(Editor’s note: You can find an updated version of this list here.)
Welcome to Low Season. Or Slow Season.
It is that time of the year when hurricanes are possible and tourists are harder to find.
If you are on Ambergris Caye for the first time, you would not be faulted for assuming that Low Seasons means the time of year when the weather is absolutely fabulous and the crowds have thinned out.
It is true. We are having fabulous weather. (Trying very hard not to think about the tropical hurricane named Danny that is edging toward us right now.)
Fabulous weather or not, tourists are not clogging our streets, our beaches, our restaurants, our bars. Sadly, one thing it means is that restaurants and resorts that have been working extremely hard during High Season traditionally take some time off.
So, one sign of Low Season: Closed for Business signs. Venues shut down anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, riding out the tourism doldrums.
Kind of a sad time for us who remain on the island, as our favorite places go on hiatus.
Most places close in September and October but some have already shuttered their doors.
Among them, Casa Picasso, one of the island’s premier restaurants, closed last week with the traditional pouring of a tower of flaming blue-green aperitif by bartender Nikolai. Many on hand to observe this sacred moment — after the last dinner was served — were also treated by owners Jacki and Adam to what deserts remained in the kitchen. Key takeaway is that Casa Picasso reopens on Nov. 3.
Also, currently closed are
- Capricorn restaurant and resort to the north is closed indefinitely because of the sudden and unexpected death of its much-beloved owner.
- Hurricane ‘s Ceviche Bar & Grill on on a pier in downtown San Pedro is closed seasonally.
- Lone Star Grill & Cantina to the south is closed until Nov. 2.
- (Just added) Mesa Cafe, in the Vilma Linda Plaza on Tarpon Street, home of the best coconut french toast on the island, closed Aug. 19 – Sept. 2.
- My Secret Deli on Caribena Street is closed and undergoing some renovations for at least another week.
- Rojo Beach Bar up north is closed for the season.
The bulk of the restaurant closings and some resort closings will come in September.
The Black Orchid Restaurant & Lounge serves its final meals of the season on Sept. 5 and reopens for the the South Ambergris Caye Neighborhood Watch General Meeting on October 14th from 5-9 p.m. After that, service as usual begins Thursday Oct. 15t with a Tuesday thru Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. schedule.
- Belize Chocolate Company on Front Street closes Sept. 6 through Oct. 2.
- Blue Water Grill on waterfront at the Sea Breeze Hotel closes Sept. 9-24.
- Elvi’s Kitchen on Middle Street closes Sept. 28 and reopens Oct. 14.
- Estels Dine-by-the-Sea will be closed for the month of September.
- Red Ginger, the restaurant in The Phoenix resort closes at 3 p.m. Sept. 8 and will reopen for breakfast on Oct. 1.
- Wild Mango’s closes Sept. 12 for one month and customers can “look forward to a new re-tweaked menu on our re-open.”
Some resorts close as well, for example:
- Captain Morgan’s Retreat, 3.5 miles north of San Pedro, will close Aug. 29 until Sept. 25.
- The Phoenix resort will be closed Sept. 9-30.
- (Just added) Victoria House, the benchmark for quality resorts in the south end of San Pedro, is on holiday Sept. 28-Oct. 22.
Melt Cafe, the restaurant within the fire-afflicted Exotic Caye Beach Resort, must close by Sept. 1 — but guess what? It will reopen as quickly as possible in Boca del Rio at the extensively remodeled site of the former Ambergris Brewing Company, directly across from Wet Willy’s Dock.
Mark and Michelle have added an open-air dining area on the north side of the building, adjacent to their neighbor Sand Bar hostel. They have opened up the walls on the north side of the blue-and-white building for bar seating. The menu remains the same and they will be open seven days a week.
Also in the recently-closed-but-reopening category are two landmark venues, DJ’s and Legends.
DJ’s, next to the Boca del Rio Park was once known for the best burger in San Pedro. It reopens Oct. 1 substantially renovated under a new lease holder, as a family-friendly venue with a new menu.
Legends Roadhouse, north of the bridge and known popularly for its Tuesday night jam sessions, went down abruptly a few months back. A brief attempt recently to revive the restaurant sputtered and died but on Friday the Town Council reissued all the necessary licenses. Look for a reopening in the next week or two.
On the downtown waterfront, the building just south of Lily’s Treasure Chest restaurant is undergoing major renovation for a September reopening as Nook Restaurant and Cocktail Bartique. Empty for more than a year, the space was formerly a Texas-style country-BBQ joint. The new owners are experienced restaurateurs, claiming to their name the popular Mojo Lounge Restaurant & Bartique in Placencia.
Aren’t you even slightly curious about the definition of “bartique”? I know I am. Mojo is described as “A chill little spot in the heart of Placencia Village! Enjoy fun cocktails, innovative food that is constantly changing in a lounge atmosphere.”
There is also at least one grand opening in September: Stella’s Smile, an outdoor wine bar and bistro one mile north of the bridge, on the lagoon side near Grand Caribe resort. It debuts Sept. 4.
Co-owner Jay Schulman (with wife Pam Preston) says the venue is named for his late mother. They will offer wine by the glass for $8 to $16 BZE, or by the bottle, from a wine list that will potentially encompass 700 labels from 13 countries. They are also positioning the company as a wine distributor on the island.
Stella’s Smile will offer a rotating menu prepared by various guest restaurants on the island. The menu starts on Wednesday with appetizers prepared by Jay and Pam, with beer and wine. On Thursdays the South Ambergris roadside institution Robin’s will offer its celebrated chicken and other barbecue. On Fridays Waraguma’s will offer signature menu selections that will rotate from week to week. Saturday is pizza night with fixings and pies prepared on site by the Sand Bar hostel on Boca del Rio. Sundays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Stella’s will offer fresh-made crepes and bottomless mimosas.
Practically next door to Stella’s is another innovative food venue, currently under construction. The Truck Stop consists of three pristine freight containers that will be converted into food truck-style bistros. A fourth container will boast a bar and ice cream shop.
The containers are arrayed around a central courtyard that will contain tables and chairs and possibly be the site for live music. At least one prominent San Pedro restaurant has committed to operate one of the food venues and discussions are ongoing with other exciting prospects.
The Truck Stop complex is expected to open by the start of High Season in November, if not sooner.
(San Pedro Scoop wrote recently about the Truck Stop and Nook and many other changes going on around San Pedro. You can read the blog post here.)
So there it is. This is what I know so far.
There are more openings and closings coming up, I’m sure — as well as renovations, restorations and reinventions of existing dining venues on Ambergris Caye.
If you know of any, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 650-1987 and give me the details!
I’ll republish this post a couple of times with all the updated information included so that we can all get through Low Season without suffering from severe dining-out withdrawal.
Thanks for your help!