A Food Adventure in English Habour
English Harbour is a town close to the southernmost tip of Antigua. It is a beautiful, quieter cousin to the capital city, St John’s. However, the area comes alive in December when the mega yachts and sailboats pour into the harbour. This marks the start of what business owners and locals call “the season.”
The season is incredibly important to English Harbour and Antigua as a whole. It is peak tourism time, arguably Antigua’s biggest financial gain. And, like anywhere with an influx of people, you need to find something to eat and drink.
Over the past two months, I’ve called English Harbour home and compiled a list of what I believe to be the must-eat and drink places. So whether you’re a yachty, visiting on vacation, a new local, or just a travel enthusiast like myself, this is your opportunity to understand the spots you HAVE to hit when you find yourself in this Caribbean gem.
The Lunch Spot
English Harbour isn’t known for having a lively lunch scene; in fact, most places don’t even open until 5 p.m. However, there are exceptions to the rule, and one of those is Roti Sue. As other businesses are opening their doors, Roti Sue is closing hers; the lunch day has ended. So, what I’m saying is get here early; she is NOT open for dinner.
Roti Sue is an infamous English Harbour local whose lore precedes her. Although she has been in the same location for an astonishing 23 years, she started selling her rotis on the beach to locals and tourists alike. In case you don’t know, a roti is a flour tortilla wrapped around a filling of potato and protein, seasoned heavily and served with various chutneys. For those of you who know, you already know why I’m salivating.
Roti Sue makes all of her tortillas by hand and rolls them out fresh to order, and she prepares all of her various proteins daily. The first time I visited, I ate the classic chicken roti. The tortilla was soft and warm; the chicken was juicy and well-seasoned, and even the potatoes were cooked to perfection. However, Roti Sue is the queen of chutneys and sauces. She makes all of her hot sauces and chutneys in-house — they are outstanding. My favourite is the tamarind chutney that is a little sweet, spicy, and the perfect edition to the MASSIVE lunch you’re about to eat. The lunch spot in English Harbour is, without a doubt, Roti Sue.
The Local Spot
One of the most important things to do when visiting a new country is to discover the local cuisine. You haven’t really been to a place unless you have, and you are even luckier if you manage to have that meal homecooked by a local. Mama’s Delight is the most authentic representation of that feeling in English Harbour. Large plates with more sides than one plate ever deserves and that home-cooked feel that makes you forget you’re at a restaurant.
When you walk up the stairs to this house-turned-business, you see the sign with the menu for the day, which changes daily based on what she has available. Everything from saltfish and fungee to baked chicken, to the seafood catch of the day, and much, much more! Every plate is served with sides of vegetables, salads, and daily specialities like her incredible macaroni pie. For me, it was all about the goat curry, the classic West Indies taste that visits me in my dreams on a nightly basis. The curry was balanced, and the goat meat was tender and juicy. By the last bite, I was too full to move. Like mothers worldwide, this mama doesn’t skimp on the portions. The Local Spot is Mama’s Delight.
The Comfort Food Spot
Flattie’s Flame Grill
Flattie’s Flame Grill, known simply as “Flatties,” is the local BBQ spot in English Harbour. Owner Amanda, originally from Montreal, embodies what it means to move to the island nation and commit to being an Antiguan. Her business and the food it serves have been a staple in English Harbour for years.
Flatties is a BBQ joint. It is the kind of spot where you smell the smoked goodness from the street, see the vibes of the patio, and tell yourself, “I have to make a point to try that place.” Flatties is credited with being the “pioneers of peri peri chicken in Antigua,” but it does so much more than just chicken. Antigua is KNOWN for its baked chicken, but that is not what I’m here to discuss. . . Let’s talk ribs, shall we?
The ribs at Flatties are like foodporn: juicy, falling off the bone tender, glistening with sauce, and smacking you in the face with a grilled smokiness that makes you think, “Today is the day I will eat a whole rack and have a complete disregard for any sauced fingers or faces that stand in my way.” But wait a minute, the menu is just beginning!
