Dining out on the French side
Over the past couple of months on the island, we’ve been having fun exploring St. Martin’s various culinary offerings. Most restaurants are outdoors, so COVID is not much of a concern. Many English-speaking cruisers tend to stick to the Dutch side, because they feel more comfortable surrounded by other English speakers. But by not exploring the French side, you’re missing out on some truly amazing culinary experiences. That’s why we’ve put together a list of our favourite restaurants on the French side.
Map of our favourite restaurants
All these restaurants are within walking distance of a dinghy dock for easy cruiser access. That said, they are easily accessible to non-cruisers as well! Also, many French restaurants are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays, so be sure to check before you go! On that note, few of these restaurants have websites, so check Google Maps or Trip Advisor for contact info.
- $ Affordable
- $$ Affordable, with more expensive options
- $$$ A nice meal out, a slight splurge by cruiser standards
- $$$$ For very special occasions
La Crêperie du lagon ($)
Hands down the best – and most authentic – Breton crêpes on the island, whether sweet or savoury. David also loves that they do a full, all-day breakfast with two eggs, bacon, fresh-pressed orange juice, coffee, toasted baguette and jam for just 10 euros. Their espresso is a godsend and the owners are absolutely lovely.
Located in the lagoon near Marina Royale. Open 8 to 3, Wednesday to Sunday.
For more info: https://www.st-martin.org/us/restaurant/la-creperie-du-lagon/
Le sous-marin ($$)
This casual, unassuming restaurant is owned by Jean-Baptiste and Paula. It’s located in a small alleyway off of Marina Royale, but don’t let its snack bar-like appearance fool you. Le Sous-marin is a hidden gem, frequented by locals and those in the know. The food here is made fresh every morning and will knock your socks off. Plus, if it’s your first time at the restaurant, you’ll be treated to a personal tour of the kitchen so you can see the dishes for yourself before deciding what to eat.
Jean-Baptiste’s personal touch is likely what has earned this restaurant its #10 ranking overall on the island and #1 in Marigot on Trip Advisor. That, and the delicious dishes.
They serve everything from freshly made sandwiches for about 5 euros, to quiche lorraine for 8 euros (served with fries and salad), to steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, brandade de morue, cordon bleu, blanquette de veau, and other typically French dishes for 12 euros each (which is a total steal). If you’re a cheese fan, try the oh-so-cheesy lasagna. Don’t forget to save room for the homemade chocolate mousse (which is sadly not David-friendly, i.e. not dairy-free, but is melt-in-your-mouth delicious and the perfect end to any meal).
Open Monday to Saturday, from 8 am until sundown.
Ô Plongeoir ($$$)
Also in Marigot’s top 10 on Trip Advisor is Ô Plongeoir. We tried this place on our anniversary last month and had an amazing dining experience.
With a name that makes reference to a diving board, this restaurant’s menu clearly has a seafood slant, but it offers some meat and pasta dishes as well. It may not be so great for vegetarians.
For starters, Mel loved that the wine list was on a giant wine bottle.
Speaking of starters, we started with the grilled calamari and chorizo, which was quite tasty.
For our mains, David had the tuna tartare and Mel had the pastis-flambéed shrimp. Both were excellent.
Bonus points for the complimentary banana rum served with the bill (and the surreptitious top-up!).
Ô Plongeoir is located across from Fort Louis Marina and is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
Tropicana came recommended by several people, so it’s no wonder it’s ranked #2 in Marigot on Trip Advisor.
Nadège is the hostess with the mostest. She has a great sense of humour, loves talking food and wine, and will do everything in her power to make your meal a memorable one. Plus, her husband is the chef, so they are a foodie dream team.
We started by sharing one of the specials, a delicious appetizer of delicious baked chèvre crackers topped with a salmon chèvre mousse on a bed of greens.
For our main course, David had his heart set on magret de canard (seared duck breast), and they graciously offered to switch out the mushroom cream sauce for a dairy-free red wine sauce. I opted for the salmon tartare, which was amazing. Both meals came with a choice of creamy mashed potatoes or basmati rice (I’m sure you can guess who chose what).
Nadège recommended a wonderful rosé from Provence that went perfectly with all our dishes.
Judging by the dishes on other tables, the salads are quite generous and are a meal in themselves. This is perhaps because the main courses are a bit light on veggies. The crab parfait appetizer also looked amazing and got a thumbs up from our neighbour.
We indulged in a gorgeous dairy-free chocolate mousse for dessert, paired with two decaf espressos, and in typical island fashion, our bill was accompanied by shots of banana liqueur!
Located in the lagoon near Marina Royale, Tropicana is open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. Look for the orange awnings.
La Villa ($$$ 1/2)
The town of Grand Case is known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and is home to many of the island’s French fine dining establishments, all of which are conveniently located on the main strip (“Restaurant Row”).
There are over a dozen restaurants to choose from, and that number has been steadily bouncing back since Irma devastated the island in 2017. It can be hard to choose among them, and as cruisers on a budget, we aimed for a mid-range option.
There’s a reason that among all the restaurants on both sides of the island, La Villa ranks #4 on Trip Advisor. It offers the best of French island fine dining without the crazy price tag. They have a prix fixe menu with appetizer, main dish and dessert for 52 euros. Be forewarned that the appetizers are generously portioned, so bring your appetite or just order à la carte.
We’ve tried the escargots, magret, and tuna tataki, and they were all memorable and so delicious we forgot to take pictures. The pistachio crème brulée was also a definite highlight.
UPDATE: We returned to La Villa after writing this post, and it was just as amazing as we remembered. All the servers have been there for many years, and seem like one big happy family who treat their customers like family too. Here are some highlights from our most recent meal.
Bonus pick: Pizza Box
While pizza may be traditionally Italian fare, the French make a mean pizza.
This food truck shows up at the Gare Maritime (port) in Marigot most nights at sundown. You can’t even walk by it without your mouth watering. The smells emanating from their stone oven (yes! in a food truck!) are divine. If you’re in the mood for thin-crust Mediterranean-style pizza, this is THE spot.
They have a regular menu, plus a constant rotation of weekly specials like magret de canard pizza with mushrooms and honey, or chorizo, red pepper, egg and olives.
They have a few tables for “dine-in” and sell beer and wine, and they also do pick-up orders. Due to its popularity, it’s best to go earlier rather than later to avoid long wait times.
Check out their Facebook Page for more info.
There are, of course, many, many more options to choose from, just on the French side. The Lolos (small food stands serving local Creole fare) in Marigot have newly been rehoused, and Grand Case is also famous for its Lolos, where the bbq coals start burning first thing in the morning. There are also lots of restaurants on the east side of the island (for example, in Orient Bay), but they’re slightly harder to get to by dinghy and require a vehicle.
If you’ve been to St. Martin, feel free to add your French foodie favourites in the comments below!
4 thoughts on “Top 5 SXM restaurants for cruisers on the French side”
OMG, as if we didn’t already have enough incentive! Enjoy you guys!
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Maybe we’ll see you here next season?
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Quite possible. We’re certainly not spending another winter here!
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