The city is packed with traditional Creole eateries. An excellent long-standing local option is Dit’s (50 King St., tel. 501/227-3330, 8am-6pm Mon.-Sat., 8am-3pm Sun., US$4-6), a fifth generation family-run Creole institution, serving amazing freshly baked pastries—you must try the jam rolls—as well as pies and other traditional Creole desserts along with the wide menu of local specialties. It’s always packed with Belizeans—a good sign. Nerie’s (Queen St. and Daly St., tel. 501/223-4028, 7:30am-10pm daily, US$5-9) was featured on the Travel Channel in a program about traditional Belizean fare; order stew chicken, fish fillets, soups, and daily specials, including oxtail, jerk, and Garífuna serre.
A couple of streets from the swing bridge are the infamous meat pies at Dario’s (33 Hyde’s Ln., US$0.75), delicious hot, flaky pastries filled with meat or chicken. Go early if you want them fresh. Pou’s Meat Pies (New Rd.) is also nearby; try both and decide who rules the city’s meat pie district.
Over on Regent Street, close to the Belize Tourism Board, is the tiny shack and window service of Caribbean Palm Fast Food (11:30am-2pm Mon.-Fri., US$3-5), where Shawna and her mother dish out savory, super cheap Creole lunches every day. Get here early—it’s popular.
Deep Sea Marlin’s Restaurant & Bar (Regent St. W., tel. 501/227-6995, 7am-9pm Mon.-Sat., US$4) is on Haulover Creek, next to the Belcove Hotel. It’s a cheap and sometimes raucous fishing joint, with tasty Belizean and American staples and simple seating with breezy waterside views. The breakfast fry jacks are said to be out of this world. Tropicolada Cocktail Hut (7 Fort St., tel. 501/223-1066, 11am-10pm Tues.-Sat., US$6-10), near Tourism Village, serves some of the best ceviche in Belize City as well as a wide range of Belizean and Central American dishes and pretty cocktails. Tropicolada closes earlier on Tuesday and later on karaoke Friday.
Bird’s Isle Restaurant (tel. 501/207-2179, 10am-midnight Mon.-Sat., US$5-13), or Island as the locals call it, has a long-standing reputation and an excellent waterfront location on a small islet to the south of downtown Belize City. Any taxi driver will know it, or just walk south past the Anglican Church on Albert Street until you can’t walk any more. This is a casual affair in a gorgeous outdoor setting, with a spacious yard as well as indoor seating and a waterfront deck where you can watch the fish and birds glide by. Expect large portions of local comfort dishes, including stew beans, hamburgers, and sandwiches.
A nice neighborhood experience is a trip to the D’Ceviche Hut (5672 Vasquez Ave., tel. 501/223-6426, 11:30am-10pm Thurs.-Sat., US$11). The proprietor, Don Enrique, works for the fishing cooperative, and he doesn’t mess around about freshness. There’s no menu, just ceviche. As you take your seat, shout out “shrimp,” “conch,” or “mixed” (also lobster in season) and you’ll get a large plate that feeds 3-4 people. It’s fun, friendly, and very popular with locals. Arrange a taxi there and back so you don’t have to negotiate the confusing streets in this neighborhood.
A couple of blocks past the Princess Hotel, Thirsty Thursdays (164 New Town Barracks, tel. 501/223-1677, email@example.com, 10am-10pm Mon.-Thurs., 10am-midnight Fri.-Sat., US$8-15) is a popular pre-party joint with a savory menu and breezy patio overlooking the ocean.
In Buttonwood Bay, three miles north of central Belize City, the dockside Saffron Bay Restaurant (5865 Seashore Dr., one street behind Villa Boscardi, tel. 501/203-1400, firstname.lastname@example.org, 11:30am-3:30pm Mon.-Fri., 7am-9am and 11:30am-5pm Sat., US$4-5) has an excellent, casual waterfront location and friendly service. More importantly, the local dishes are delicious with (I dare say) the best rice and beans in the district. Mother and daughter team Estelae and Daisy Ramclam cook lunches that vary from stewed chicken to Garífuna serre or East Indian tarkari; there’s no set menu, but choices always include one seafood dish.