More than 400 restaurants are found within the tiny dual nation that is St. Maarten and St. Martin. In just 37 square miles, dining options range from casual Caribbean fare to fine French cuisine. Many eateries line the shore at Simpson Bay and Maho Bay on the Dutch side, and there are plenty of quaint Parisian-style bistros around Marigot harbor.
From baguettes and Brie to barbecue and beer, one can taste the best of French St. Martin and Dutch St. Maarten in a day. Here are some of the island’s best restaurants and specialties to check out.
Grand Case, 30 minutes by taxi from the port, is home to many “lolos” (small, open-air roadside joints lined in a row). Local Caribbean specialties make up the menus, and prices are reasonable.
For less than $10 you’ll get a heaping plate of grilled ribs, chicken or fish with sides of rice ’n peas, macaroni and cheese, and provisions (usually steamed cabbage, carrots and the root vegetable christophene). To choose the best stand, look for the longest line — it’s a great way to gauge. It might take a bit longer to get your order, but it will be worth the wait.
Taloula Mango’s Caribbean Cafe is a touristy spot fronting Great Bay Beach, a 10-minute ride via water taxi from the pier. The crowds come for Gouda sticks (instead of mozzarella) with marinara sauce and jerk-chicken quesadillas. The upstairs Blue Bitch Bar has rum that’s custom made for the watering hole. The more blue martinis you sip, the better the live calypso music sounds.
Have a post-Orient Bay beach snack of delicate macaron cookies, crepes and other flaky French delights at Sarafina’s Bakery on Marigot’s Rue de l’Anguille, a 20-minute taxi ride from the port.
The nautically themed SkipJack’s Seafood Grill, Bar & Fish Market on Simpson Bay is a top spot for seafood. The restaurant has its own fish market, where you can pick out a local spiny lobster (called langouste) from the morning delivery and have it grilled and buttered to perfection.
Head to Le Ti Provencal in St. Martin’s Grand Case area for upscale French cuisine featuring local Caribbean fish and sweeping ocean views. The dishes are a spin on the classics, like warm fish salad, which uses locally caught trunk fish prepared in a spicy red sauce served with al dente pasta. For a special treat, try the tiramisu made with rum or the homemade ice cream made from a traditional French recipe with fresh produce from France. And be sure to make reservations by calling the restaurant ahead of time.
St. Maarten’s own guavaberry liqueur is an interesting invention. Buy an $89 per person day pass to the all-inclusive Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa (a 15-minute cab ride from the pier) and sip as many cocktails made with guavaberry liqueur — from daiquiri to colada-style — as you can handle. Also, soak up the booze with wood oven-fired pizzas, paninis and more at any of the four restaurants; then grab beach chairs for an afternoon snooze. It’s all included in the day pass.
You’ll find many fellow cruise mates at the Barefoot Terrace Restaurant on Philipsburg’s Cyrus Wathey Square boardwalk enjoying an island breakfast of salt fish and johnnycakes or kicking back with a cold Carib beer, a plate of conch fritters and duty-free shopping goodies. The prices are right, and it’s a short walk from the ship. It’s touristy, but the food is tasty.
The Sunset Bar & Grill’s claim to fame is its location — just feet from the Princess Juliana International Airport’s runway. The menu offers standard favorites (burgers, fries, etc.), but visitors mostly hang out at the rollicking bar chugging $3 shots and watching jumbo jets roar overhead as the DJ’s reggae and soca sounds are drowned out.
Aux Vins, etc in Marigot’s Port Royale Marina is a chance to experience France without the transatlantic flight. Thanks to daily incoming 747’s from Paris, the owners can serve simple yet gourmet lunches of charcuterie, foie gras, fragrant cheeses, fresh bread and delicious wines.
With a name like La Croissanterie, the specialty is obvious. On your way to Marigot’s harbor for some shopping, stop at this Port Royale Marina bakery (74 lieu-dit Port La Royale) for melt-in-your-mouth homemade croissants, both sweet and savory. Don’t forget a demitasse of steaming espresso to put a pep in your step.