Let's Eat Out: a Guide to Tobago's Restaurants
Tobago offers an increasingly wide variety of good restaurants, specialising in everything from European (La Tartaruga offers fine Italian dining), American, Asian, to Caribbean and Tobagonian favourites (like MeShell’s). Fusion restaurants and dishes are also on the rise. From local specialities like curry crab ’n’ dumpling to fine continental cuisine and tapas, Tobago’s got it all. Dining Tobago-style is one of the most memorable aspects of a Tobago vacation.
Over the years Tobago has evolved into a foodie’s haven. Fine restaurants and charming small eateries have cropped up throughout the island to serve the growing number of visitors, while the local cuisine has maintained its well-deserved popularity: you haven’t tasted Tobago until you’ve tasted curry crab ’n’ dumpling. There are quite a few Chinese and Italian restaurants, and you can still have a dinner of steak and fries if you insist. But Creole Pork Chop, Coconut Chicken, Breast of Duck in Tobago Honey, Rum Roasted Pork, Jerk Chicken and Peppered Fish Salad with banana salsa all sound a bit more adventurous.
Many of Tobago's good restaurants take advantage of the island’s exquisite landscape, and provide incredible ambience. Many are open-air, ready to catch the afternoon or evening breeze, sometimes with breathtaking locations – nestled in the shells of old waterwheels and sugar mills, in the remains of old colonial plantation houses, in landscaped gardens, or on hillsides with magnificent ocean views. In several cases, they are sensitively converted houses with tables set out on galleries and verandahs, with a bar and maybe some more tables inside.
Some restaurants, particularly high-end ones, are part of hotels and resorts clustered around the touristy southwestern tip, with a few around Scarborough and in the northeast. Crown Point is crowded with restaurants; so is Shirvan Road. Some provide entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, so you can pig out first and dance the calories off afterwards.
Casual Dining & Fast Food
And while you will find some international and local fast food outlets in Scarborough, many Tobagonians prefer the sports bars and roadside shops that serve the local version of global fast and fried delights. In the countryside, informal dining establishments serve mainly Tobagonian and creole dishes to local workers, while island-wide, roadside eateries and food stalls offer traditional foods and snacks for sale.
With the sea never far away, fresh seafood is a speciality – especially its freshly caught fish, shrimp, conch and lobster – cooked in good tasty creole style with distinctive sauces: lobster, crab, kingfish, grouper, dolphin (the local name for mahi-mahi, nothing to do with Flipper or his relations). Both creole and international cuisine are represented, not to mention some sinful home-made desserts.
The island’s traditional cuisine is based on fresh fish and foods grown in family gardens – peas, corn, ground provisions, coconuts – flavoured with plenty of wild herbs and seasonings. Crab and dumpling (usually curried) is a long-established signature dish and perhaps the island's most famous, which you can find in a few restaurants and at informal outlets like the food stalls at Store Bay – they will serve you a good overflowing plate.
Apart from that, try the traditional fish broth, or corned fish with cassava or corn coocoo; there is oil down, cassava bread and cassava pone, paimee (like Trinidad’s pastelles, but filled with raisins, sugar and coconut), or light and crumbly starch cake. There are all sorts of local sweets to raise the blood sugar (vendors at ANR Robinson, formerly Crown Point, airport specialise in them). Make sure too to taste the island’s wondrous variety of freshly squeezed fruit juices and punches.
Tips & Tricks
Good breakfast options include House of Pancakes, Golden Girls (for bake-and-saltfish and other local specialities), and Le Petit Patisserie for excellent French pastries. For lunch and dinner you’ll be thoroughly spoilt for choice.
Meals are usually reasonably priced, and nobody expects you to show up in a jacket and tie, though they rather frown on shorts, slippers and shirtless backs. On top of taxes, restaurants usually add a 10–15% service charge. A word of advice: some restaurants are closed for dinner on certain days of the week, so it’s wise to call in advance.
- Bar Code Sports Bar & Grill (Scarborough): this stylish new sports bar is located right at the Scarborough port, giving you relaxing views of the ships and ferries coming and going. Enjoy a range of signature drinks and local and international dishes (including a local staple, fish broth); shoot some pool; watch big sports games on their big-screen TV; or rock to the beat of their live music acts. 639-CODE, www.barcodetobago.com
- Sea Horse Inn Restaurant & Bar (Black Rock): featured on the UK’s Richard & Judy show (GMTV) and the Travel Channel, there’s a little something for any palette – from seafood to steaks, local creole to international and fusion. Enjoy beautiful oceanside breezes and views of Stonehaven beach, where giant leatherbacks come ashore March–August. Sip delicious cocktails at the bar, or dive in to a delicious 3-course meal under the stars. There’s nightly entertainment at peak times of year. 639-0686, www.seahorseinntobago.com
- Shore Things Café & Craft (Lambeau): housed in a quaint wooden house, the casual yet elegant ambience is both relaxing and rejuvenating. Enjoy magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean from its hilltop perch while tasting delicious sandwiches, pizzas, crêpes, cappuccinos, and fresh fruit juices, or desserts and breads baked fresh on site. 631-0068
- Chart House Restaurant (Crown Point): 639-8781, www.crownpointbeachhotel.com
- Pavilion Restaurant (Black Rock): 639-0361, www.stonehavenvillas.com
- Blue Waters Inn Restaurant (Speyside): 660-2583, www.bluewatersinn.com
- Cocoa House Restaurant & Bar (Golden Lane): 660-0416, www.footprints-resort.com
- Kariwak Village (Crown Point): kariwak.com
- La Tartaruga (Buccoo): 639-0940, www.latartarugatobago.com
- Melange (Mt. Pleasant): melangerestauranttobago.com
- MeShell's International Cuisine Caribbean Style (Buccoo): 631-0353
- Patino's Restaurant & Bar (Buccoo): enchantedwaterstobago.com