Nassau is the capital city of the Bahamas, and home to 70 percent of the Bahamian population. Residents here are known for being friendly; whether it’s a smile or a “how do you do,” locals likely will take it upon themselves to welcome you to town. Buildings are painted in vibrant colors. And much of the traditional food comprises hearty seafood meals that remind me of Southern cooking.
During my most recent trip to the Bahamas, I set out to explore Nassau’s culture through the food and local fun. What I experienced were some of the most enjoyable days I’ve ever spent in a Caribbean nation.
Best local meal in town
The most delicious food I consumed during my trip was at Bahamian Cookin’ Restaurant & Bar. Three generations of Bahamian women staff this kitchen, pouring their love into traditional family recipes.
On the menu, you’ll find a shellfish called conch (pronounced conk), a common regional ingredient. Conch is a squid-like mussel found inside beautiful, pink shells from local waters. I sampled it in three different preparations: breaded and deep-fried, incorporated into fritters, and served ceviche-style. I can’t say which was my favorite because they were all delicious.
I also enjoyed steamed chicken served with rice and peas, mac and cheese squares, and fried plantains. How about that for a combination? The shredded chicken in this dish was tender and smothered in a light gravy. The mac and cheese squares had a rich complexity of flavors I didn’t expect. And the rice was a nice compliment to the dish.
Right in downtown Nassau, Bahamian Cookin’ is a charming restaurant that made me feel connected to the local culture. And I learned about it taking a tour with Tru Bahamian Food Tours, a must-do activity for foodie travelers looking to get to know the Bahamas through its cuisine.
A sample plate of fried conch and conch fritters
A refreshing local snack
Dino’s Gourmet Conch Salad is a small stand on the west side of the island known for tropical conch salad. Salads of this variety typically are made with fresh conch chopped finely with onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. These ingredients get seasoned with lime and orange juices, salt, and habanero peppers. But here at Dino’s, they also add chopped mango, pineapple, and apple to the mix.
The conche, pulled right from the ocean across the street, makes this dish sing. Married with all those vibrant flavors, the shellfish is a tasty and refreshing treat; my mouth is watering just remembering it now. Be prepared to wait at Dino’s as they painstakingly chop each salad to order. I watched as mine took nearly 30 minutes. But it was most definitely worth the wait.
Once you’ve had your fill of tropical conch salad, head down the road to Compass Point Beach Resort. This beach bungalow hotel is perfect as a stop for drinks and pool time looking out over the ocean. It also is an ideal spot for those looking for a hotel that enables them to avoid crowds and enjoy the island’s beauty for less.
An experience for all the senses
The Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant is a luxurious destination in Nassau to indulge in many senses (and vices). It was built nearly 300 years ago as the mansion of a pirate, and later became a retreat for the rich and famous. The ambiance today is both elegant and antique.
Because of the main house’s fancy dining spaces and cigar lounges, visiting feels like being transported back in time. The main restaurant fills nightly with well-heeled patrons enjoying local fare and spirits from one of the largest wine and liquor cellars in the Bahamas.
Also on the sprawling property are wild gardens and pools, a cigar company, a chocolate factory, a pizzeria, and a Brazilian churrascaria. One of my favorite attractions here is the decorative-tile-lined pool tucked inside the hotel gardens. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy this amenity; visitors can purchase a day-pass to lounge poolside with a drink in hand.
I also had a blast in the chocolate factory, where you can get your hands dirty making chocolate treats with a master chocolatier. I attended a chocolate-and-spirits tasting, during which I tried a wide variety of chocolate truffles paired with alcohols such as tequila, beer, and port wine. I walked out of that experience tipsy and smiling from ear to ear. Not surprisingly, I also left with a big box of chocolate truffles to share with family back home.
What is the first thing you do when arriving at a new tropical destination?