Sometimes what you see is what you get. The Coral Reef Restaurant and Bar in Calibishie is not one of those times. As a matter of fact, while driving through Calibishie, you may not even see it! But should you pass up a stop at this chill eatery, you’d be missing out on some of the best local West Indian food I’ve had in a long, long time.
So, why is Coral Reef Restaurant and Bar so easy to miss? Well, from the street it’s hard to tell there’s even a restaurant there. I actually drove past the front of the establishment three times without noticing it. Finally, I just parked and tried my luck on foot.
The problem is that the part facing the road is a small grocery store. So, step one in getting to Coral Reef is to look for a small convenience store about midway through the bay in Calibishie. Tip: there’s likely to be a small tower of blue propane tanks stacked to one side.
Once I realized where the place was, I walked around back to find a local watering hole and eatery planted right in the sand. Think simple bar with a decent rum selection, plastic chairs, simple wooden tables, and plastic table covers that would look right at home in our grandmother’s house. The vibe, in a word, is local. Which, is precisely what I was looking for.
While guests can sit inside the restaurant proper, the best seats in the house aren’t in the house. The real deal is outside. There, a small seating area is built right onto the retaining wall above the water—home to a mini-mob of scurrying crabs. It’s small but strewn with more plastic chairs, though this time they have concrete shoes to keep them from flying away in the persistent breeze. Above, is a simple corrugated aluminum roof.
My favorite part about sitting outside is the view. From this perch, diners can soak in a panoramic view of Calibishie Bay including the iconic Hell’s Gate rock formations to the left, Red Rocks to the right, and Dominica’s longest coral reef centerstage. Doubtless, this was the genesis of the restaurant’s name, so it’s best to enjoy the view to the fullest.
I have a very simple, though highly biased and some might say unscientific, method for qualitatively judging West Indian restaurants. I just ask, “Does this food taste as good as anything my mom used to make?”
Being a Trini from South, our mom consistently produced (in my not-so-humble opinion) the best tastes of the Caribbean ever to pass my lips. Yes, my mom’s Caribbean kitchen has been the gold standard for island food my entire life, and I’m not about to change my ways now! Sorry, not sorry.
So, to put the Coral Reef Restaurant and Bar to the test, I ordered the stew beef with rice, black-eyed peas, provisions, and salad. It was a little unfair. Mom’s stew beef and black-eyed peas are the stuff of legend, so I was setting the bar extra high this afternoon.
This is what makes what happened next, so surprising.
A little later, a plate was placed before me that might as well have come out of a time warp. I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t just look like mom’s stew beef, it tasted like it, too.
They say that the taste, smell, and texture of food can bring back memories, not just of eating food itself but also of place and setting. Well, it’s no exaggeration to say that I felt four years old again. The beef was soft and fell to pieces at my fork’s tiniest touch. And the black-eyed peas? They were practically a clone of mom’s flavorful creations.
I had to take a moment.
With me that day were my two young boys—five and eight years old. You have to understand that our mom has been gone for a long time. So those boys have never had the opportunity to sample her cooking. I know this restaurant review has suddenly become very personal, but it’s hard to express how much joy it gave me to share this food, these flavors, and this feeling with them.
It was that good.
I spent a long time just soaking in my feelings and the vibe at Coral Reef. I never wanted to leave, but the reality of a long drive kept intruding on my nostalgic warmth. So, finally, it was time for the check.
With my wife, we had been four that day, and we’d gotten two rum punches plus the beef, a curry chicken, and a fish plate.
The grand total: $95 EC.
That’s just over $30 USD! For three big plates of food and two drinks! It’s hard to put a price on what I experienced that day, but it’s easy to love what it cost. These prices are excellent.
The Coral Reef Restaurant verdict
Listen, if you haven’t figured it out already, I love this place.
If you are going to Calibishie, or even if Calibishie was never on your itinerary, make it a point to pay Coral Reef Restaurant and Bar a visit.
Everything we had was superb, and I hear their ribs are a highlight as well. Like the best local spots, the menu here is ever-changing to ensure you get the freshest offerings from The Nature Island’s ever-fertile volcanic soil.
As a result, you may not get to sample the stew beef, but you’ll still be getting some of the best West Indian food I’ve had in forever.