To many discerning diners, Anguilla is the Caribbean's premier dining destination, and native Anguillan chefs like Dale Carty (Tasty's and Dune Preserve) and Glendon Carty (Ripple's and Cap Juluca) are essential elements in the island's effervescent food-and-drink scene.
Eating on Anguilla is not cheap, however -- a high percentage of what ends up on your plate has been imported. Fortunately, many local chefs are increasingly packing their menus with sustainable choices: local seafood and Anguilla-grown produce and grains. Fresh, locally caught fish -- red snapper, yellowtail snapper, yellowfin tuna, grouper, mahimahi, red hein, bass, bonito -- gets plenty of play on restaurant menus, as does Anguillan lobster and local crayfish, big and sweet and at the other end of the size spectrum from its mudbug cousin, the crawfish. Note: At many restaurants, prices for fish, lobster, and crayfish rise and fall depending on availability.
A forward-thinking government agricultural initiative to farm vegetables on a large swath of land in Central (with a bit of a heavy-handed slogan in "Farm Today or Starve Tomorrow") is putting fresh sweet potatoes, peppers, corn, squash, tomatoes, lettuces, and pigeon peas into the marketplace. Old farmers are rediscovering the pleasure of growing food, and new farmers (and future chefs) are being initiated into this agricultural renaissance.
Most restaurants include a service charge in the menu pricing. The menu should state whether service is included, but always confirm whether gratuities are added. In many instances tips are pooled among the staff (including the back of the house), so it never hurts to add a little extra if you feel your server warrants it.
You won't want to miss the all-you-can-eat barbecue buffets at CuisinArt Resort & Spa (tel. 264/498-2000; www.cuisinartresort.com), with grilled lobster, chicken, and ribs; homemade desserts; and delicious sides and salads made with hydroponic-farm-fresh produce; a string band provides the entertainment.
Moderate -- If you find yourself in the Valley at lunchtime, remember two tasty, good-value spots. Longtime favorite English Rose (tel. 264/497-5353) serves up generous portions of stews and grills. A newcomer, the Valley Bistro (tel. 264/497-8300) is the place to head if you are longing for pasta, pizza, or delicious French onion soup and a croque-monsieur. Both have daily specials, and you could eat at either for less than $20 (both closed Sun).
Inexpensive -- Delicious, affordable food is served at Anguilla's fabulous beachside bars and barbecue shacks.
Especially on the weekends, you'll notice a number of roadside food stalls in the Valley near the outdoor People's Market (a great place to get fresh fruit and veggies) and around the roundabout by the school and library. Out on the island, you may see other food stalls, often doing barbeque in grills fashioned out of oil drums. This is a great way to sample such local delicacies as bull foot soup, pigtail soup, goat water, roti, and fungi. Keep an eye out for Hungry's, the mobile food van that is usually parked near the Post Office in the Valley. You can eat yourself silly on sandwiches, wraps, curries, or stews, usually for a good deal less than $10.
Resources for Self-Catering
Anguilla is pricey enough as it is without having to pay marked-up hotel prices for basics like milk, soft drinks, snacks, and beer. For groceries, drinks, and kitchen staples, stock up at Albert's Supermarket (tel. 264/497-2240), in the Valley, a large, full-service grocery store. In Anguilla's West End, you can get a full complement of groceries and other sundries at Foods Ninety-Five (tel. 264/497-6196), just after the entrance to Cap Juluca. Ashley & Sons (tel. 264/497-2641; www.ashleyandsons.com), in the South Valley, has a wide selection of beverages, snacks, fruit, and toiletries. Monday through Saturday, don't miss stopping at the Fat Cat Gourmet (tel. 264/497-2307; www.fatcat.ai) by Albert's supermarket in the Valley; hands down, this place has the tastiest take-out goodies (from entire meals to cakes) on Anguilla. This is also a great place to pick up snacks for a picnic on the beach.
Sun, Sand, Music & Barbecue
Anguilla has no casinos or other gambling spots -- the local Church Council, which has its say in matters such as this, ensures that the island stays that way. If you feel the need for some casino action, St. Maarten and its 14 casinos are just a 20-minute ferry ride (and a short cab ride from there) away.
In high season, various hotels host barbecues or hire calypso groups and string bands, both local and imported, for entertainment. But you should really get out and sample the island's wonderful beach bars and grills, which serve great food and drink and feature live music at least 1 day a week. (You can have a light meal and a drink for around $20.) These places are about as casual as casual can be, but remember, this is modest Anguilla; if you've been swimming, cover up before you sit down to eat.
At the west end of the island, a sign points off the main road down a bumpy road to Nat Richardson's Palm Grove Bar & Grill (tel. 264/497-4224) at Junk's Hole. Islanders and visitors flock here for what many think are Anguilla's most succulent grilled lobsters and lightest johnnycakes. Bring your swimming gear and snorkel until your lobster comes off the grill.
An island favorite, Johnno's (tel. 264/497-2728; closed Mon), has live music most Wednesday evenings (reggae and soca) and Sunday afternoons (jazz). Burgers and grills are available all day, or you can just order a rum punch, plop down at one of the picnic tables on the beach, and watch the spectacular Sandy Ground sunset. A few minutes' stroll down the beach, Elvis (tel. 264/461-0101) opened in 2007 and gives Johnno's some sunset competition. Elvis's bar occupies an Anguillan boat beached on the sand, with tables and chairs nearby. There's great rum punch and nibbles (sometimes barbeque) and live music several times a week.
Halfway between Johnno's and Elvis, overlooking the Salt Pond, the Pumphouse (tel. 264/497-5154; www.pumphouse-anguilla.com; closed Sun) has rafter-shaking live music almost every night, enormous cheeseburgers, and crisp Caesar salads. Warning: One Pumphouse rum punch is equivalent to at least two anywhere else! This former rock-salt factory, with some of its original machinery still in place, is the funkiest bar on the island -- unless that award should go to Bankie Banx's Dune Preserve (tel. 264/497-2660; www.dunepreserve.com) at Rendezvous Bay, with its own salvaged boats and the island's most seriously relaxed musician. Reggae star Bankie Banx is usually in attendance and joins in the live music performances here several times a week. Heading from Bankie's toward the east end of the island, keep an eye out for the small sign that points from the main road to Smokey's (tel. 264/497-6582; wwwsmokeysatthecove.com) at Cove Bay. Delicious crayfish, lobster, ribs, and spicy wings are served up most days -- this is one of the island's top spots to chill. Smokey's has live music Saturday afternoons and Sunday evenings.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.