People dining at NOLA restaurant


(Picture courtesy of Nola Bayou Bistro)


The Culinary Capital Unfolds



St. Maarten is called Culinary Capital of the Caribbean because an already great Caribbean cuisine was further amplified with ethnicities from all over the world expanding tastes, mixtures and fusion cuisines. In a summary, we have to brace ourselves, but let us treat you to a first glance at culinary secrets you will not find beyond our shores (a list prone to have a sequel soon).


1. A Schnitzelhouse Schnitzel

A Czech family bringing the most appreciated Austrian dishes to a Caribbean within the Dutch Kingdom? If all of this sounds exotic, get used to this list – St. Maarten did not for nothing earn its title Culinary Capital of the Caribbean. Austrian raised Czech David founded Schnitzelhouse close to the Philipsburg Boardwalk in 2023, and his centrally located kiosk on Front Street is the only place in the Caribbean where you get this true taste of Austria (Tip: Don’t ask for sauce, Austrians -Czechs not per se- take this as an insult, but have it the true Austrian way, as served). If you still got space, add a Kaiserschmarrn. This specialty is the delicious Alpine way of making a (sort of) “imperial” pancake. Keep space for this delicacy and give up on finding this anywhere else in the Caribbean.


2. Alligator Bites at NOLA

So a United States insider might have already guessed NOLA stands for New Orleans. What you might not have expected when overlooking their stylish terrace on the Simpson Bay Lagoon, is the true Louisianan inspired menu. And that means Alligator is on there too. Take a unique chance to sample this dish in the Caribbean. But in case you considered swimming the day after, note these alligators are imported – St. Maarten does not have alligators, neither does the lagoon or our 37 beaches!


3. A Johnny Cake at Carl & Sons

Don’t try to get the recipe out of the Housen family running Carl & Sons at  Philipsburg Pondfill Road – many have attempted. Only the result matters: Carl & Sons’ version of national St. Maarten delicacy “Johnny Cake” is much appreciated and available at a very affordable price. Like the many St. Maarteners’ standing in line at Carl’s for this and various other breakfast and lunch items on offer, understand a “Johnny cake” derives from “journey cake” and is historically intended to be consumed on the road. Having said that ages after its invention, Carl & Sons has an excellent terrace overlooking Philipsburg’s main artery and the Great Salt Pond to enjoy this local delicacy to the fullest.


4. Dutch “Haring”

St. Maarten is first and foremost a Caribbean country, but its historical ties with the Dutch have brought some North Sea oddities to its fridges. Whereas some European countries are appalled by Holland eating “haring” (herring) raw,  consuming this fish well out of its waters in the Caribbean is even more special. But with  Amasterdam and The Pier both serving haring throughout most of the year, you understand there is demand for this Dutch delight – once you get the acquired taste, you are hooked. Whereas other Dutch Caribbean islands Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba and Statia (St. Eustatius) might also offer this treat, all will have to acknowledge the best Dutch Haring needs to be consumed as fresh from the source as possible, and that in the Caribbean only St. Maarten is geographically closest by to its North Sea point of departure.


5. A Deliberately Unknown Ital Taste at Ital Shack

The good thing about offering a meal only once and not a la carte, is that your customers can only have it as a unique, not to miss experience. At Ital Shack, there is only today’s special. Add to that the “Ital” way of cooking – the special natural guidelines the Rastafari movement prepares its food with, as well as decades of experience, and no more should be said why many believe Joe’s Ital Shack is a gem amongst St. Maarten cuisines.


6. Three St. Maarten Craft Beers

When we talk about tastes you need to get from the source, craft beers are one of them (though many St. Maarten craft beers are exporting abroad). Pelikaan Beer can be enjoyed right from the draft at Sea View on Philipsburg’s Boardwalk and Dutch Blonde Beer at its namesake Dutch Blonde Beer Bar next door. The SXM Beer brewery, café and visitor center is in Cole Bay; as is Pelikaan’s Beer Garden.


7. Topper’s Rhum Banana Rum (and others)

Starting as a home made dessert extra for visitors at famed Topper’s Restaurant, Topper’s Rhum had a humble beginning as a must-taste Banana Rum. Nowadays, the brand exports to the United States and beyond, was decorated #1 Caribbean rum in the same country in 2023 by USA Today, offers a distillery tour and comes in many tastes. No need to say “only on St. Maarten” and to underline the importance of tasting this when on island!


8. Aziana’s storied Babi Pangang

There might be some more Indonesian restaurants in the Caribbean, but none bringing the standing of the St. Maarten Wong family. Philipsburg marina’s Aziana restaurant was founded by the latest generation, looking beyond Indonesian cuisine towards its multi-cuisine specialty Asian fusion. Many begged however to keep the Wong family recipe of traditional Indonesian Babi Pangang on the menu – and its result is awaiting you.


9. The Best Spices of India

Ask a St. Maarten resident where on St. Maarten to get the best Indian food of the Caribbean. Many will point you at a small family restaurant in Maho Village called Spices of India. Booking a spot in advance is much needed, as you are not the only one with this idea on any given evening. A must taste when on island.


10. Lebanese Twice

For a small country with a great cuisine, Lebanon is well represented on St. Maarten / St. Martin with Beirut and Al Pasha. Both Simpson Bay restaurants on Welfare Road offer the best of the cuisine the “Paris of the Mediterranean” has to offer in the Caribbean.


11. Last but not Least: Caribbean Lobster

Lobster is amongst the most appraised seafood in the Caribbean. Chic Holland House Beach Hotel’s Ocean Lounge Restaurant brings you this regional signature dish in a way that was even featured in the 2023 St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association USA Today Campaign.





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