Our adventure starts with acclaimed international chef Marcus Samuelsson who has helped put Barbados’ street food on the map, having left his award-winning Harlem restaurant Red Rooster behind for few days every year, to participate in the Food, Wine and Rum Festival. There is no mistaking that Samuelsson is sold on Barbados’ street food.
This year, he will once again kick off the festival’s activities at what is perhaps the island’s best known street food venue, the Oistins Bay Garden. In this quaint fishing village, the array of tiny food booths come alive when the sun goes down, offering a rich selection from the day’s catch.
The activity at Oistins is typical of weekend nights when barbecue grills sizzle outside private homes, in villages and on street corners. A brisk business is done with barbecued salted pigtails, fish, spare ribs, chicken, pork while alongside the grill deep-frying iron pots may sit on a wood fire or gas range, the hot oil bubbling over the distinctly Bajan version of fried chicken and pork chops, their inviting aroma from home-made marinades and seasonings, filling the night air.
Samuelsson has put his stamp of approval on some of the island’s best street food places such as Cuz’s Fish Shack, a popular beachside eatery located a stone’s throw from the Hilton and next door to the Radisson hotel. Supported by the strength of Samuelsson’s reputation and with endorsement by countless patrons from across the globe, this small food stand has managed to win a Trip Advisor rating of 5/5, is ranked among the ten best street food locations in the world, and has been recommended by Newsweek Magazine among the world’s 101 best places to eat.
Those travelers in search of an authentic Barbadian dining experience like Cuz’s Fish Shack, there are similar local village and neighbourhood establishments that offer food and beverage unique to the island. All along the way, in whichever direction from Bridgetown, the travelers can venture into neighbourhoods in the north where John Moore’s Bar and Moon Town are located, to the Country Bar in the island’s central parish of St. George, or Hoody’s Bar at Six Roads in the parish of St. Philip, and other locations in St. Michael and Christ Church. Along the way, other tempting spots may even be discovered.
In St. John, there are two neighbourhood-style restaurants with rustic settings and breathtaking views of the Atlantic, where the menu favourite is pork prepared in several different ways. There’s no denying that while at The Village Bar at Lemon Arbor or The Souse Factory, the foodie cannot help but be swayed to embark on a new dining adventure. At these two spots, pudding and souse – grated savoury steamed sweet potato either in sausage form or a scooped ball on a plate, served along with pork steeped in a delicious pickle of cucumbers, onions, finely-chopped green and ripe chilies and lime juice – tops the list of the most sought-after dishes.
The adventurous setting out on a food trail in search of more than one street food eatery could find themselves in watering holes long discovered and patronised by Barbadians and leave with treasured satisfaction at the experience.