Every Caribbean island has its own take on local cuisine: Anguilla’s barbecue joints rival that of America’s celebrated southern cooking, Jamaica has a delicious tendency to go jerk-style on any meat dish, and St. Barts serves up world-class offerings for cafe-goers. But we’re not calling any of those places the culinary capital of the Caribbean. That title is reserved for Grand Case on Saint Martin, home of the best restaurants on the island—and for our money, in the entire region.
Call it Saint Martin or Sint Maarten—this island in the northeast Caribbean is split in two, with a French side (Saint Martin) and a Dutch side (Sint Maarten). The difference, in a nutshell? The latter is where the party’s at; the former is where the best eats are found. Peppered with imported chefs from the mainland, the French half of the island sports a special blend of traditional Caribbean food with a les Français twist. What’s more, most of that unique cuisine is found in the small town of Grand Case.
What makes Grand Case a better dining option than any other Caribbean town is the sheer amount of gastronomic talent within just a few blocks. “It’s like being in Paris with the level of food and then you’re right on the beach in this old, charming French fishing village,” says Alexander Britell, self-proclaimed foodie, and founder and editor-in-chief of Caribbean Journal.
Don’t bother eating elsewhere but on Boulevard de Grand Case. There are enough options that you can try a different gourmet restaurant each night on Restaurant Row—and make sure to leave a little room for something a little less formal too. Your satisfied stomach will thank you.
Here’s why all the best restaurants in St. Martin are in Grand Case:
Break Bread at High-End French Restaurants
There are no fewer than 15 gourmet restaurants lining either side of the boulevard, and at least 40 dining options in all. Standouts like Le Pressoir and Le Soleil routinely top “Best Restaurants in the Caribbean” lists. The depth of quality dining on this one street is what sets the town apart. “There’s nowhere in the Caribbean that has a better, larger concentration of world-class restaurants in one place than Grand Case,” Britell says.
Why you need to go: Chef Franck Méar is regarded as a culinary genius. Housed in a 19th century beach house and serving creative French cuisine, Le Pressoir is a relatively new addition to Restaurant Row. Opened in 1995, it climbed the ranks quickly, named 2016’s Caribbean Restaurant of the Year by Caribbean Journal. Le Pressoir’s combination of gourmet food, hospitable service, and peaceful ambiance makes it hard to beat, even on Grand Case’s famed foodie strip.
What you need to eat: Slipper lobster
Le Pressoir is at 32 Boulevard de Grand Case
Why you need to go: Charming and contemporary, a location on the ocean side of the boulevard affords 82 seating with views of one of the island’s best snorkeling spots, Creole Rock, and neighboring island Anguilla. Pro tip: Beat the crowds by arriving around 2 pm, shortly after lunch rush. Ocean 82 is one of the few upper-echelon restaurants on the strip that serves all day.
What you need to eat: Braised lamb shank cooked 24 hours with white wine, honey, and rosemary, served with fettuccine and green asparagus.
Ocean 82 is at 82 Boulevard de Grand Case
Why you need to go: Tastevin is the quintessential Grand Case hotspot—it’s right on the beach, hip, and sleek. Start with a glass of wine or a tropical cocktail, then try and decide between one of many creative (and unexpected) options. Try the tuna tartare with lemon flakes and pineapple syrup or the beef cheeks ravioli with red wine and forest mushroom sauce, and finish with the roasted pineapple and rum crunchy pastry with vanilla ice cream and orange sauce. Tastevin isn’t flashy, but it’s an institution. It’s classic French cuisine and beachside dining at its finest.
What you need to eat: Pistachio mousse
Le Tastevin is at 86 Boulevard de Grand Case
Stop in at Casual Creole Lolos with Locals
Interspersed along the main road is a collection of local food vendors serving quintessential Creole food like grilled fish and accras, fried balls of dough mixed with salt-fish, spices, and green onion. These little eateries are called lolos, and they’re informal and delicious. They’re small, open-air restaurants found on the side of the road or right on the beach. And in Grand Case, there are tons of options. Strolling the waterfront, you’ll find no less than six lolos bunched together. Local favourites include Sky’s the Limit, Rib Shack, and Talk of the Town. They serve lunch, but your best bet is to visit at night, when the streets are bustling with locals and tourists. Order lolo specialties like barbecue chicken or ribs, grilled lobster, or red snapper. For dessert, try a jonnycake, the local version of the donut. No matter how many classy, haute meals you consume in Grand Case, you’ll be missing out if you leave without visiting at least one lolo.
Celebrate With a Stroll Down the Boulevard
Believe it or not, there’s more than just food to experiencing Grand Case like a local. During high season, Boulevard de Grand Case turns into a small-format Bourbon Street once a week. From mid-January through early March, Tuesday nights are for Les Mardis de Grand Case, where the street is closed to cars and open to the town’s many tourist visitors—mainly American and French—for one big party. A local twist on New Orleans’ Mardi Gras-style celebration, the events are a display of local culture, arts and crafts, music, and yes, food. Weekly parades feature musical acts, dancers, and local artisan pop-up stands, offering a figurative taste of the local vibe. For a literal taste, you’re never far from a magical culinary experience on Restaurant Row in Grand Case.