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St. Martin - Good Food on a Tight Budget?


Dec 29th, 2009, 11:40 AM
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St. Martin - Good Food on a Tight Budget?

Hello Fellow Fodorites,
We're 2 adults headed to St. Martin for a week (staying on the French side). We're looking forward to a little fine dining here & there, but generally, our budget's tight and from what I've read, most restaurants are expensive... Any ideas you can share on specific budget eateries you've enjoyed will be greatly appreciated!
meggie_may is offline  
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Dec 29th, 2009, 11:50 AM
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You've heard wrong - there are lots of "LoLos" (Locally owned and locally operated) places when you can get good food at very resonable prices. They are all over the island.
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Dec 29th, 2009, 01:16 PM
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Just to be clear, the Lolos are cheap and wonderful, but they are casual barbecue stands, not restaurants. You can drive over to the Dutch side and find a lot of casual restaurants that take dollars rather than euros, and that will help you save. But there are many many inexpensive or at least moderately priced restaurants on the French side as well.
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Jan 1st, 2010, 07:36 PM
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Talking about moderately priced restaurants on the French side, we tried Le BZH, a creperie in Oyster Pond - we liked it very much. This must be a relatively new restaurant as we did not notice this place last year. We ordered galettes (savory large buckwheat flour pancakes – cooked on one side only) and they were perfect for lunch (about EUR 7 to 10 each). Forestiere (lardoons, crème fraiche, mashroom and cheese) was particularly good.

The restaurant is located in the residential section (but is on the main road) and we get an impression that its clientele are mostly French-speaking residents there. It’s a casual place, but décor is chic and very French - a kind of casual restaurants we find in St. Barts.

Also, mini-market across from this restaurant sells decent wine for around EUR 12-15.
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Jan 2nd, 2010, 09:49 AM
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The restaurants in Orient Village are reasonably priced. And if your budget is really strained then walk over to Tap 5 in the little shopping complex next to Orient Village. It's a mini-mart but they have fresh baguettes and some nice cheeses and a deli counter that always included what looked like some delicious pizzas.

Some of the restaurants along Orient Beach have pricey lunches but you can find good ribs and chicken at Pedros close to the Club Orient end of the beach. Two lunches will be $30-50, depending on beverages. And you get a LOT of food.

Some restaurants in Grand Case offer a one-to-one conversion Euro to Dollars if you pay with cash and not a credit card. And the Dutch side offers American fast food if you get desperate!
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Jan 2nd, 2010, 03:16 PM
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there are many reasonably priced restaurants on both the French and Dutch sides.

Yvette's.... wonderful local food in a cute west Indian house in the village of Orleans.

Mark's Place..in the Grand Marche shopping center complex outside of philipsburg... huge portions and excellent food, very reasonably priced.

Lee's Roadside grill..Simpson bay. fresh grilled fish and great ribs. live music most nights.

Enoch's.. lunch only .. marigot market

Poulet D'Orleans In Orleans at sharp “S” turn in road on way from OBBR to Orient Beach . A unique place to have a great meal. Reasonable, abundant food. The chef/owner, Tony Romney, cooked for presidents of France and US(Bush Sr).

Pineapple Pete's
On Welfare Rd. very good, reasonable, live music most nights

just to name a few
Barbara1 is offline  
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Jan 3rd, 2010, 06:58 PM
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Take TONS of cash. A lot of places on the French side were doing $1 = $ euro if you paid in cash. If you get the credit cards involved then they will be doing the exchange rates and adding their own fees.

Have fun!
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Jan 4th, 2010, 01:38 PM
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kelliebellie is only partly correct.

If you pay by credit card for anything on the French side of the island, the EURO amount will be charged to your card, and the CARD ISSUER - NOT THE MERCHANT - makes the conversion from Euros to Dollars.

The restaurant or shop will NOT be deciding the exchange rate or adding fees - that will be done by your card issuer, using the exchange rate ruling on the date on which your card is debited.

It is still better to use cash anyway, for the obvious reason that many establishments use their own exchange rates against the US $ and they ALWAYS are favorable to the CLIENT - for example, $1 + 1 Euro, or $1.20 = 1 Euro and so on, but as today's rate of exchange at a bank is $1.43 = 1 Euro on top of which the bank or Bureau de Change will add a 'commission' stick to paying in Dollars.

