The Best Restaurants in Belize

A number of influences combined to make Belizean cuisine what it is today. Sample Creole chicken stew in Belize City, Mestizo tamales or escabeche on Ambergris Caye, Mayan fish in San Pedro, Garifuna hudut in Hopkins, or Mayan caldo in Punta Gorda. Here is a list of the best restaurants in Belize to sample it all in.

Pescador Dr, San Pedro, Belize
Before I went to Belize, anyone I spoke with who had already been told me that I had to have a meal at Elvi’s Kitchen. What started out as a take-out burger window in 1974 eventually became a sit-down restaurant serving lovingly prepared Caribbean dishes such as conch soup and fritters, mojo de ajo, fried green plantains, and street corn. During high season you might have to wait in line to eat dinner at the restaurant, but most of the time, there isn’t much delay. Save room for dessert. Elvi’s Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Middlesex, Belize
Driving in any direction on the Hummingbird Highway, it would be hard to miss this white shack surrounded by cars, in a small clearing immediately next to the road under the shade of a very large tree. Ms. Bertha’s Tamales has little signage, but no signs are needed for locals. Everyone knows about Ms. Bertha Lisbey and her tamales. They are said to be the best in Belize. One of her spiced, gooey chicken-and-corn tamales is a perfect break. Pair it with a hot sauce she has been making almost as long as the tamales, and a cold soda in a glass bottle.

