Did you know that St. Martin is often described as a gourmet capital of the Caribbean? It is not a huge surprise to those who have already paid a visit. With direct connections to France (a global cuisine capital itself) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, it is naturally influenced by European cuisine. And with the amazing foods and ingredients readily available, it is little wonder that travelers can sample impressive foods while visiting.
Of course, the many different cultures of this Caribbean island, which is actually two separate constituencies or collectives (depending on the nation), ensure that the food is going to be one of the most unique “fusion” cuisines available.
Perhaps nowhere is the amazing diversity of St. Martin’s cuisine seen than in the “lolo”. With a remarkable history dating back to the plantation period on the islands, these establishments were once homes and shops belonging to former slaves that slowly transformed into food stands, restaurants and bars that serve authentic Caribbean specialties.
They are always very small, often on the beach or alongside the road, and they are completely causal offering picnic tables and disposable plates and cutlery.
As one expert wrote: “the lolo is a small traditional restaurant where you can taste the flavors of the local cuisine.” This is why it is of the utmost importance to do a bit of planning, ask around for suggestions, or just go out and sample the lolos of St. Martin on your holiday.
Visitors to Isle Blue can discuss the latest trends and “hottest” spots with their concierge, and make arrangements for a visit during the day or evening.
What can you expect when you dine in one of the lolos of St. Martin? It is going to be unlike the gourmet and four-star establishments, but you may see some remarkable similarities. Fresh ingredients, locally sourced are the main focus, but these will be prepared in different ways, depending on the individual lolo. Beef and pork ribs are hugely popular, along with chicken, fish and even crabs that are available at the many different spots.
The focus of most “plates” will be the fantastically grilled and barbecued meats. The typical plate will also include a few “sides” and these can vary quite widely. You will see salads of many kinds, pasta salads, rice and bean dishes, pasta dishes, and coleslaw. One thing you also have to sample with each lolo is the “johnny cake”. This is a staple of Caribbean cuisine and you can have it fried or baked. It is a yeast bread that is often shaped like a large biscuit, and is much heavier or denser than a white flour bread. It can also be made with some corn meal as well.
Finding the Lolos
You will find the most famous lolos in Grand Case, on the north side of town and close to the public parking lot. The “biggest” names are Sky’s the Limit, Au Coin des Amis, Rib Shack, and Talk of the Town. You will also want to sample the smoky meats of Pedro’s at Orient Beach and also Johnny B Under the Tree in Cole Bay.
Grand Case has many others, and some are tucked together in the outdoor market areas, with up to six under a single roof. The color of the table tells you which restaurant or lolo you’ll order from, and this may be a great way to spend a day – sampling the “cheap eats” that may become your new favorites. Most offer a full plate with at least four side dishes for no more than $15 per plate, and beer for just a dollar or two more!