In Low Season, some of our favorite bistros close down, but some surprise openings too

Posted on Updated on

Nikolai Hebert of Casa Picasso lights up the bar with his traditional end-of-the-season flaming aperitif.
Nikolai Hebert of Casa Picasso lights up the bar with his traditional end-of-the-season flaming aperitif.

 

(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.)

Both the Phoenix resort and Red Ginger restaurant will be closing in September for Low Season.
Both the Phoenix resort and Red Ginger restaurant will be closing in September for Low Season.

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.

Some venues, Like the bakery Casa Pan Dulce, use the slow season to renovate, spiff up their interiors and otherwise prepare for the busy High Season which begins in November.
Some venues, like the bakery Casa Pan Dulce, use the slow season to spiff up their exteriors, renovate interiors and otherwise prepare for the busy High Season which begins in November.

Also, currently closed are

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:

The former Ambergris Brewing Company building on Boca del Rio will soon be the new home of Melt Cafe, with the same great menu but also now a full service bar and seven-day-a-week operation.
The former Ambergris Brewing Company building on Boca del Rio will soon be the new home of Melt Cafe, with the same great menu but also now a full service bar and seven-day-a-week operation.

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 has risen and fallen often but the popular roadhouse endures. It will be back on its feet very soon.
Legends has risen and fallen often but the popular roadhouse endures. It will be back on its feet very soon.

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. 

Once a western bar now a possibly more-upscale restaurant and cocktail lounge with roots in Placencia. Look for the opening of Nook soon.
Once a failed cowboy bar, now a likely more-upscale restaurant and cocktail lounge with roots in Placencia. Look for the opening of Nook soon.

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.

On the lagoon side, just a mile north of the bridge, Stella's Smile will offer a relaxed venue for sunset viewing while sipping wine.
On the lagoon side, just a mile north of the bridge, Stella’s Smile will offer a relaxed outdoor venue for sunset viewing while sipping wine.

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.

The wine bar and gazebo area of Stella's Smile, which opens Sept. 4 in the Tres Cocos neighborhood.
The palapa wine bar of Stella’s Smile, which opens Sept. 4 in the Tres Cocos neighborhood. Tables and chairs are spread through a carefully landscaped garden setting on the lagoon side of the main road.

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.

Looking like a construction site today but soon to be a innovative food court style dining area, The Truck Stop is quickly taking shape. Each freight container will hold a unique food venue, plus a bar.
Looking like a construction site today but soon to be a innovative food court style dining area, The Truck Stop is quickly taking shape. Each freight container will hold a unique food venue, plus a bar.

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 robertj.hawkins2012@gmail.com 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!

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “In Low Season, some of our favorite bistros close down, but some surprise openings too

    Susan Watts said:
    August 22, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Well, Randy and I want to see what the Island is like to live on, so might as well get the down times too. We’ll be arriving just as many close. Bummed we won’t be able to have breakfast at Estell’s THAT was a serious miscalculation on our part for sure! But I’m sure we’ll be able to find some other great place to eat and drink. I’ve been watching Danny and hopefully he will head North soon and “peter out”. Wouldn’t that just be a serious let down to come all that way and be holed up in our condo while we wait out Danny? AND we’re taking diving classes now so we can dive there. Oh well…Ka Sa Ra Sa Ra as Dorris Day use to sing! Hope to see you soon!

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      August 22, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      Great outlook, Susan. It will help you survive here. When nothing seems to go right, you can often hear people simply sigh and say, “This is Belize.” It is a form of acceptance, not resignation.

      Like

    Rob Chodowski said:
    August 22, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Same boat as Susan, we’ll keep visiting every 6 months or so trying to experience the various seasons until our permanent move in 3 years. See you in late January/February then we’ll keep you company in September 2016 and so on (no longer considering 6 months on and 6 months off).

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      August 22, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Perfect, Rob! So many “little” seasons to experience!

      Like

    Emily said:
    August 22, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Wow, this is some amazing reporting, Bob! You get around and are certainly in the know on the island restaurant scene. Has the Phoenix always closed down during low season? I didn’t think so, but I could certainly be proven wrong. Cheers, and let’s hope Danny doesn’t head this way (we’re in Playa del Carmen so have the same concerns).

    Like

    robertjhawkins1 responded:
    August 22, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Looks like Danny Boy is slowly heading NNW and may curve up into the States. But this year all bets are off with warmer temperatures, unusual currents and disturbed weather patterns. Hope your time there is most enjoyable!

    Like

    Albert McSweeney said:
    September 3, 2015 at 7:38 am

    If Belize has any hope of keeping its newly found Low fare “LCC” air service, and support its new COPA Airlines service from Panama (remember the South American high season is Aug-Oct), then these closings need to stop. The common comment is “well I use it to do maintenance” or “I don’t make any money” or ” I give my staff off”. If we are closed, airlines can’t sell seats, the LCC’s take their planes elsewhere (One airline said “if you don’t believe in your market in Sept and Oct, why should we, and we need to fly year round”) and our fares go back up and we are back where we started. For many years, everyone has complained about high fares. This has been fixed by the hard work of many, including many hotels. If the hotels and restaurants don’t open, the low fare bonanza will all go away. Why would anyone from South America want to come visit Belize in their high season (at full high season rack rates by the way) if everything is closed? Chicken and egg I know, the airlines have bet on us and it is Time for us to change our thinking

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s