Since Ms. Bertha is now 75 years old, some days it is her daughter who’s the one serving loyal customers and first-time visitors, drawn by the stories that you’ll hear in every corner of the country. The small shack can serve hundreds of tamales a day during peak season yet each one is prepared with the same attention and love. Everyone sits on benches, patiently waiting their turn. There aren’t many places to stop along the Hummingbird Highway, but that’s not the only reason you shouldn’t pass by Bertha’s without turning in. Make sure you stop.
#2 trigger fish street, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
In San Pedro, a town on Belize‘s northern island of Ambergris Caye, the Mestizo traditions are strong. The Mestizo people are descendants of the Maya and the Spanish, and when those two cultures mixed, a new one was born. You’ll find many Mestizo people in San Pedro, but you’ll hardly find a better Mestizo restaurant than El Fogon, a spot owned by a local woman known as Miss Suzanna and run by her daughter. All of the food is cooked in a traditional outdoor oven (fogon means “kitchen hearth”), and everything is delicious. Try the salbutes, a tacolike dish made with fried tortillas, with a texture that’s somehow both soft and crunchy, or the pig tail with split peas. And the coconut rice is to die for.
Maya Beach, Placencia, Belize
The Maya Beach Hotel’s bistro is hands down one of the best restaurants in Belize—in fact, it’s been named Belize‘s restaurant of the year not once but twice. The food is a French spin on traditional Belizean fare, and the outdoor seating area is right on the beach, just steps from the Caribbean Sea. Order the coconut shrimp (served with a spicy mango sauce) and the roasted pumpkin-coconut-green chili soup to start, and lobster grilled cheese (with cheddar, brie, and brunoise) or layered veggies (roasted potatoes, onions, and plantains with a tomato vinaigrette and jalapeño-tofu aioli) for a main course.
90 Albert Street
Bird’s Isle, a staple on the Belize City local dining and socializing scene, is just five minutes south of the noisy downtown along a waterfront, with an open dining room that enjoys breezy views of the dock and the birds hovering nearby. The kitchen serves Belizean Creole dishes and seafood as well as burgers. A lively crowd of locals flocks here for the daily lunch specials—especially Tuesday’s beef soup—and in the evenings, you can expect a crowd for happy-hour deals and a fun atmosphere. Thursday is karaoke night.
Baymen Ave, Belize City, Belize
Belizeans have been known to drive to Belize City for the sole purpose of eating Sumathi’s Indian food. Not only is the authentic Indian cuisine worth a trip, the long-running restaurant’s lunch buffet is also one of the best deals in Belize City. The menu includes everything from curries, kormas, biryani, masalas, and dosas to mango lassis. It’s also a solid bet for vegans. Sumathi is set off the beaten path on a residential street and has a spacious interior as well as an outdoor veranda.
1st Floor Vista Building, Philip Goldson Hwy (Northern Highway), Belize City, Belize
Belizean cuisine includes a healthy dose of Middle Eastern influence, thanks to the small but established Lebanese community in Belize. If you’re on the hunt for authentic shawarmas, kebabs, hummus, and gyros, the tastiest and most affordable versions you’ll find are at Sahara Grill. The restaurant, across from the Best Western Biltmore, might not look like much from the outside, but that quickly becomes a distant concern once you dig into one of the flavorful platters.
Placencia Road
Placencia’s best sit-down local restaurant is located smack in the heart of the village. Wendy’s is a favorite with locals for its hearty breakfast—fried eggs with refried beans and tortillas—before work or before heading out on a sun-and-sea excursion. The restaurant is also a solid choice for lunch and dinner, and is reasonably priced for the wide variety of dishes it offers, like quesadillas, sandwiches, burgers, pastas, beans and rice, and seafood. The walls are covered with local art, and the spacious veranda offers views of the comings and goings along the village’s main road. Wendy’s rarely closes and seldom disappoints, in food or in service.
Guadalupe St, Orange Walk, Belize
Just as taking in some of the iconic sights—Mayan temples and rivers—is a must for visitors to Orange Walk, so is stopping for a meal at Nahil Mayab. The restaurant, the name of which translates to “House of the Maya,” is owned by a respected Orange Walk family. The garden restaurant serves a variety of typical Mestizo and Caribbean-inspired dishes in an inside dining room or outside on the patio under an umbrella. Sample the popular tacos arracheras (skirt steak), the pork salpicón (a chopped hash that’s an Orange Walk specialty), fried fish, quesadillas, or a variety of burgers, salads, steaks, and pasta. The atmosphere is casual and lively, particularly on the weekends, when many Orange Walkeños gather here to catch up.
North Rd, Hopkins, Belize
One of the most convivial Garifuna dining spots in Hopkins is run by the entrepreneurial Tina, born and raised in the village. Sample local dishes, such as the breakfast fry jacks, and Tina’s Garifuna hudut—snapper simmered in a seasoned coconut stew, with a side of mashed plantain. You’ll also find a variety of surprising daily specials, including curries and lobster cooked several ways, and small bites like quesadillas. Locals come in and out all day. There are Friday evening Garifuna drumming sessions in the open-air thatched restaurant.
1 Sittee River Road, Hopkins Village, Belize
One of Belize’s top chefs runs this beachfront restaurant at his resort, Parrot Cove Lodge, in Hopkins Village. In addition to its lovely alfresco atmosphere, you’ll enjoy a fine-dining experience that’s hard to find in Belize. Chef Rob’s four-course menu is made with locally sourced products of the day, and the menu is updated depending on what he found that day. Multicultural dishes, inspired by Maya, Garifuna, and Asian cuisines, include Thai-style pork, and shrimp and coconut soup. Reserve ahead with your preferred date, as tables tend to fill up quickly.
One of Caye Caulker’s best beach bars is also its friendliest. Set right on the Split—a narrow channel dividing the island’s north and south portions—Caye Caulker’s most social corner invites tourists and locals to gather for a swim off an extended dock, or to enjoy a cocktail and music. Lazy Lizard’s recently upgraded look includes a variety of umbrella-covered wooden picnic tables, seating under palapas, and a new beach extension with steps leading into the shallow sea areas for easy entry. On the menu, you’ll find typical bar bites: burgers, fish tacos, and full meals like a lobster plate. The bar holds occasional full-moon parties, live music, family-fun days, and beach volleyball tournaments.
Placencia Sidewalk
Barefoot Bar is a place that’s known for just that: bare feet. Located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, Barefoot is a Placencia staple where locals and visitors mingle, drink, and eat great Belizean food. The bar is known for the lobster grilled cheese—a huge grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with catch-of-the-day lobster. Buy two: one to eat now, and another to bring home for later. Barefoot also makes perfectly crispy salbutes, which are a great tacolike light lunch to go with your $3 drink special.
No visit to Ambergris Caye is complete without an afternoon at the Palapa Bar. Situated at the end of a dock surrounded by turquoise waters and cool breezes, Palapa Bar attracts a mix of locals, travelers, and some of the coolest bartenders on the island. On a warm day, eschew the barstools and opt instead to float in inner tubes beside the dock; you can even have cold buckets of Belize’s Belikin beers lowered down to you. In addition to beer and standard cocktails, fun creations like Scotty’s Palapa Punch (three different types of rum, triple sec, mango, pineapple, and a squeeze of lime) offer some island-inspired refreshment. Up in the palapa, recommended items from the menu include sausage dip, pulled pork sandwiches, and the immense half-pound burger. Palapa Bar is 1.5 miles north of town and easily reached by golf cart, taxi, bicycle, or water taxi, which drops you right off at the dock.
Beachfront, Barrier Reef Dr, San Pedro, Belize
Blue Water Grill is an open-air restaurant right on the beach in a quieter end of San Pedro. Simple and rustic in its decor, with wood walls and colorful paintings, it’s a space that allows the food to be the star of the show. Breakfast features good, predictable Belizean favorites such as fry jacks and scrambled eggs with beans, but dinner is the real attraction. The crispy fried pork dumplings with hoisin peanut sauce, served over an arugula, hearts of palm, and daikon radish salad, was my favorite dish, though the Mongolian-style ribs, the bacon-wrapped filet mignon, the key lime pie, and the crème brûlée were also delectable.
Just across from the bus station in Belmopan, on Market Square, is the welcoming Caladium Restaurant. Serving locals and visitors since 1984, it was the first dining room in town to offer take-out service. The main room is adjacent to a gift shop where traditional Belizean art and crafts are for sale. The menu favors local dishes such as chicken with rice and beans but international options like sweet and sour pork are also available. Fresh-squeezed juices from watermelon, tamarind and papaya are available, as are imported beers and soda. I was glad I saved room for the flan, which was perfectly balanced with a caramel sauce tinged with just a hint of liquor. Breakfast is served in the morning beginning at 7 a.m. and lunch is available from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
2 Marine Parade, Cork St, Belize City, Belize
This tiny breakfast spot is tucked next to the Great House Inn, across the street from the Radisson Hotel. Inside, you’ll find all manner of Belizean breakfast staples, both sweet and savory, for next-to-nothing prices (a whole loaf of delicious banana bread will run you approximately $2). Try the fry jacks, which look (and taste) like fried clouds. Guests of the Great House Inn are treated with complimentary breakfasts from this spot.
San Ignacio, Belize
Rolson’s Hotel and Restaurant is high on a hill, overlooking the town of San Ignacio, not too far from the ruins of Cahal Pech. The restaurant’s tables are mostly outdoors, and the view provides a wonderful backdrop to meals that showcase the best of Belizean and Mexican cuisine. My favorite was a chicken burrito drowning in cheese and salsa. I also thoroughly enjoyed the horchata, fresh-squeezed lemonade and michelada. At happy hour, Monday through Friday between 5 and 7 p.m., the michelada is a welcome refresher. Wireless Internet is available, making Rolson’s a great place to get some work done while enjoying wonderful food served with a smile. The longer you linger, the merrier the atmosphere becomes, as locals seem to favor enjoying a late dinner on Rolson’s breezy patio. Dinner is served from 6 to 10 p.m.
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