Eating Well, on the Cheap, in Barbados
Going out for dinner (or lunch, breakfast, or brunch) ranks fairly high on my list of favorite leisure activities. For those willing to do the leg work, there are usually deals to be found (my personal favorite lately being the weekday lunch deal at NYC's cozy trattoria Posto, on 18th and 2nd--two slices of thin-crust pizza and a soda for $5, but I digress.)
Alas, while Barbados offers an impressive selection of truly fine dining across a wide diversity of cuisine (except Chinese--don't even think about it. Chinese or Mexican.), across the board, there's a justification for higher prices because just look at that view!
Oh, hell, we're on vacation! We deserve to treat ourselves!
That, plus the high cost of importing many specialty ingredients, leads to the average entree at Barbados' better restaurants costing between $30 to $40US each. Combine that with appetizers priced not all that much cheaper, a bottle of wine, and desserts far exceeding New York prices, and you're in for a hefty bill. To be clear, most of the time, it's worth it. I've had many memorable meals at most of Barbados' restaurants. I'll write about them sometime soon. However, that's not what I'm going to write about today.
Today is about how to eat well, cheaply. It does exist in Barbados, but you need to look for it (or just read this post). Because unless hardened Cheez-wiz and chemically-produced "ham" within a "croissant" (and I use both terms loosely) are your thing, you're gonna need to steer clear of most behind-the-glass quick fixes. So whether you're looking to spend a week eating in Barbados on a budget, or are just looking for a few alternatives between the formal meals, here's the list--my tried-and-true favorites:
To-Go, or, Takeaway
Cuz's, Pebbles Beach
Frankly, I'm not sure how to spell the name of this...shack. I'm only pretty sure it's spelled this way, but it's of no importance. Pebbles Beach is a beautiful stretch of powder-soft sand and crystal-clear water, facing due West, just north of the Hilton. Take a beach break, stand in line with the locals, and order a fish cutter or a "bread and two", a salt bread bun stuffed with two fish cakes, from this stand at the northern end of Pebbles. You'll pay about $4US, and if you add a cold Banks, knock it up to a staggering $5.50. My friend Rob was all too delighted to pay $9 for three beers, and even more so to learn that was $9BDS.
Update: I have confirmed the spelling, and also reconfirmed my love of the fish cutters, as evidenced through these photos taken on my most recent trip with this specific post in mind:
Pastry Box, Quayside Center
Though their sandwiches are tiny, they pack a punch and are made with real ingredients (as opposed to whatever it is they serve behind the glass at the coffee shop across the parking lot). Owned by an Italian restaurateur (he also has a stake in Tapa's, another one of my favorite restaurants) and serving primarily sweets (as the name suggests), their savory selections are what keep me coming back. The options change day by day, but tasty options like spicy coppa sandwiches with shaved parmesan and miniature pizzas are a couple of my favorites. Each item is between $2 to $4US each, but you'll need a few to fill you up. Grab a couple to eat in the car (or on the beach) during your island excursions!
Spartan, Worthing Main Road
Made to order, delicious Greek gyros on-the-go. Actually, their menu has expanded to include staples like fish and chips, salads, etc., but I haven't really paid that much attention because the gyros are the real star. Spartan operates out of a small space on Worthing Main Road, and is take-out (take-away in local vernacular) only. Shrimp, lamb, pork, chicken, and even tofu are all options to fill your delicious warm pita with (I can only vouch for the chicken), plus homemade tzatziki, lettuce, cucumbers, other really yummy things, you get the idea. We eat here at least once a week. Sometimes twice. Sometimes lunch, sometimes dinner. Order your fries extra crispy. The pink sauce they come with is a-ma-zing. Call ahead or have a Banks beer on the picnic table outside while you wait. Best part? The gyros, like Mama Mia's paninis, fall in the $6 to $10US range. Two gyros, an order of fries, and two Banks--take-out for two for $20US.
Mama Mia, Main location on Hastings Main Road. Second location in Wildey, serving lunch only.
I can't say enough about good old Mama. She's a lifesaver, what with her authentic imported cheeses, salamis, prosciutto and pastas. So many lunches, sometimes eat-in but mostly take-out, have been consumed by yours truly from Mama Mia. Their list of paninis is varied (my favorite's the Country: grilled pancetta, fresh melted mozzarella...some other ingredients but does it really matter after those two?), and cost about $6 to $10US. I've often taken my visiting friends and family there to stock up before an island tour. Lights strung beneath the enclosed outdoor terrace create a cheery, casual ambiance for dinner, too. Share a pizza, share a pasta, get a bottle of the house wine, and you can get out the door for about $60US for two. A bargain on the island.
Dina's Bar & Cafe, Bathsheba
Bright pink and purple painted deck overlooking the pounding surf that's characteristic of the rugged East Coast. Menu items written on a whiteboard following the sequence of colors in the rainbow. Sixties hits piping through the speakers. What's not to love? Dina's location alone makes it the perfect spot to stop for lunch during an island tour, but the fact of the matter is Dina's food is the heart of the operation. Bajan food reigns here, with generous portions of staple sides like Barbados' famous macaroni pie, rice and peas with gravy, grilled vegetables, etc., served alongside your meat of choice: fresh mahi-mahi steaks the size of a softball and cooked perfectly, pork chops with plenty crackling to go around, grilled chicken, and so on. Dina also believes no lunch should be served without a side salad, so count on that, too. Four of us had lunch here, with maybe 3 or 4 beers apiece, and our tab came to something like $25US each. Well worth it for the portion sizes and quality, not to mention, yes, the view. And the 60s hits.
Bonus: Dina's accepts Visa, MC, and Discover cards--a rarity for these beachside casual joints!
Daphne's (for lunch), Payne's Bay, St. James
Okay, it's not necessarily cheap. But it IS a good deal, if you're going to treat yourself, so I'm including it here. Daphne's, an Italian restaurant on the West Coast with a counterpart in London, offers a two-course lunch special for $40US. The portions are large enough that if one person in your party orders an appetizer, and the other dessert, you'll essentially be treating yourselves to a three-course lunch for much less than dinner, plus, you actually get to admire the shimmering Caribbean Sea in all her glory. And, of course, the food's goooood.
The list is not exhaustive (the fish fry at Oistin's comes to mind, but there's so much written about that already). Just a few highlights you may not have come across otherwise!
A few snapshots of Dina's: