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Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Belize Food Tours who offered me a complimentary tour during my trip to Belize. This is an honest review of my experience.
Garnaches, Fry Jacks, Johnny Cakes and Belikin were all words that meant nothing to me prior to my adventurous Belizean vacation. Now, each of these words inducing a lot of drool and mouth-watering memories.
During my week-long vacation, I was invited by Belize Food Tours on a complimentary food tour in San Pedro in Ambergris Caye. I embarked on the Savor Belize food tour which incorporated seven different stops into our itinerary. At each of the stops, we indulged in an authentic Belizean dish accompanied with numerous glasses of Caribbean Punch.
Unlike other food tours, the Belize Food Tours team aims for an intimate experience. The tour guides are locals who grew up in Belize and have several familial ties on the islands. My tour was led by Felipe, who shared personal anecdotes about indulging in many of these foods as a child or how different dishes were served on special occasions. Each step of the way he was a captivating and informative guide.
Entering Elvi’s feels as if your entering home. The smell of delicious food greets you and the sandy floors of the restaurant entice you to truly unwind and relax. The palm tree table clothes in their vibrant, island hues are something you would use at a family gathering.
Elvi’s staff welcomes you like family. You’re guaranteed to enjoy the crowd favorites that Elvi serves up on this food tour.
First, we feasted on Elvi’s creative spin on a tamale. In a hot steamed banana leaf, there is an adobo-marinated taco. The flavors used were robust and dream-inducing. This paired nicely with cane juice.
What is most interesting about Elvi’s is the amount of traditional and culture saturated in their quaint restaurant. Many of the dishes are inspired by Mayan dishes and are all honored and served at their Mayan Feast held each Friday.
Lily’s Treasure Chest
When it comes to seafood, Belize definitely knows how to make your mouth drool for more. This is also the case at Lily’s Treasure Chest and her impeccable ceviche. Lily’s Treasure Chest is hard to miss, on the beach shore Lily’s standouts out with its bright lime green and orange exterior. Inside, the restaurant embraces the island vibe with relaxing island music and a stocked tiki-styled bar.
After our ceviche appetizer, we sampled Belizean beers. Front and center was Belizean classics Belikin and Lighthouse Lager. We sample five or different varieties of these beers and each offered a unique twist on the hop-centric brews.
To ensure we stayed hydrated in the Latin American swelter, we were served up a tall juice of cool watermelon juice. It was a bright, palate cleanser to have before making our way to the next stop.
Briana’s Food Place
Walking down the steps to Briana’s Food Place was like being welcomed into your neighbor’s home. The staff was enthusiastic and attentive. It was evident that they were proud to call Belize and share their traditional cuisine with visitors.
As we sat down, another glass of watermelon juice was served promptly. (I would later be thankful for this after all the Caribbean Punch I’d be indulging in!) A few seconds later, garnaches were served. This iconic dish is the equivalent to Belizean fast food. Fun fact, Belize doesn’t have any fast food chains in the country. This quick eat is definitely a culinary delight.
Garnaches are deep-fried corn tortillas, similar to a tortilla chip or a tostada. The crunchy chip is coated in a thin layer of refried beans and then topped with chopped onion and shredded Dutch cheese. The small treat packs a flavorful punch and is relatively cheap. Most restaurants sell six or more for $1 or $2 USD. It was definitely a surprising combination and woke up my tastebuds.
After our garnaches, we indulged in the traditional empanadas. This is a common deep-fried food served in Spanish and Latin American cultures. Our empanadas were filled with moderately-spiced chicken. They were the perfect mid-meal snack. Again, another cheap Belizean meal.
Next, we sampled another Creole culinary delight — salbutes. Salbutes are considered another Belizean fast food. Salbutes are made from cornmeal tortillas that are deep fried. They airy dough puff up, so they are not as crunchy as garnaches. Salbutes are topped with a variety of toppings. Sometimes they are topped with refried beans, meats, pickled ingredients and veggies. Our salbutes were topped with shredded chicken, onions, tomatoes and jalapenos. Even though the dough is deep-fried, this Belizean bar food has a lightness to it due to the fresh vegetables. Definitely a crowd pleaser!
After a refill of horchata, Fry Jacks were next on deck.
Fry Jacks is another deep-fried Belizean dish that locals love. Fry Jacks are puffy, fried up pieces of dough with a hollow center. As customary, our Fry Jacks were served with a side of pureed refried beans. The pastry dough has a sweeter taste, which was perfectly complemented and balanced by the savory dip. I definitely indulged in this sweet and savory bite many more times during my Belizean road trip.
Travelers Liquors Rum Shop
We decided to take a break from food and indulge in some of Belize’s liquor. We traipsed to the Travellers Liquors Rum Shop were visitors are offered complimentary rum samples. During our quick pit stop, we sampled four Belizean rums.
The shop had a variety rums from the sweet variety including Caribbean punch with fruit undernotes and more decadent varieties such as coffee and chocolate. I definitely let the shop a little more tipsy with an added spring in my step!
El Fogon is one of the few restaurants on the island that specializes in authentic Mayan cuisine in additional to Belizean cuisine. This restaurant has a similar vibe to a family barbecue with its sand floor and picnic tables used for seating. Our large group of 20 or so folks took up a majority of the restaurant’s seating space. El Fogon’s small, yet homey atmosphere just added to the realistic feeling of cooking at home.
First up was more Caribbean punch. Luckily there was ample water to go around because many of us needed it after taking four shots of rum at the previous stop. Up first, fried conch, which is sometimes called concho fritters.
Concho fritters do have more of a fishy, seafood flavor than other salt-water foods. They have a buttery texture when cooked correctly. Served with a semi-spicy chipotle sauce, the conch was definitely a show stopper.
After a few conch bites, we tasted some traditional Mayan stew. It was a little unusual for me to eat a stew on a humid evening, but it was delicious! There was a complexity of flavors that many stews miss the mark on. This one certainly didn’t. It was just as good as the chicken stew that my host mother made during my Airbnb stay. You could tell that it was made in the traditional Creole way and with lots of love.
Before departing the restaurant, we received a tour of El Fogon’s kitchen and learned about traditional Mayan cooking methods. There was a wide variety of vegetables on display, so all the produce used was guaranteed to be fresh and sourced locally.
Caramba Restaurant & Bar
The night couldn’t end without a few more glasses of Caribbean Punch and desserts. At Caramba Restaurant & Bar we were served the customary Latin American dessert flan. It was the perfect mix of creamy goodness and dripped with caramelized goodness.
Is the Belize Food Tours worth it?
Overall, I love Belize Food Tours. I love how interactive Felipe was and how he intertwined his own personal experience in the food tour. Felipe’s cousin is the owner of Lily’s Treasure Chest and all the restaurant owners and staff greeted him as if he was family. This close-knit community adds to the Belizean Food Tour’s unique offering and can’t be found elsewhere.
The tour itself costs $72 and guarantees 12 samplings. I think this price is definitely worth it especially since most restaurant owners go above and beyond and let you sample a few extra dishes. Belize Food Tours has since rebranded, but the Savor Belize Tour is very similar to the tour that I embarked on. The company has also since expanded and has other tour options available and have since incorporated a local cuisine cooking class.
Definitely hop around the island with Felipe and Dora for one of the best experiences San Pedro has to offer.