What we will find during our stay in Roatan is mediocre food with prices comparable to New York City. Each bill comes with a 10% tax and a steep 12% service charge. We tried five restaurants during our 4-day stay before we gave up and hired a water taxi driver to take us fishing so that we can catch some fish. If we can’t get a decent meal on the island, well, we just have to get it ourselves! Here's a quick rundown of the restaurants we tried:
As soon as we checked in Bananarama, we walked on the beach in search of our first Honduran meal. We found it at Foster’s down the beach. The fried red snapper was perfectly crisp coated in a light batter and served with a simple salad of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. The rice was fluffy and the beans filling. The conch ceviche was so delicious; I don’t think it lasted on our table for more than five minutes after it was served. Our bill came out to more than $30 with two beers—a little pricey for two dishes but the food was pretty good that we didn’t mind. Everything was going well until our waiter returned to ask for more money. We pointed out that we already included the 12% service charge but he argued that the 12% goes to the cook, not to him. Ahhh, our first night in Honduras and the local is already trying to screw us over. How endearing and how awful it is for the more honest and humble waiters on the island.
Walking around in the heat left us hungry for lunch before 11am. The local Honduran spots recommended by the water taxi driver were still closed so we ended up at Bertie’s Creole right in front of the small rotunda on the main street of West End.
Bertie’s second floor space was our respite from the sun. Unfortunately, the menu had nothing Creolan at all. We ordered fried chicken for $8 and fish soup for $5. The chicken tasted like a chicken McNugget and the soup looked like a Cup Noodle with fish bits in it.
The restaurant at the Mayan Princess Resort
The Mayan Princess is one of the concrete buildings along Roatan’s West Bay. All of the resort’s facilities are for guest use only but they open the restaurant to the public. We decided to avoid the fried chicken because we didn’t want another one that looked like a fast food meal so we ordered the $9 Cuban sandwich and the plate of penne pasta for $8. (The waiter didn’t know what pasta I wanted until he asked me if I was thinking of the “penny” pasta.) The Cuban sandwich was pretty good although I could barely call any food “dinner” especially when it’s held together by a toothpick. The pasta, well, let’s just say the resort didn’t have an Italian grandmother cooking in the kitchen.
From the same owners of the condo being built right behind it, La Palapa is the quintessential island bar on the beach with the no-nonsense bartenders who can make you fruit drinks spiked with the cheapest liquor. When you’re on island mode, you can’t ask for anything else; anything cold is good enough to drink.
You can order burgers, fries, fried plantains, or chips with homemade salsa with your beer. But what earned La Palapa points from this discerning reviewer is how they cooked our fresh fish for us to eat with our beers. We asked the owners if we could ask their chef to cook for us and they only told us to make sure we tip her nicely. Funny enough that when we asked the cook, she told us to ask the owner since she doesn’t know if she can use the kitchen’s oil and gas for food not sold at the bar. We brought two freshly caught red snappers one time for lunch and a grouper for dinner the next day. Both were done so well that La Palapa became our default bar to go to for lunch, some time in the afternoon, during sunset, and after dinner. Good customer service goes so far for me even on Roatan.
Okay, it’s not a restaurant but a lady walking around West End carrying a basket full of what she calls tamales. They aren’t exactly tamales because instead of masa wrapped in corn husks, she used soft tortillas to wrap chicken, beans and cheese. For 35 limpiras, or $3, for three pieces, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. We sat under a tree on the beach and ate three of them under three minutes. My only problem is that I didn’t find her until our very last day.
Fried Chicken Lady
Is it a restaurant if the lady cooking at the grill is under a tent? After eating stuffed tortillas, we walked around to get a drink. We came across the white tent in front of the Baptist church on West End and watched the lady grill chicken legs. She was selling them for 75 limpiras, about $4, with a plate of rice and beans and a small Coke. Next to her grill was a plastic table and a couple of chairs. I sat on one of the chairs and my boyfriend positioned himself on top of a crate to eat—the other Honduran lady reading the gossip pages of the local paper couldn’t be bothered to get up so we could eat on the table. It’s okay, though, because the chicken was finally the Central American chicken I’ve been craving the last few days.
This was the restaurant our water taxi driver recommended to us when we asked him where we can get local Honduran food. For our last night, we caught it open for business. The menu is more varied than the other restaurants on the island—their snappers were available blackened (seared in very hot oil) or in tomatillo sauce (a Central American version of Provencal with tomatoes and onions)—that’s two more choices from the usual “fried”! We ordered both but to my chagrin, the waitress told me they ran out of fish the same time she served me the replacement: shrimps. If she told me that they didn’t have any more fish beforehand, I would have ordered something else because I’m not a big fan of shrimps. Alas, I’m a tourist just like everyone else, so I sucked it up and ate it. The blackened fish was on the salty side. We were fighting for the potatoes and the boiled carrots to avoid high blood pressure after dinner.