Grand Turk offers authentic, laid-back dining experiences (often right on the beach) at locally owned restaurants. Island cuisine consists of fresh seafood, including conch, and comfort favorites like barbecue and fried (or grilled) chicken. And the island attitude also means that most places don’t accept credit cards, so be sure to bring cash.
Here are 10 local specialties to check out and where to find them.
One tasty appetizer is the conch fritters, fluffy fried balls that are dipped into a sauce that’s similar to Thousand Island dressing. Small pieces of conch are battered with flour, eggs and milk and then tossed with celery, peppers, garlic and spices. This dish is commonly found around the island, and Barbie’s Bar & Restaurant serves it up in a casual space with picnic tables for relaxing. The restaurant is located about three miles from the port right on Front Street in Cockburn Town. ($5 cab).
Fresh fish is often served fried with rice, plantains, salad or other sides. John’s Ocean View Grill and Bar opened in November 2014 and serves fresh fish caught daily. The prices are more than reasonable — $10 for a whole fish.
Fried snapper with fried plantains is the signature dish, but there’s also cracked lobster with salad and rice, fish filet or grilled conch, as well as ice-cold local beers and coconuts. The open-air, beachfront shack is located north of Cockburn Town, less than four miles from the port (about a $6 cab ride).
Jerk chicken is often only associated with Jamaica, but jerk has gained popularity throughout many island nations. The spicy rub or marinade is placed on meats often served with rice and beans. The Jamaican chefs at Jack’s Shack prepare the dish as well as other local menu items. The restaurant is located right on the beach, a short walk down from the cruise port. Jack’s also pours free shots of Bambarra rum — Turks and Caicos’ own blend. Simply print the coupon out from their website.
In the cracked conch dish, the mollusk is pounded, dipped into an egg batter, deep fried and served with lemons and peas and rice. Sunshine’s Restaurant & Lounge is a no-frills favorite spot that serves fabulous fried conch and other reasonably priced, buffet-style items. It is located on Old Airport Road, three miles from the port (a $4 to $5 cab ride). Be sure to arrive before 2 p.m. because they end lunch early.
Served throughout the Caribbean, rum punch is a delicious blend of three different rums (usually one of the rums is coconut), pineapple juice, orange juice, lime juice, and grenadine syrup. On Grand Turk, it is often made with local Bambarra rum. Barefoot Cabana has its own delicious version of the cocktail, as well as outdoor patio seating and gorgeous ocean views. Barefoot Cabana is a 10-minute walk from the port.
During the winter, the Salty Dawg Grill serves conch chowder, a savory blend of conch, potatoes, carrots, celery, sweet peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onions. It is located in the Odd Fellows/Eunice Lodge, building about three miles from the cruise center, approximately a $5 cab ride.
Caribbean lobster tends to be chewier and less sweet than Maine lobster, but it is prepared in some delicious dishes, including hashed lobster, in which shredded pieces are pan sauteed with onions and sweet ketchup paste. The Secret Garden at the Salt Raker Inn serves the dish with two sides, such as corn, peas and rice, or fried plantains. It also offers grilled lobster, lobster pasta and lobster bites. A cab to the Duke Street restaurant costs around $7.
Served chilled as a light snack, conch salad is a traditional dish that is refreshing on a hot day. The conch is sliced into small pieces and marinated in citrus (lime and orange juice), then it’s tossed with onions, tomatoes and peppers. It can be found at numerous places on Grand Turk, but Irv’s Café has earned a reputation as having some of the best and freshest conch salad — plus it has free WiFi for patrons. Irv’s is located next to the beach, about a $5 cab ride from the cruise port.
For a break from seafood, locals enjoy mouthwatering barbecue. Check out Doo Doo’s Rib Cage on Osbourne Street in the Mission Folly area. The hours are inconsistent, so you may need a backup plan if it is closed (Jack’s Shack also serves barbecue). However, the barbecue spare ribs, served with or without sauce, are worth the gamble. Outdoor seating is available, and it’s a great place to chat with the locals. A cab runs around $5 to $6.
Grouper is a mild, sweet fish that’s popular in Grand Turk and is best when grilled. The Sandbar serves the fish with peas and rice and also offers a grouper sandwich, with a beachfront setting to boot (no shirt or shoes needed). Cabs cost around $5. Menu prices are a little higher than at some of the other beach restaurants ($10 to $20).