By Lena Katz
Though some visitors seem to subsist on nothing but rum during their Bahamas vacation, I strongly recommend eating something, sometime, somewhere … for your own health, please! Here’s a brief introduction to Bahamian food and some good places to get it.
Conch, pronounced "conk," is a large, chewy shellfish. Locals love it any which way: fried, cracked, frittered or even raw in a salad. They swear it has powerful aphrodisiac qualities, particularly when raw. If you test this, remember it doesn’t always sit easily in more delicate American stomachs.
Grouper, snapper and pompano are three of the tastiest Bahamanian fish. Locals eat them boiled with grits, deep-fried, grilled, stewed and “smuddered” in fresh tomato, onions and hot sauce.
Souses and stews are always popular, made with anything from fish and chicken to goat and pig. Yes, that does include snouts and knuckles. Order with caution. Hot sauce is the favored condiment — the hotter, the better. Unless Mexico’s hottest habaneras frequent your stomach, once again, eater beware.
When you ask Bahamians about dining out, the first thing they’ll say is “FISH FRY!” Every island has its own version. On smaller islands, it’s just a backyard shack where fresh fish go from an ice chest onto the grill, and then are served up on paper plates. In Nassau, it’s larger and a little more formal. An open-air mall with a bunch of little restaurants and food stalls, plus live music on the weekends. You can order fresh grouper, crack conch and cold Kalik beer for a fraction of what it would cost in a Bahamas hotel.
If you want something just a tad more upscale, I like the Poop Deck, a popular local seafood restaurant with two locations. The crack conch, peas & rice, and gravy here get the thumbs-up, and the atmosphere is breezy and nautical. In fact, the Yacht Haven Marina branch is located right on the harbor.
For that special occasion, once-a-year dinner where you’ll splurge on the French wine and have the waiter take your picture, I recommend Graycliff. It’s not flashy or news-making, and it’s even a bit out of the way, but this is the Bahamas’ culinary crown jewel. It serves five-star cuisine in a stunning mansion that’s nearly 300 years old. And it’s a great place to indulge your inner wine snob — the cellar holds 250,000 bottles. Graycliff even has its own brand of house-rolled cigars. Gentlemen, wear a jacket here, and leave your Tommy Bahama sandals back at the resort — the atmosphere is old-school formal.
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For more on travel writer Lena Katz’s favorite places in the Bahamas, check out her Orbitz Insider Podcast.