The Caribbean archipelago is dotted with islands offering azure waves, sugar-sand beaches, balmy nights — and not much to eat. Some are clogged with touristy resorts; others only offer haute cuisine at stratospheric prices. Visitors to Saint-Martin, however, often discover the opposite problem: It’s impossible to choose where to eat first.
The West Indian island is actually two countries: the north is the French Collectivity of Saint-Martin, while the southern half, called Sint Maarten, is part of the Netherlands. While cruise ship passengers visit the Dutch side for casinos and nightclubs, the French side is packed with locally owned cafes, bistros, and casual beachside restaurants in a flavorful mix of Creole Caribbean and French cuisine. The area’s culinary reputation started back in 1935, when Jeanne Louise Duzant Chance and her husband, who were Black, opened the island’s first restaurant, Ma Chance’s Hide-Out, in an extra room of their home in Grand Case (pronounced kahs). For decades they entertained exclusive groups of American visitors with recipes like codfish fritters, lobster salad, Creole soup, and passionfruit rum punch, and attracted even more international attention with a 1985 cookbook.
Today, Chance’s legacy, and Saint-Martin’s famous Creole cuisine, is carried on by Black-owned institutions like Yvette’s Kitchen in the French Quarter, Villa Royale in Grand Case, and La Petite Auberge des Îles in Marigot. The rest of Saint-Martin’s restaurant scene is joyfully diverse, ranging from French haute cuisine served with exquisite views and bustling beachside brasseries, to roadside pop-ups and casual lolos (seaside restaurants that are the food trucks of Saint-Martin). From half an island full of great dining options, begin at these 18 all-stars.
Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.
Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than $15 USD
$$ = $15 to $35 USD
$$$ = $35 to $70 USD
$$$$ = $70+ USD
Maria C. Hunt, a California-based journalist specializing in cultural stories around wine, food, design, and wellness, has written for Esquire, Wine Enthusiast, Dwell, and Christian Science Monitor. She’s the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne + Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009). Follow her @thebubblygirl on Twitter and Instagram.Read More