What surprises, tantalizes and excites most people about Caribbean food is simple – it comes with no expectations. Not often touted as a gastronomic hub, the scattered, easy-going islands that make up the Caribbean have long been visited just for the azure waves lapping along white sandy beaches or the candy-colored downtowns buzzing with souvenir stores and frozen daiquiri shops.
However, to any discerning foodie on a visit to the islands on a purely epicurean agenda, it’s easy to see that the fare on many of the islands, like St. Barts, is nothing short of spectacular. With fresher than fresh ingredients, a unique blend of European and Caribbean flavors, and a spotlight on local—the food here is spicy, flavorful and unforgettably mouth-watering. And there’s no better representation or introduction to true, five-star Caribbean bites than Maya’s on St. Barts.
Situated right on the water just outside Gustavia, with a low-key vibe that’s a mix of both elegant and beachy, Maya’s is the kind of place where you’ll find anyone – from the gardener at your resort to an A-list celebrity. It welcomes everyone from all walks of life, and is a true institution for both locals and visitors.
The Story of Maya’s
To most on the island, Maya Gurley is a legend. She’s a Martinique-born, Guadeloupe-raised, French-educated chef and restaurateur who married Randy—a New Englander. They met on St. Barts in the mid-70s, lived on a houseboat for several years, and opened Maya's Restaurant in 1984.
Maya's original concept, which hasn’t changed in nearly 30 years, was to recreate the menu daily, sourcing the freshest local products available, and devise dishes that celebrate those ingredients. As a result, her food is pure, simple, clean and comforting.
It’s All about the Food
What’s on the menu may change as quickly as the island weather, but the basic concept has stayed the same since the very beginning: There are five or six appetizers a day, a handful of main courses that always include fresh caught seafood, chicken and red meat, and a few desserts. Alive with local produce, the main dishes always come brightly plated with vibrant splashes of color.
Ask any local, and they’ll tell you to order the fresh shrimp or langoustine salad, the succulent green chicken curry served with brightly grated carrots, the fresh grilled Dorade fish served with rice and plantains. And don’t forget the chocolate cake; its recipe has been tasted, tested and perfected for nearly 30 years. For something a bit more tropical, opt for the orange cake, which is served with housemade ice cream.
The Reputation Grows
The popularity of Maya’s food, and the cult following that quick grew, propelled the couple to open Mayas-to-Go by the airport. St. Barts food aficionados—along with in-the-know celebrities like Jay Z and Tom Ford – don’t mind standing in line here as they wait to get their mitts on some beach eats or airplane snacks.
The reason for the popularity has less to do with awards and accolades (although mentions in Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure don’t hurt), and more to do with Maya and her food. Unchanged by much of anything, Maya’s passion for sharing the story of the islands through her food is contagious. On any given night, you’ll find both Randy and Maya in the kitchen or the restaurant, ensuring everyone is smiling, the food is delicious and the drinks are free-flowing.
Another testament to its success lies with the locals. It’s a known fact that if you can’t get the locals to love your restaurant, you’re never going to succeed long term. Luckily for Maya’s, the locals have been dining here since the very beginning. For many, it’s their second home.