By Noelle Khalila Nicolls
November 04, 2014
Courtesy of Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

There is a basic litmus test you can apply to see if a restaurant is truly Bahamian. No matter the level of culinary experimentation or ethnic fusion, when you check the menu, they should have these Bahamian staples: any combination of fried fish, cracked conch, macaroni, peas and rice, cole slaw (with mayonnaise) or potato salad. Prepare yourself to eat fish the Bahamian way: with the head still attached, and all of its bones intact. Many locals consider the sweetest part of a fish to be the meat inside the cheekbones—and if you can believe it, the eyes.

All of my favorite Bahamian restaurants stand out for more than just their Bahamian menu. They all find ways to embrace the natural Bahamian landscape (with waterfront locations or pretty views), and they all infuse the dining experience with local music or art, or some other cultural aspect of the islands.  

Chat ‘N’ Chill

Many beachfront restaurants are satisfied with simply delivering a view. But Chat ‘N’ Chill, on Stocking Island in the Exumas, delivers a complete beach experience. In one visit to this gem of a place, you can hand-feed stingrays (charming and incredible); flirt with the occasional wild dolphin; play on a homemade tire swing, enjoy a round of beach volleyball, eat at the conch salad bar, hike through nature trails, sunbathe on the beach and eat from a highly original menu where everything is grilled.   

Queen Conch

When visiting Harbour Island, the one item I never leave off my itinerary is a stop at Queen Conch for a meal of smoked dolphin dip (made with mahi-mahi, not the cetacean!) with toasted, garlic-buttered pita bread. This is a popular fish on local menus, but no one more artfully transforms it than the chefs at Queen Conch. This casual, harborfront restaurant also offers all the typical Bahamian favorites, but it is alcohol-free, so BYOB.

Da Smoke Pot

When you visit Da Smoke Pot you will definitely leave with memories of its owner, Julian Russell, who maintains a laid-back, fun, family atmosphere with an adherence to tradition. Not only can you taste Bahamian flavor in the dishes that come from the kitchen; you can hear it in the sounds of the resident Rake and Scrape band, Tuff Skins. You’ll want to call ahead to secure your choice from the full menu, and ask about live music at the same time.  

Oh Andros

Forget about counting calories and prepare for a glutinous experience at Oh Andros, on the beachfront strip of Arawak Cay in Nassau; the portions here are huge, and the dishes carbohydrate-packed. But everything is delicious, especially the Bahamian staples like conch fritters, fried snapper, grilled lobster, peas and rice, and potato salad. 

Daddy Joe’s

Daddy Joe’s prides itself on Bahamian culture just as much as it does Bahamian food. Master the phrases on its mosaic wall of Bahamian sayings and you could successful convert to being Bahamian. With its family friendly atmosphere, you equally enjoy eating the food, meeting new people and studying the culture. 

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