Placencia, Belize: Maya Beach Bistro
It’s amazing how quickly the months fly by. It feels like just yesterday, but it has been three months since Brad and I were adventuring, relaxing, and drinking all the rum punch in Placencia, Belize. Not a day goes by when I’m not reminded of a special moment or place or feeling from that vacation. It was like a honeymoon but better because, after 10 years of marriage, we are more ourselves as individuals and as a couple. There is a level of comfort and intimacy that simply cannot exist when you are on your honeymoon, but after a decade of marriage, if you’re lucky, time has made everything so much better.
Of all the places Brad and I have been over our 10+ years together, I think Placencia was the most surprising to me. It found its way into my heart in a way the typical tourist destinations in Central America wouldn’t have. I won’t soon forget how I felt when we were there. I’m tucking that feeling away in a special place for days when I really need it.Another thing I’m tucking away for a rainy day is the memory of an amazing meal we had at Maya Beach Bistro where we experienced unmatched hospitality and thoughtful, flavorful dishes. When we return to Belize, this will be one of the places I will be most excited to revisit. Between the beautiful setting and the simply amazing food, I completely fell in love with this sweet spot on the beach. Cocktails with that view? Yes. A thousand times yes.
Our meal started with a trio of salads, brought to us by our wonderful waiter, Cedric. He was so kind and helpful the entire night. And the salads, the first of many stunning dishes brought to us by the talented, yet quiet and humble, Chef Mary Kay Bader (formerly of Potager in Denver). The watermelon salad was my absolute favorite. The sweet and salty flavor and combination of textures was perfect, especially paired with the humid, salty sea air.
From the grouper with pineapple salsa to the Belizean French toast with shrimp, the perfectly cooked red snapper, and the peanut brittle ice cream pie (a MUST order) every dish was creative and used Belizean ingredients and flavor combinations beautifully. I mean, Belizean French toast with shrimp? Love.
All of the food was amazing, but my favorite thing we had that night was the seafood chowder based on a Garifuna fish stew called Hudut. The chowder, with creamy coconut, sweet potato, fresh herbs, and perfectly tender fish, rendered me speechless. I became even more in love with the dish when Chef Mary explained the inspiration behind it. There’s something so wonderful about taking a meal that has been enjoyed by generations and giving it a new look. That connection to traditional Belizean cuisine was evident throughout the evening, but especially in that bowl of chowder.
One of the most important things a restaurant can do is make diners feel at home, cared for, and cared about. It's not so different from inviting someone into your home. You want the food to speak to them and to create a sense of comfort. Maya Beach Bistro succeeded at making us feel all of these things, from their warm, welcoming smiles to the creative, yet approachable, food.
If you’re heading to Placencia, I HIGHLY recommend visiting Maya Beach Bistro. You will not be disappointed! And if you see Cedric, please tell him Rachael and Brad say hello. :)
Here is a list of everything we ate that night, along with a few notes about each dish:
Trio of Salads: The watermelon salad was our favorite. Texturally and flavorfully interesting thanks to fresh watermelon and pickled watermelon rind. Sweet and salty.
Belizean French toast with shrimp: Savory, comforting, and full of amazing flavor. Presentation could be slightly better with the addition of a fresh garnish to offset the brown sauce.
Grouper: pineapple salsa has a subtle heat that hits the back of your throat but is immediately calmed by the pineapple and coconut. Works very well with the fish to make a satisfying, flavorful meal.
Leek Flan: Creamy & delicious! Sweet potato chips make it fun and approachable. Conch can be a bit tough but its texture goes well with this dish.
Seafood Chowder: SO flavorful. Wonderful twist on seafood chowder with inspiration from traditional Garifuna stew, Hudut.
Grilled Red Snapper over Spicy Root Veg: fish was UNREAL. JUICY, flavorful, perfectly cooked, fresh.
Peanut Brittle Ice Cream Pie: DO NOT MISS THIS. Pairs perfectly with a glass of port.
What to expect (travel to the restaurant/during your dining experience):
- It took us about 20 minutes, by taxi, from the southern part of the peninsula to get to the restaurant. The total was about $20 USD each way.
- The dining area is covered, but be prepared to weather the elements anyway. Bug spray is a good idea.
- Staff is very friendly and accommodating. They are also very willing to make suggestions when it comes to food, cocktails, wine, and anything else you may need help with.