Unlike other Caribbean countries, Tony is no stranger to Sint Maarten (sometimes spelled St. Maarten, and shared with the French collectivity Saint/St. Martin). He has been visiting the island for years to get away from the pressure and deadlines. He’s been to all the wrong places, the wrong restaurants, the wrong beaches. And, by the time he shoots the episode, he knows how to enjoy himself on Sint Maarten, meaning he knows where the good food is.
Anthony Bourdain visited St. Maarten to film season 2 (episode 1) of A Cook’s Tour, his first show. It was his only visit to the island, perhaps because he didn’t want to spoil it by making it a commodity of the later work and popularity his presence brought to places he visited.
If you’re planning a Caribbean getaway, Sint Maarten/Saint Martin is a less popular option – but one that Bourdain enthusiasts won’t want to miss. Below you’ll find a guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in St. Maarten to help you plan your meals. Make the pilgrimage to one of the first destinations Tony ever went abroad, and your fan status will be top-tier!
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Taíno people, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Freedom Fighter’s Ital Shack
Freedom Fighters Ital Shack is one of the first and longest-running vegan restaurants on the Island and is the place to go for a taste of the Rastafarian culture. While it might surprise you, Bourdain does eat here – this suggests his eventual warming to other non-meat cuisines has early roots.
To open his appetite, Tony starts with some ganja leave tea. Next on the menu, are soybean fritters, made with soya beans, whole wheat flour, garlic, onion, sweet pepper, seasoning, baking powder, and some sea salt, then fried for a couple of minutes in oil – finally, corn meal croquettes.
Poulet D’Orleans (CLOSED)
It’s time for some classic Antillean specialties. The restaurant Tony chooses, Poulet D’Orleans, was housed in a typical Antillean house and is managed by another Tony, one of the most respected cooks on the island.
First, Bourdain indulges in the Creole boudin with garlic bread and garlic butter. Next, he tries the conch, which is cut in half and stuffed with fish, topped with creole sauce, then put in the oven to make it tender. Finally, why he came to the restaurant in the first place, fresh Creole-style chicken.
Unfortunately, this restaurant closed as of about 2014-2015.
Johnny B’s Under the Tree
On the island of Sint Maarten, barbecue is a serious business, and Johnny B Under the Tree knows how to do it right. Here, Tony enjoys a dish of “tender, tasty, crunchy, flavorful, delicious” ribs.
Hilma’s Windsor Castle
Hilma’s Windsor Castle serves the best breakfast/lunch/snacks on the island. Here, Tony has the house specialty, a saltwater fish johnnycake, and a soup.
Gus’s Beach Bar and Grill (CLOSED)
If I can’t forget my problems here, I’m calling it quits. That’s what Tony says to refer to this unassuming beach joint.
He sits down at Gus’s Beach Bar and Grill, and orders a cold Presidente beer, a cheeseburger, and a chicken leg – the perfect meal to enjoy on a pristine, white beach, and, of course, with no footwear.
Unfortunately, Gus’s closed, as of 2019. It is admirable that it was open almost 20 years after Bourdain’s visit – there are many restaurants in the U.S. that have closed much faster than that!
Bonus: Gone Bamboo
If you’re looking for more inspiration for your visit to St. Maarten or Saint Martin, be sure to give Tony’s fiction book Gone Bamboo a read! Bourdain wrote several fiction books early in his career, and this is the sequel to a NYC-area mafia book; it’s pretty gruesome, but it’s set on Sint Maarten and gives you even more atmosphere to understand what Tony loved about the island.
Have any other questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in St. Maarten? Let me know in the comments below!