(No part of this post is sponsored…but maybe should be!!)
I’m not a huge burger fan, as A&W is, I’m sure, figuring out (or doesn’t care). Those millions spent on their “Burger Bliss” campaign, totally down the drain if in hope of securing me as a devout customer. Give me a nicely grilled bone-in chicken breast with a good side of Macaroni Pie (which I think I’ve covered), or salad…and I’m happy… I won’t be fighting with you on the burger front.
And yes, there is always an exception. In Barbados, that exception would be the burgers at Bert’s Bar. Yep! About a mile and a half from our apartment sits this quirky little bar with burgers that are out of his world!! I’m not sure if it’s the beef, the spices, or the ambience. Might be the staff that inquires immediately if Sandra would like her usual… Cheeseburger and Macaroni Pie, and if she’d like to start with her usual Rum Punch? Yes, on all counts (That little bit was for my friend and blog-follower Bradley)!
And, of course she’d like the works, tomato, crisp lettuce and bacon (all costly extras in Barbados)! Then, our esteemed waiter, Palmer, brings an array of condiments: Lottie’s hot-sauce, of course (it’s in a mustard squeeze bottle so, consider this your warning)! Ketchup and mayo…real mayo… So good on these burgers. (We’re not counting calories or fat grams at this point). I’m sure if Bert, his ex-wife and his Ottawa Senators’-owner partner chose, they could put all Canadian burger joints out of business. Bert is perfectly in his element holding court at his bar-like “table” with TV remote in hand, dressed in a casual shirt with shirttails hanging on the outside of his vintage 1970’s bell-bottoms (the exact ensemble he threw on immediately after his 2 pm dip in the sea). As you walk in, Bert, at your left, greets you with a quick wave of his unoccupied hand, and a hurried “hi”. As I said, the ambience lends much to the dining or drinking experience. It can be quiet and romantic or Bajan-bar-like (Jivin’and loudish). To one’s surprise the television, mounted in the corner above Bert’s head, does not detract from the setting, and, perhaps, rather lends to it. We’ve watched everything from The Olympics to Mardi Gras in Rio de Janeiro. The open-air restaurant is dominated by an old solid–wood bar, featuring several wooden bar stools. Behind the bar is that always-helpful mirror watching over every drink you have!! There, behind the bar is also a large assortment of keepsakes given to Bert by his loyal regulars (including Labbat’s Blue Olympic-issue, collectors’ series beer can sets from Kent). White-painted iron and glass patio (emphasis is on the word patio) tables (circa.1975) surround the pool, which is separated from the adjacent property by a cute little fence and a hedge of Frangipani, with its small, thin, bright pink paper-like flowers, looking somewhat like what we know as azaleas. The entire dining/pool area looks to be straight out of an issue of Good Housekeeping magazine from the 1970’s.
The staff is, perhaps, the most endearing aspect of Bert’s Bar. I’ve already introduced stately Palmer. Just past the bar are the one-armed bandit slot machines, dinging and buzzing their way into your consciousness. Bobby immediately darts you a smile from a customer’s table or from behind the bar. He’s undoubtedly preparing his latest joke or another large jug of rum punch. You will then feel Maxine’s warm presence and be enveloped by her engaging smile. They are all uncannily attuned to your every need. Each of the staff members plays off the other (much like the dancers in a production of Swan Lake), serving the patrons, largely after-hours businessmen and women, or tourists. Though they’re all Bajan, (except Bert, who is Canadian), they work together to create a very happy, warm, Canadian-like atmosphere of camaraderie and friendship that has made Barbados a travel destination famous throughout the world.
You can just feel yourself leaving the workplace after a hard eight hours to spend time here, with these friendly, warm people, perhaps meeting your spouse or friends visiting from afar. Friendly atmospheres are good, but, no need to go without some of the basics… Pizza, man, pizza! As you all well know, I’m addicted to pizza, available on the island in a number of restaurants, from gourmet to fast-food.
We often make pizza in our apartment. Each time we do, I expect to see a lineup outside our door! About three times a week we go to friends’ homes to make our homemade pizzas for them…the children and adults gobble it up, looking forward to “the next pizza night”. There’s Nothing like homemade pizza. When we are finally living down there permanently in our own home, we’ll be able to host “pizza nights” in our home, as it will be much larger than our small, but perfectly acceptable, apartment. We make our own crust, take along our own pepperoni (no Brothers pepperoni down there!), and use the readily available fresh veggies and “mince” (ground beef). Paradise Pizza (sounds kitsch, I know, but it’s a great restaurant, and makes great pizza) is the greatest little spot we’ve found, and believe me, we’ve looked around! Walter, the owner, is friendly and accommodating and also puts out a fabulous, authentic Bajan lunchtime buffet. OK Bradley, here we go…fried flying fish, macaroni pie, chicken curry, pumpkin fritters, cou cou, pudding and souse, garden salad, peas & rice. Wow! What a spread – and he does this every day! And, Walter will deliver our pizza. Bonus… whether we stop in before going home at night and order in person, or call in an order from “home”.
The tell-tale sign of really good Bajan cooking is the number of locals it attracts. Walter packs the place every lunch time.
Our other friends, Gina and Martin Field, own and operate The Ackee Tree. Gina is an amazing chef. If you visit my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/sandra.meers?ref=ts&fref=ts you will often see posts from her, and often an indication of the Friday Lunch Specials, and sometimes a copy of her menu - and, no, Bradley, you cannot order take-out from Canada! They’re our friends and we can’t even get take-away from here! Oh, if we could!!!! Martin and Gina were once participants and hosts of the Friday night Limes…Martin the bartender, and oft-times the entertainment; Gina, the Chef. Those were REALLY good times. Theirs is an interesting story…maybe one of them would tell it here in this blog. The Ackee Tree / Blue Bench was located on the road just behind our apartment (the main road to “town”, Bridgetown, The Country’s capital)…it is now located down at the bottom of our road and around the corner, just a bit. I know their establishment is excellent with great food, and I can recommend it unconditionally, because I know Gina’s cooking. We’ll be regulars when we return to the island. My personal favourite in her repertoire is something called Doubles – curried channa sandwiched between two little circles of fried dough They’re wrapped in waxed paper and eaten out of hand. Scrumptious!! They’re time-consuming to make, so they might not be available all the time.
You are, no doubt learning that in my life the name attached to something may not completely and totally describe the object. Remember this when reading, and participating in, my blog! And my blog may not be a blog in its most recognizable form, but it allows me to pursue my writing, and share my experiences with you all. Just to warn you, Macaroni Pie isn’t really pie, as we have come to know pie. Flying Fish don’t actually fly, but Paradise Pizza IS, in fact, my version of Paradise! The Ackee Tree is a restaurant named after the tree. A lime, as I know it, refers to both the green citrus fruit and a party…I like the party version best!
Oh, the poor little flying fish, It’s one of the BEST kinds of fish I’ve EVER had. Wish you all could try it!! He doesn’t really fly, but, when being chased by other, bigger species, he gets his little fins going so fast that when he breaks the top of the water, he and his buddies appear to be flying across the top of the sea! Incredibly, at the moment he breaks the water, he can be going speeds of up to 30 /mph. Only then to be caught by a fisherman and turned into a “cutter” ( sandwich) for yours truly, complete with mayo and Lottie’s. If you see an entire school “flying” across the water, it looks as though someone threw a handful of diamonds sparkling in the sun! It is truly a sight to behold. Sparkling blue Caribbean water as a backdrop to sparkling flying fish.
Stay healthy and safe!
Stay healthy and safe!