To save money on St. Maarten/St. Martin, get take-out food for picnics and buy basics (snacks, soft drinks, milk, beer) at local grocery stores. Several restaurants take the sting from the euro's strength by offering 1€=$1 exchange rates for customers paying cash (this rarely applies to credit card users). Several restaurants, especially on the Dutch side, provide Internet coupons for free drinks or a second main course at half price. Lunch is generally less expensive, and the menu selection often simpler. Look for multicourse prix-fixe menus or midday plats du jour. Most restaurants include a service charge in the menu pricing (virtually all the restaurants in French St. Martin and St. Barts have service compris). 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.
Note: Entrée is the French term for appetizer; plat means main course.
Resources for Self-Catering
As a large provisioning hub for passing boats, St. Maarten has plenty of options for visitors with self-catering capabilities, whether a hotel kitchenette or a fully equipped kitchen. You can buy meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, snacks, drinks, and kitchen supplies at Le Grand Marché, a full-service grocery chain with three locations on the island, including one at Simpson Bay (tel. 599/545-3055; www.legrandmarche.net). In Marigot, Match supermarket, in the Howell Center, has a good selection of French foods. The U.S. Imports Super Marché (tel. 590/52-87-14), a supermarket chain on the French side, has a branch at the drawbridge in Sandy Ground that's open until 10pm (it also has baguettes, pastries, and a cheese selection). You can also find takeout foods at traiteurs (takeout/caterers), pâtisseries (pastry shops), and boulangeries (baked goods). For an excellent selection of wine and spirits, head to Vinissimo, at 1 Rue de Low Town, Marigot (tel. 590/877-078). For fresh fish, head over to the Simpson Bay Fish Market, an open-air seafood market facing the lagoon, which sells Simpson Bay's fresh catches daily.