From humble roadside taco stands to opulent resort dining rooms, you’ll find delicious food just about everywhere you wander in Placencia. Tried and true Caribbean classics compete with international and fusion offerings for their place on your plate. Belize’s cuisine, just like its people and history, is diverse, dynamic, and intriguing. It’s difficult to define our cuisine by just one or two typical dishes because “local fare” can run the gamut from delicate fish soup to hearty corn tamales, to rich rice and beans, and beyond.
Our cooking has been influenced by so many cultures such as Garifuna, Mestizo, Mayan, Creole, European, East Indian, and East Asian. Placencia is a place where all these different influences and flavors come together, and we’ve gained a reputation as a foodies’ destination because of it. Wander the small village at mealtimes and you’ll be elated by the high concentration of excellent eateries, but here we will share some secret spots for you to try that usually only locals know about. Here’s how (and where) to eat like a local in Placencia.
Sometimes Great Food Just Finds You
Often in Belize, people are known for what they do or what they make. We love descriptive nicknames! Placencia-specific examples of this would be “John the Bakerman,” “Dale the Juice Man,” “The Granola Guy, Evan,” “The Donut Lady” and “The Burrito Lady” (both, funnily enough, named Ms. Reyna). Nine times out of ten you needn’t seek them out, you’ll serendipitously meet them on the street or beach or pier as they peddle their wares around the village. Locals know that the best tamales come from Southern villages and are brought in by bus each morning and sold from coolers pulled along the sidewalk on wagons. If you happen along a roaming vendor, don’t be afraid to give them a go. Favorite fare that travels well include meat pies, journey cakes, burritos, coconut crust, and panades.
Chalkboard Signs Signal Good Things
Fancy seating and flashy signage don’t always equate to the best meals. Unassuming carry-out stands and backyard BBQ joints can churn out some really delectable food too, usually at a fraction of the price of the sit-down restaurants. If you see a handwritten menu on a chalkboard sandwich sign, you’ve likely found a great budget-friendly, take-away meal option.
You can’t go wrong with an economical and filling lunch of Belizean stew chicken, coconut rice and beans, creamy coleslaw, and a bit of fried plantain. Many wooden huts scattered around the village sell loaded takeaway containers for $10bz ($5usd) at mid-day so follow the crowd of construction and office workers on their lunch breaks to find one. Mim’s is one such family-operated joint that does a rousing lunch-time business and is easy to find, directly on the main road.
Take a Stand
Hit the stands… Taco stands and vegetable stands, that is! Locals like to grab-and-go a lot of their food, preferring to save leisurely sit-down meals for Sundays at home. If you want to eat like a local, try the menu at any of our many taco stands. This is Belize’s version of fast food but everything is made fresh and to order. If you aren’t counting calories (and you really shouldn’t on vacation!), you must try a Stuffed Fry Jack. It’s similar to French-style beignets but savory not sweet. You can have them stuffed with your choice of chicken, eggs, cheese, beans, and salsa.
You should also hit the vegetable stands for fresh local produce. You’ll find plenty of your standard fruit and vegetables side by side exotic offerings and sometimes nearly unidentifiable options. Many tropical fruits that are available in Belize on a seasonal basis aren’t suited for commercial export and wouldn’t be widely available in US grocery stores. Take advantage of the seasonal abundance of Belize. Try dozens of varieties of mangos, delicate and delicious sapodilla, the sweet and tart soursop, or the small yellow craboo fruit.
Get Off the Main Drag
To find the true local hideaways, you’ll have to venture off the main avenues and explore the neighborhoods along the back of the village near the lagoon. The real hidden gems are just that- sort of hidden. My favorite little canteen and watering hole that most visitors don’t find is in my friend Myra’s backyard. Sunset Sweet Stop is a quaint and cozy open-air eatery on the sandy lane leading down to Sunset Pointe. The menu changes slightly each day depending on the cook’s whim and what’s fresh. Expect items like rich birria tacos, bright and spicy ceviche, and ginormous chicken-packed jalapeño poppers. Wash down all of this delicious food with an ice-cold Belikin, as the locals do!