The supporting acts are just as delicious. Flatties grilled shrimp are awesome. They offer a variety of sauces (that can be added to anything, not just the ribs) and here is where I recommend trying the coconut chilli lime sauce. It’s tangy, spicy, and just a little sweet, giving it the perfect balance when paired with the shrimp.
We all know the mark of any good BBQ place is its meats and sauces, but the mark of any great BBQ place is sides that measure up to the mains. At Flattie’s, those sides are the mac and cheese and the famous potato bake.
Flattie’s mac was creamy, the pasta was well cooked, and the dish was very well seasoned. Despite my lactose intolerance, it was totally worth it. Similarly, the potato bake (or as I know it, scalloped potatoes) is an indulgent experience of dairy and potatoes . . . Need I say more? The melty cheese and crispy edges that engulf the stack of thinly sliced potatoes create a magical experience for your taste buds; some locals would say the potato bake alone is worth the trip to Flattie’s.
Over the years, I’ve grown to love soul food because it really does feed your soul. It’s warm, comforting, and makes you feel good when nothing else can. Washing it down with a cold Carib and sitting back in triumph as your plate is left with nothing but sauce residues is a feeling like no other!
If you ever find yourself strolling through English Harbour, hit up Amanda at Flattie’s Flame Grill and experience the comfort food spot.
The Social Spot
Everywhere worth being has that one place that just has something about it. The kind of place that you gravitate towards, the kind of place that people want to hang out and make new friends. For me, that place was Los Cabrones.
As the name suggests, Los Cabrones is a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar known for its lively atmosphere. Los Cabrones (roughly translates to “The Mother******s”) is a place of two personalities and two vibes.
The first vibe is its dinner vibe. Los Carbones serves a wide array of Mexican food and tequila-based cocktails that the whole family can enjoy. Their happy hour and daily deals make trying many different things easy, but I will tell you my personal favourites.
The shrimp mezcal fajitas are a masterclass in how to make something delicious and filling but lacking the guilt of some of the more fried or stuffed Mexican foods. The shrimp are well cooked, the sautéed peppers and onions add a fresh flare, and the tortillas are soft and warm, but the star for me is the lime mezcal sauce that it’s all cooked in. When the alcohol hits the piping hot cast iron, and flames erupt into the sky, you are left with this light but potent sauce that coats all of your filling; this is what I really want when I think of a fajita.
Washing it back with a mezcal old-fashioned and making new friends at the bar has become a nightly routine for many who pass through English Harbour by car, plane, or boat.
Although this is a tequila bar, Los Cabrones needed to find a way to represent the island that has given them so much, and their take on a rum punch does just that. The traditional mix of white and dark rum has tequila added to it before an array of juices and syrups, and the obligatory nutmeg and bitters are included to make a strong but dangerous mixture enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
Being true to form, the owner Dan will tell you the best way to enjoy it is with a mezcal float, to add a smoky component. Don’t be alarmed if he flips you off afterwards because, at Los Cabrones, that is a term of endearment.
At about 9 p.m., the vibe changes — the dinner crowd peters out, and the social drinking crowd arrives. Buckets of beers and pitchers of margaritas start flowing as the dancing starts, the socializing intensifies, and the mountains of nachos begin to leave the kitchen. What was once a place to sit and unwind over some birria tacos is now the place to flirt and mingle with your peers (and watch the bartenders and kitchen staff try to keep up).
Of course, every local will tell you that the place to party is Abra’s, but that is a late-night spot. Think of Los Cabrones as your “pre-drink” from 9-12, where it’s not quite yet acceptable to grind up on a stranger but a great place to lay the groundwork for it later.
Whether you’re on a solo trip trying to make new friends, with your crew after a long day on the boat, or you’re just really craving Mexican food, Los Cabrones is that social spot.
The Pizza Spot
Pizza is something we all crave, and in every city or town, there is always a debate . . . “Who has the best pizza?”
In English Harbour, that title belongs to Mauro’s.
