Barbadian Escape

By staff November 18, 2009

On Barbados, the taxi drivers know best about where to eat. 

By Judi Gallagher



In need of a respite before disc surgery (being a chef for 30 years takes its toll), I headed for the island of Barbados. Although I was leaving my Florida home just as the temperature was beginning to remind me to pull out the slow-roasting recipes, lying on a beach for four days with two massages already booked, a great book and plenty of sunscreen sounded like the perfect prescription.

 Beautiful Barbados.

I had not researched the island culinary fare. I’ve been tired, and this nagging neck pain has taken a bite out (pun intended) of my passion for carefully anticipating every meal ahead of me. The thought of room service, even with a nagging neck and a bit of jet lag aside, does not fit into my lifestyle. There is no way one is going to get Judi Gallagher to eat hotel food (unless it’s The Ritz or Four Seasons, of course). So, enroute to our resort, our taxi driver escort suggested we try “Oistins Fish Fry”—especially since it was Friday and Friday nights are the big night, with multiple (very multiple) fish shacks serving fried and “grilled fresh” Barbadan fish (aka Bajan)—music blasting, dancing, little “rum trailers” everywhere and crafts galore.


So, after a quick soak in the Caribbean waters and a picturesque sunset, we hailed a cab and entered a utopia of fresh fish, local flavor and an amazing feeling of being welcomed to someone’s table, literally! There were over 20 different fish stands to choose from and plastic tables set up and ready to serve.


First we decided on a small trailer serving “flying fish,” with tartar sauce and amazing macaroni and cheese—“pie,” as it’s called (about $22 Barbados, $10 US for an incredible plate of food and service). We strolled a bit, invested in the local jewelry stands and headed back to the fish stalls for a plate of kingfish. Uncle George’s is apparently THE fish shack. The line of people (local and tourists) stretched for a half hour wait, but it’s well worth it, as camaraderie is embraced by all. Dialogue is shared, like, “Try the plantains over at that red stand, but try the whole red snapper from the other stand.” Finally, our turn arrived; and while I preferred flying fish, the kingfish was seasoned so flavorfully that I could not deny a new culinary investigation—again the seasoning was magnificent. Might I add, Uncle George’s grilled potatoes were worth every carb, even after that great mac n cheese pie. Need I say we slept well that night?

 Uncle George's fish shack.

The next day, while strolling past the nearby surfer area, I noticed a group of athletes, local workers and a few tourists gathered around a trailer near our hotel. The sign said “Guaranteed to be the freshest fish.” I took out my $6—Barbadan—that’s about 3 bucks US—and yes, it really was amazing. A bit spicy, the lightly fried fish sandwich that burst with freshness proved to be not enough at one. So, an hour later, I walked down the path from the hotel and ordered another one. “Ah,” said the owner, “I knew you would be back. I saw that big smile when you took your first bite.” 

 The place for guaranteed fresh fish.


And so, as I returned home, still dreaming about the fish sandwiches (yes, I had the taxi driver stop on the way to the airport for one last round), I realized that you don’t always need the research, the dining guides and the critics’ choices. Just ask the taxi drivers.

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