The Belizean Cayes have three seasons: summer, conch, and lobster. Conch runs from around October through May; lobster, mid-June through February; and summer, all the time.
Just our luck, we were in Caye Caulker early June — the only time of year when nothing is in season. But we still ate well on Caye Caulker, finding caught-that-morning fish, juicy grilled chicken, and delightful snacks from bicycle vendors. In Caye Caulker, dining is not for the sunscreen-slathered tourist, but is rather a peek behind the curtain into the everyday lives of those who’ve never called anywhere but the Caye home.
Upon disembarking from the water taxi, we picked up these plantain chips from a vendor at the dock. Light and crisp, drizzled in a tart mango-habanero sauce.
Chinese immigrants have made their mark on Belize, and have Caribbeanized their food for the local palate. China Town Palace Restaurant’s fried rice has a touch of spice and curry, and is best accompanied by Belize’s famed Marie Sharp’s habanero hot sauce.
We enjoyed lunch at Bambooze, where the beach sand is the floor, and they serve up comforting plates of homestyle Belizean food. The fresh-squeezed lime juice was delightful and not to be missed. I gobbled up my red snapper with plantains and Belizean beans and rice.
The S.O. isn’t too keen on sweets and pastries, but he couldn’t get enough of the pineapple upside down cake being peddled by the bicycle vendor toward the northern end of the Caye, below the split.
Our favorite place on Caye Caulker was, without a doubt, Terry’s Grill. His lunchtime location is on Front Street about a block south of the split. Dinner starts at 5:30 pm, and is served out of a light-violet two-story house on Back Street, a block south of Sea Dreams Hotel — you have a beautiful view of the sunset, as you’re now on the West side of the Caye. His jerk chicken is phenomenal. Ask him to not hold back on the heat for a perfect punch of spicy, salty, and herbaceous that takes on a smoky, caramelly, complex flavor after cooking over hot coals. Meals come with Belizean rice & beans and cole slaw at lunch, or sticky-sweet caramelized plantains at dinner. Everything is cooked to order, so it can take a while — plan ahead. Terry is an awesome chef, but an even better guy. We ended up sitting at his place for about four hours one night after dinner, talking and laughing with him and a few of his friends. When we left, our golf cart taxi went past his house, and he ran outside to wave good-bye.
I also fell in love with this tamale guy. Savory chicken tamales in that custardy Central American-style dough. Find him roaming up and down Front Street.
Pizza Caulker, run by a personable Canadian ex-pat, was our last meal on the Caye. We had to leave our graffiti alongside everyone else. Try their habanero pizza sauce with an ice-cold Belikin.