By the way, many establishments will not accept American Express card payments.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 12:15 PM
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David SXM – that is how it works in EUR zone in Europe, but it seems that restaurants in French side have ability to charge in EUR or USD.

I noticed that most of the restaurants in French side list both EUR and USD (their own conversion rate) on the final bill. If one is non-French customer, the restaurant will automatically charge USD amount on the credit card. I think the reason for doing this is that if charged in USD, it will have TIP area (if charged in EUR, there are no tip area), and restaurants expects higher tip amount from non-French customers.

I understand that service is inclusive in French side (isn't that the French law?), but restaurants in French side expect US level tips from non-French customers. They will not be happy if non-French customer leaves 5%+ tip.......which is perfectly acceptable amount in France.
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Jan 5th, 2010, 01:14 PM
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Well Mochi7, St Martin - not to be confused with Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of the island - works in the same way as a Department (equivalent of a State in the US) of France, and the official currency is the Euro.

Prices are required, by law, to be displayed in Euros, though some vendors / restaurants show them in US$ also, for the convenience of tourists paying in cash, but the Euro charge is still what goes on your credit card, unless the establishment has a means of making a US$ charge via machine (which is certainly not always the case).

Your credit card issuer will convert any Euro amount charged to US dollars at the exchange rate of the day when the debit is processed, and it will therefore appear as a US$ expense on your credit card statement.

When a US$ equivalent to the Euro figure is shown on an item or on a restaurant menu, it is always calculated by the establishments concerned, using whatever exchange rate they choose - but, as I said above - it is never worse for the client than the official conversion rate, and can sometimes even be US$1 = Euro 1, though the official rate (now) is $1.43 = Euro 1, and the banks and most bureaux de change also charge a commission for converting the currency.

The US$ prices shown anywhere are usually only valid when payment is made in cash. It is therefore always advantageous to use cash for all purchases.

There is an automatic service charge added to Restaurant bills on the French side of the island, however the convention is to leave an additional minimum 10% - more if you are feeling generous, have been looked after particularly well, or have drunk enough wine ! Such extra tips cannot normally be added to a credit card payment, and therefore are left in cash either in US$ or in Euros, no matter how the bill has been settled.

I hope this helps to clarify the situation.
DavidSXM is offline  
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Jan 5th, 2010, 02:02 PM
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Thanks for the clarification David!
Mochi7 is offline  
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Feb 19th, 2010, 06:42 AM
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Only when the USD is worth MORE than the Euro (ie 1 USD = 1.25 Euros),should you ALWAYS use a credit card. The card company will do exactly what DavidSXM is saying and American Cardholders will come out ahead. This will not happen for a while (2011?). Until then, use cash.
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Feb 26th, 2010, 08:16 AM
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Just returned from St. Martin 2 weeks ago and none of the Tourist restaurants are cheap. We explored Orient Beach, Grand Case, Margot and we could not find any restaurants on the French side that offered 1 USD=1 EUR. With the exchange at 1.42USD=1EUR, they would lose too much if they offered 1USD=1EUR. We ate at the Hibiscus restaurant in Grand Case and the bill was $170 USD for 2 of us for a 5 course meal. We also ate more reasonably at other restaurants but the bill was always around $100 USD. The Lolos(BBQ stands) are your cheapest option on the French side and the entree prices were about $10 USD but these are not restaurants...they have picnic benches under a tin roof....one place had a 1 man Reggae band....wooohoo! Better to eat on the Dutch side where the prices are the same as back in the US. I also saw a Burger King on the Dutch side if you want to go bargain budget.
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Jun 26th, 2013, 08:50 PM
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I may be a bit out of date but just incase someone finds themself in this forum as i have, i wanted to throw out a great suggestion and a diamond find. If you want some good, local food there is a great food truck that just opened up on the french side near Grand Case (around the Go-Kart plcae). Food is delicious and also very very affordable - like under 10$ sort of thing -(very clean also i have to add - hard to come by from any food truck on the island - so beware otherwise!). It's absolutely delicious, and a great local, owner. You can find more information on his website - the place is called Shab's Snack - www.shabssnack.com
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