Meals and Mealtimes
You can eat well in Belize thanks to a gastronomic gumbo of Mexican, Caribbean, Mayan, Garífuna, English, and American dishes. On the American side, think fried chicken, pork chops, burgers, and steaks. On the coast and cayes, seafood—especially lobster, conch, snapper, snook, and grouper—is fresh, relatively inexpensive, and delicious.
Try Creole specialties such as cow-foot soup (yes, made with real cows' feet), "boil up" (a stew of fish, potatoes, plantains, cassava and other vegetables, and eggs), and the ubiquitous "stew chicken" with rice and beans. Many Creole dishes are seasoned with red or black recado, a paste made from annatto seeds and other spices.
In border areas and elsewhere, enjoy Mestizo favorites such as escabeche (onion soup), salbutes (fried corn tortillas with chicken and a topping of tomatoes, onions, and peppers), or garnaches (fried tortillas with refried beans, cabbage, and cheese).
In Dangriga, Hopkins, and Punta Gorda or other Garífuna areas, try dishes such as sere lasus (fish soup with plantain balls) or cassava dumplings.
Breakfast is usually served from 7 to 9, lunch from 11 to 2, and dinner from 6 to 9. Few restaurants are open late. Remember, though, that small restaurants may open or close at the whim of the owner. Off-season, restaurants may close early if it looks as if there are no more guests coming, and some restaurants close completely for a month or two, usually in September and October. Unless otherwise noted, the restaurants listed are open daily for lunch and dinner.
Other than at hotels, Belize restaurants are often closed on Sunday.
Reservations and Dress
Reservations for meals are rarely needed in Belize or the Tikal area. The exceptions are for dinner at jungle lodges and at small restaurants where the owner or chef needs to know in advance how many people are dining that night.
A couple of restaurants in Belize City have a dress code, which basically means that you can't wear shorts at dinner. We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie, which is nearly unheard of in Belize.
Wines, Beer, and Spirits
Many restaurants serve beer—almost always the local brew, Belikin—and terrific, tropical mixed drinks. A growing number offer wine. Belikin is available in regular, stout, and premium versions. Lighthouse, a lighter lager by the same brewery, is also available at many bars and restaurants. A few American and other imported beers are available in some groceries, but prices are high. Due to restrictive import laws, the beers of neighboring Mexico and Guatemala are rarely available. However, beers brewed in CARICOM countries (of which Belize is a member), including Red Stripe from Jamaica and Heinekin from St. Kitts, are now sold in Belize. Presidente, a Pilsner brewed in the Dominican Republic, has been making a big marketing push in Belize, too.
Several Belize companies manufacture liquors, primarily rum, but also gin and vodka. Traveller's "One Barrel" Rum, with a slight vanilla flavor, wins the stamp of approval from many aficionados. In bars, local rum drinks are always much cheaper than drinks with highly taxed imported liquors. Grocery stores in Belize sell liquor, beer and wine.
Imported wines are available in supermarkets and better restaurants, at about twice the price of the same wines in the United States. There are wine specialty stores in Belize City and San Pedro. Cashew wine and other local wines are available around the country.
The drinking age in Belize is 18, although IDs are rarely checked. The official drinking age in Guatemala is 20.