St Martin this spring [moved from International board]
I know March is still a little way away but I wanted to post early to maximize good chowhound recommendations! Our family is renting a house on the french side of the island but will have a car and is more than willing to explore any corner of the island. Any and all price ranges, also recs on grocery/gourmet stores appreciated. Thanks!
I just returned from St. Martin yesterday. I have been going there for the past 23 years and, like many, have my favorite resturants and spots to recommend. Top on my list is L'Alabama in Grande Casse: http://www.lalabama.com/ More on the pricey side and worth every penny. Also located in grande casse ( for good crepes and desserts and less pricey is California. Another favorite, also pricey, is Chanticlaire (in the marina in Marigot) mostly for their dessert which is called the Un-namable dessert. It is an experience! I was sad to hear upon my visit that Rainbow has closed their doors for good - it was always a favorite both for food and view. As many of the restuarants on my "must" list were closed this time around(out of season) I was forced to try some others and one that I will certainly return to is Marrakech:
http://www.sxm-marigot.com/marrakech/ .Tropicana in the Marina in Marigot is always a favorite as well as Don Camillo in the same location. Ask for Enzo's special salad (not on menu) to start. Another excellent Italian restaurant in Sandy Ground is Mario's. There is a good creperie in the marina but a new one I discovered this trip around is right before the parking lot for the ferry going to Pinel on the left side of the road right after the pharmacy (sorry - I forgot the name (La Bretonne, maybe?). Speaking of Pinel - going to Pinel is an absolute MUST!! The ferry is about $6 per person - or you can rent a kayak and paddle your way there yourself. Pinel is the closest thing to paradise as one can experience. Very shallow, calm waters for floating - beach chairs available and 3 restaurants now - Blue, Yellow, and now Orange. Bring some sandwhich bread and feed the gentle, sweet angle fish who will swim between your legs and follow you around as you crumble bread into the water for them to eat. If you don't want to eat at the restaurants ( a little pricey for lunch) you can pick up a sandwhich from a truck in the parking lot. We are talking sandwhiches on a baguette (ham & chesse - turkey, etc) for ahout $6.
Venure into Phillipsburg, if you must, but you will have to fight the mobs of tourists from the cruise ships. It is a good place to go, buy some lace doilies if you must, and get out quickly. If you want jewelry - there is plenty in Marigot. The only worthwhile restaurant I know on the dutch side is Piccolo which used to be on the french side. Oh yes, and for a cheap but good meal -on the dutch side - Johnny Under the Tree - great ribs and island food and very cheap. Mostly you want to pick this up and eat at home.
If you are traveling with children you may want to take them to the Butterfly farm near Oyster Bay. There is also horseback riding by there as well. One last thing- sorry I am rambling and not in any sequence but I keep thinking of things as I write - if you like the rum most restaurants will serve you gratis after dinner - there is a small place called Ma Dou Dou up the hill on the road on the right just before the parking lot for the Pinel Ferry. Beautiful hand painted bottles - great spices and gift items as well. You can also buy these flavored rums in a lot of the markets but buying directly from the Ma Dou Dou shack(also called a factory but really a cute little shack) is more fun and cheaper! Most of all - have a great time- which you will because you are going to a tropical paradise! If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me.
marcib... thanks for the info as well. I just returned this past week and I will be out there in November for my partner's birthday who is attending school on the island. I plan on bringing the kids for the summer in June-July 08, they are both young girls 9 and 7. You mentioned Pinel Island.... is that a good place for kids as well? Also, do you know of any other placed to take the kids. My kids are not really high maintenance, they love the water and can swim for hours and they love to hike on trails. St.Barths looked a little more for adults. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
I posted this last week:
One more hint would be a day trip to Pinel Island. You take a quick ferry from cul-de-sac and there's a restaurant there that they litterally pull the lobster out of the ocean when you order it. it's supposed to be amazing. Good snorkeling too. We were unable to check it out because the ferry boat co. was on strike but that can't last forever. Enjoy!
I second Bistro Caraibes and Sol e Luna.
Also in Grande Case Le Pressoir who has the best Ti punch.
Slightly off the beaten track in Mt Vernon, is Poulet D'Orleans, chicken (of course!) and fish in a tiny house. What could be better?
Go to Marigot on market days and eat at Rosemary's (they have Tony Bourdains' NYT piece on the back of their menus)
la samanna hotel- beautiful setting, amazing food $$$$
can't go wrong with cheeses, baguettes and wine from any of the french grocery stores. don't bother with anything on the dutch side at all- shopping, restaurants, grocery- not even worth the trip over.
sunset beach bar for great frozen drinks, live music and greenflash at sunset
bliss next door- most beautiful outdoor 'club' overlooking the ocean. my favorite place in st martin, and i'm not a club person. great espresso martinis.
cafe calmos, grand case- fun for drinks in lounge chairs on the beach. le almondine (or some name similar) nice patio around little pool- great spot for leisurely lunch with a bottle of rose.
grand case is great- barefoot beachside casual, but wonderful food, wine and little shops. enjoy!
Since you have posted this there have been several similar inquiries listed that should help. As one poster mentioned you can't go too far wrong in Grand Case. Be sure to keep Tuesdays in mind as a day to either avoid or target GC depending on your preferences. They have their street fare there every week and you can get some street food as well as listen to local musical entertainment. Parking can be a challange there on Tues and if you want to hit the town for a nice gourmet treat I suggest going on other nights when its less crowded.
The Lola's are a good place for cheaper fare such as ribs, chicken, Carib, Johnny Cakes etc. Sebastianos is great for Italian, very fancy and you will spend a lot of money there. La California has some nice french food as well as pizzas etc. If you show up early enough you can get a table right on the water. Ask them for some olives while you have your first drink and peruse the menu. Also L'Alabama on the street side away from the water is a very nice place for french style gourmet food.
Just walk up and down the main drag and read the menus and pick a place based on what you see on the menu.
Heading in to Margot your best bet is Marina Royale. Its off the main area and if you ask someone they can direct you there. Basically if you are walking west from the main part of town, look for the circle with the Pelican. Go left here through an alley cross the street after coming out of the alley and walk between a few of the buildings where you come out into the Marina. Don't worry its safe. This area is a small "U" shaped collection of docks lined with nothing but restaurants. There are probably 10 restaurants all within 2 minutes walk of each other. The one I like is I believe Belle Epoque. Also St. Germain is very good. I have been there primarily for their famous French toast in the morning, but I hear they do good dinners as well.
Back at that Pelican circle, heading back in the direction of Grand Case there is a place a short distance along the road on the right that used to have a lobster special on Tuesday evening if you don't want to go in to Grand Case that night. Also along the right is a nice bakery that has outdoor seating under a rooftop canopy where you can get the classic croissants, various other French pastry delights as well as sandwiches etc. Of course you can get the croissants at many places all over the French side, you just have to keep your eyes open.
These are only a few of the places I remember. If you want more detail go to www.traveltalkonline.com. They have a St. Martin chat board. You can get the scoop on what's open, what's not, where the latest good places are and where the deals are. All you need to do is start reading this board daily around Jan. By the time you are ready to leave you will have more restaurant info than you will be able to use during your stay.
I will be there for the entire month of March staying in Grand Case and am about a 10 yr. veteran of the island. Send me an E-mail if you want more details on non food items.