Rum Dum, Goombay Smash, Bahama Mama—there’s no shortage of signature cocktails that come to mind when one thinks of the Bahamas. However, this Caribbean archipelago is also a severely underrated foodie destination. After all, there’s more to the Bahamian culinary scene than just conch—though the “queen” mollusk will be featured on this list in various incarnations (fritters, chowder, salad, and more). Read on for more signature Bahamian dishes to try during your next visit, as well as recommendations on where to try them. We recommend you wash this all down with a Sky Juice or a Bahama Papa.
You can’t visit the Bahamas without trying every variation of conch. The pink sea snail is native to the Caribbean and is a culinary staple throughout Nassau and the outer islands. We recommend the conch fritters, or the cracked conch, at Frankie Gone Bananas (either outpost in Nassau) or the Conch Shack on Baha Mar Boulevard in Paradise Island. Paula’s Conch Fritters and Creamy Calypso dipping sauce is the best starter on the menu at the Poop Deck, though they also serve cracked conch as an entree—why limit yourself to a single serving of conch per meal, anyway?
Rum cake is a specialty in the Bahamas and Virgin Islands, and enjoying authentic Bahamian rum cake while visiting the islands is a treat that can’t be missed. We suggest visiting the Tortuga Rum Cake Company Company in Nassau (the final stop on the highly-recommended Tru Bahamian Food Tour, a culinary walking tour throughout Nassau). Wash it all down afterward with a handcrafted rum cocktail at the Talking Stick Bar at Towne Hotel, a charming boutique hotel just a short walk away in downtown Nassau. Order a rum punch and visit with the chatty blue macaw. The parrot has become a symbol of the establishment, and of the larger cocktail scene in Nassau in general.
Our next suggestion is another Bahamian sweet: guava duff, a pastry made from one of the few indigenous fruits that preceded the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. You can often find the popular fruit at farmers' markets or road-side stands, and the dessert variation is served wherever authentic Bahamian cuisine is on the menu. The Shoal Kitchen sells a particularly mouthwatering variety.
From one baked Bahamian pastry to another, this breaded tradition is best enjoyed at the Bahamian Cookin’ Restaurant & Bar in downtown Nassau. The three-generation owned Bahamian mainstay is renowned for its authentic island cuisine. Sip Sip on Harbour Island also serves homemade johnnycakes with the Sunday boil fish special. Johnnycakes are fairly easy to make at home so your cravings will never go unsatisfied.
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
For another traditional side course, consider ordering the baked macaroni and cheese on the menu at any restaurant serving authentic Caribbean cuisine. The mac n' cheese is also very popular at Frankie Gone Bananas, which also boasts such classic Bahamian side dishes as peas and rice and fried plantains. While there, order the coconut ‘n Kalik soup, too (a specialty infused with local beer).
This spiny Caribbean lobster is very different from what you’re used to enjoying up North. Unlike the Maine variety, Rock Lobster is clawless and often served broiled, or as an ingredient in fresh island salads. There are many ways to prepare it, though we recommend enjoying a no-frills entree of the shellfish, broiled with a side of macaroni and cheese. Order the fresh Bahamian lobster tail at Frankie Gone Bananas or the Poop Deck, the latter of which is also famed for its lobster linguini. Another inventive (and delicious) culinary option for Bahamian lobster? The lobster quesadilla at Sip Sip in Harbour Island is a favorite order at the famed establishment, which has achieved cult-like status (and international appreciation, thanks to a mention in the "Crazy Rich Asian" series). Accompany your meal with a Sky Juice, another Sip Sip signature, this time of the alcoholic variety.
Much like ceviche in Latin American countries, the conch salad prepared in the Bahamas is stripped down to its rawest (and most favorable) form. For an education on the preparation of the dish, check out the chefs preparing the dish at the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay. This dish has establishments specifically devoted to its perfection: Consider visiting Dino’s Gourmet Conch Salad and Goldie’s Conch House in Nassau, or checking out the Stuart Conch Salad stand in Bailey Town. Order the conch salad at Poop Deck East, or if you’re in the mood for another conch appetizer, order the restaurant’s conch chowder. There’s no shortage of conch-crazy starter courses in the Bahamas, and you should also consider the conch chili on the menu at Sip Sip.
A staple selection on the Tru Bahamian Food Tours, boiled fish is known also merely as “Boil,” and is a flavorful serving of flaky white fish, served with potatoes and spices. Particularly popular during Christmastime, it’s a must-eat when visiting during the winter months. And when it comes to ordering Bahamian fish, we recommend the snapper or the grouper. Sip Sip on Harbour Island has a Sunday special of boil fish that is not to be missed, a weekly event featuring buttered grits and homemade johnnycake. Just another reason to not book your return flight until Monday afternoon.