Aug 23, 2022

Dining and drinking along the Placencia Sidewalk

Part Three:  Pursuing paradise in Placencia Village, Belize

If you spend any time touring Placencia Village, chances are you will become very acquainted with the famous Placencia Sidewalk. 

Billed locally as the “Narrowest Main Street in the World,” this concrete and crushed coral pathway runs parallel to the peninsula’s eastern shoreline from the pier to the northern side of the village, albeit slightly inland from the beach.  It’s considered Placencia’s main street in part because it really was the only paved path in town prior to the 1980s when a road was built to the village and was routed west of the sidewalk. 

As such, many older businesses in Placencia are still easier to access from the Placencia Sidewalk than Main Street, and it remains the main thoroughfare in town for most tourists and many locals.   

It didn’t take long for Punky and me to take our first foray down the Placencia Sidewalk.  Having been in the village for just a few hours, sunset had already come and gone, and we were looking for the closest and liveliest place to grab a quick dinner on an otherwise slow Sunday night.  And, with the entrance to our resort quite literally on the sidewalk, it was a no-brainer to simply walk south to find the nearest buzz of activity.

That turned out to be the Tipsy Tuna, a self-described beach and sports bar, and a fixture in Placencia for 20-plus years.  Tipsy Tuna checks off all the boxes for what you’d expect from a tropical beachfront bar and restaurant, from the brightly colored décor in the open-air dining area …

… to a bar that’s well stocked with a wide variety of rums, mixers and other libations.  

And with a drink menu as extensive as they have, I’m pretty sure nothing sits on the shelf unused for long.  By the way, if these prices alarm you, remember to cut them in half for the U.S. equivalent.  Good drinks are plentiful and inexpensive in Placencia.  

And if several pages of the food and drink menu leave you unsure of what to order, I quickly learned you can’t go wrong with something off of the specials board. 

Punky had been a little concerned about seafood dominating the cuisine in Placencia, so she was quite happy to order the barbecue pork chops and very pleased with what she got.  I, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to try some local seafood and was extremely satisfied with the pineapple shrimp.  Both entrees came with what we soon realized were standard sides of coconut rice and a small salad that come served with almost any dinner.   

We were advised that Tipsy Tuna would become a “regular” hangout for the duration of our trip, and it turned out to be just that, thanks to its proximity to our resort and the constantly pleasant vibes there. 

So, when we found out they hosted traditional Garifuna drummers on Wednesdays, we made it a point to check it out.

This guy seemed to be in charge.

I will admit that for my tastes each song seemed to go on longer than I anticipated, but who am I to question customs that go back generations?

Competing for that same laid-back beach party vibe as the Tipsy Tuna, and conveniently located a short walk in the sand next door, is the Barefoot Beach Bar.

You could almost call them sister bars.  Barefoot is similarly decked out in bright colors …

… with an open-air bar in essentially the same spot on the premises.  

It also has nightly specials and a late kitchen to draw tourists and locals alike all week long …  

… and an equally impressive list of daily food and drink specials on display on the chalkboards.  From our own personal experience, we found the tamarind flavored drinks and the watermelon margarita to be big winners.  

The food at the Barefoot Beach Bar was also on par with Tipsy Tuna’s.  I enjoyed my tamarind chicken special much more than I expected, frankly.  The grilled chicken was very moist, and the sauce was delightfully tangy.

Punky preferred to stay on the menu and was glad she did.  The Barefoot nacho plate was enormous and had a nice variety of toppings. 

When it came to the dining experience, I think we enjoyed having our feet in the sand at Barefoot Beach Bar a little more.

Plus, you can never complain when the local beach/bar dog takes a liking to you. 

Like Tipsy Tuna, we made a habit of visiting Barefoot Beach Bar regularly during our stay in Placencia.  It helped that Barefoot had its share of local entertainment, too.  

For instance, if you’re in the village when local musician Kylon Eiley is playing at Barefoot, I highly recommend you check it out.

You never know who else is going to show up.  (No, that’s not really Guy Fieri.  But it does kind of look like him.  Maybe it’s Bud Fieri?)

One of the best meals I had on the Placencia Sidewalk turned out to be at breakfast, though.  And oddly (or appropriately?) enough, it was at SmoQiz Bar-B-Que Bistro.  The place had a can’t-miss location.  Step right through this lovely pergola adjacent to the sidewalk, and you’re practically in their dining room …     

… which, as it turns out, is a very convenient spot for watching life pass you by on the Placencia Sidewalk. 

They also seem to have their own mascot to keep you company. 

The interior at SmoQiz is almost entirely devoted to the kitchen, and I couldn’t help but notice how pristine it appeared.  For a barbecue joint, I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not, but the business is relatively new and already has good word of mouth.    

The breakfast menu had plenty of your typical omelets, skillets, breakfast burritos and other standard fare, several emphasizing their smoked meats.  It is a barbecue restaurant, after all.  But I didn’t come to Belize to eat any ordinary breakfast.  I narrowed my focus to the Creole entrees on the right side of the page.

Of course, I was intrigued enough by the fried fish filet for breakfast that I had to try it.  And was I ever glad I did!  This fish turned out to be the best piece of seafood I had on the whole trip (even better than an outstanding grilled lobster tail soaked in mango butter at Tipsy Tuna).  Simply seasoned and perfectly grilled to maintain both a firmness and moistness that is frankly too good to describe.  The eggs, fry jacks and refried beans were nice, but the fish was easily the best thing on the plate.  

To wash it all down, I chose a glass of soursop juice from SmoQiz’s selection of natural juices.  It was the first time I’d ever had soursop, and I became a fan instantly.  To me, it was just the right balance of sweet and tart, tasting somewhat like a combination of lime, pineapple and banana.  Soursop juice also has a slight frothiness to its texture that I quickly learned to like.  

Punky placed her trust in the restaurant’s barbecue background and ordered the smokehouse scrambler.  The smokiness of the brisket reportedly matched quite well with the blend of eggs, potatoes, peppers and onions.  She certainly didn’t get shortchanged on the size of the platter, either.

I’ve spent a lot of time describing some of the fun places for food and drink along the Placencia Sidewalk, but there’s so much more than bars and restaurants along the path.  On any given trek, you’ll likely pass by many tourist trap gift shops and craft stores, as well as an occasional real estate office enticing future expats to relocate. 

Other places stand out for just being unusual or unexpected, such as the modest home advertised as a gospel church, the coffee shop so adjacent to the sidewalk that you don’t have to step off to place your order, the expat-run Literary Lizard book store (we met the owner at the nearby Pickled Parrot bar), and perhaps the tiniest convenience store I’ve ever seen. 

You’ll also see a fair share of small resort properties, vacation rentals and guest houses, which stand out in stark contrast to the few actual residences adjacent to the sidewalk. 

Then there are the residents that live under the sidewalk … iguanas, lots of them. 

It’s easy to see why the Placencia Sidewalk is still considered the heart of the village.  Once you visit, you will find your way on it sooner or later.  Multiple times, probably.  It’s quaint, it’s quirky, and it’s one of the most memorable parts of a Placencia vacation. 

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