rum Distillery in St. Philip. You can tour the distillery, which sits on the site of a sugar plantation dating back to 1636. Call (246) 420-9954 for a reservation or book through your cruise line. Other locally made rums that you’ll find in stores throughout the island include Cockspur and Malibu.