A little out of the way, up in Cobb’s Cross (about a 5-minute drive from the main part of the Harbour, and a very well worth it 25-minute walk), you’ll find this bakery by day, a pizzeria by night.
I’ve never met Mauro, but I have met who I assume to be Mrs. Mauro, and she is the embodiment of a no-nonsense little Italian lady who is there for one purpose, and one purpose only: to feed you amazing stone-fire pizzas.
The inside of Mauro’s is simple yet elegant, anchored by a giant pizza oven churning out pies in the open-concept kitchen. The menu is extensive and boasts a wide variety of pizzas, from very traditional to not-so-traditional to outright inventive. All of Mauro’s pizzas are made Neapolitan style, regardless of the topping.
I like to stick with the classics, so I opted for a Sicilian-inspired pizza, basically just a Margherita with fresh anchovies. As much as I love anchovies, that is not what made this pizza so delicious.
Mauro does the little things right. The sauce is well seasoned and balanced; it tastes of tomato and garlic and doesn’t have that weird sweetness that some pizza places do. The cheese was well dispersed, and the amount was right. I don’t care what anyone says; you CAN have too much cheese on a pizza. Finally, the star was the crust, which was well-cooked and held up to the flop test; it had a beautiful char on the bottom from the oven. This is the embodiment of what a pizza should be and an unofficial ambassador for the “Best Pizza in Antigua” brigade.
The Cocktail Spot
The newest addition to English Harbour is an extension of a current favourite amongst the people in town. Negroni Terrazza is an upstairs terrace extension of the popular Roquita. I haven’t eaten at Roquita, so I can’t speak to its quality yet, but what I can say is their conception of Negroni Tarrazza is a much welcomed and much-needed addition to the Harbour.
Terrazza sits above all other businesses in English Harbour; ample couches and tables cover the small space while still leaving the standing room and, of course, a dancing room. The bar has partnered with the fantastic Nicholson Gin, carrying a wide variety of on-tap gin products, most notably their Negroni and blood orange gin.
Terrazza is the perfect date spot, the perfect “before we go to Abra’s” place (I won’t be discussing Abra’s in this article, but if you know, you know), or just a great spot to get together with friends or business partners to chat and enjoy a beverage. The ambiance is welcoming, the service is good, and the Nicholson Negroni’s are exactly what you need after a long week.
This new addition to the Harbour is here to stay.
The After Hours Spot
Momsy is a living legend. She’s not so much a ‘spot’ as she is a wonderful person, but she is still a staple in the English Harbour community. Nearly every night, as you stumble out of your bar of choice, you can see the smoke from her grill in the sky, calling you like a bat signal.
Momsy’s concept is simple. A lady and her grill, cooking up burgers on an open flame for hundreds of tipsy and hungry patrons looking for something to satisfy them after a night of dancing and flirting.
The late-night food scene is an entirely untouched market in English Harbour, and Momsy solves that problem. You make your way over, order your food, grab a seat on a rock, and just shoot the breeze with Momsy and any other like-minded customers who may be there waiting to sink their teeth into something.
It is not the best burger you’ve ever tasted, but it satisfies more than simply the hunger in your stomach — it completes your English Harbour experience, which is part of the deal! Like going to Shirley Heights or swimming at Pigeon Point beach, having a late-night Momsy burger is just something you do in English Harbour, so do yourself a favour and go say hello to the legend.
My time in English Harbour has been a true blessing. I’ve seen amazing views, met amazing people, and of course eaten some amazing food. The dreams I’ve had of being able to see the world through the lens of a local, to live and experience a place, and then be able to write about it all started here. This journey has been a long one, but I will always hold English Harbour in my heart as my new home away from home. It’s the place that started it all for me. That inspired me to write, especially regarding travel and hospitality, which are not only viable but also a necessary part of who I am.
Being able to share these experiences and, ideally, being able to inspire others to want to experience the same is an incredible driving force that I hope to continue to do so for many years.
English Harbour is a place of opportunity, friendship, and delicious food. When you’re planning your next trip, consider this beautiful Caribbean island.
Header image: iStock