When visiting large, sprawling resorts in the Caribbean’s most popular tourist destinations, humble beach shack bars like the one pictured here are not only far from your mind, they’re also usually far away. Imagine my surprise, then, at finding this place located about 15 paces from the pool deck at the far western end of the Grand Lucayan Resort (formerly Our Lucaya) on Grand Bahama Island.
Billy Joe’s Restaurant & Bar is a local institution on Grand Bahama. I first heard of it from a journalist friend soon after my PR agency signed on to do some work for the resort this past summer, but details were sketchy as the writer last traveled to Grand Bahama 10 years ago.
If it’s still there, you’ll find it adjacent to the resort directly on the beach… But that’s a big ‘if’, if you ask me.
Well, Billy Joe’s is still there… sort of. The original Billy Joe’s, which opened some 40 years ago, was located a bit further west from it’s current spot. It moved within the past five years, which probably explains some of the confusion. Another contributing factor: Billy Joe’s apparent lack of telephone.
Billy Joe’s is a completely separate entity from the Grand Lucayan, but the relationship is strong enough that the best way to reach the bar by phone is by calling the resort. It makes sense, really, as the bar is so close to the property and obviously derives a great deal of its clientele from among resort guests interested in some local flavor.
While my bartender, Patrick, was quick to tell me that Billy Joe’s is “the place for locals on the beach” in Grand Bahama, he also mentioned that Rod Stewart had just stopped by the Saturday preceding my visit.
Celebrities, Grand Lucayan guests and locals are all drawn to Billy Joe’s for its strong drinks, cold beer and laid back beachfront atmosphere, but undoubtedly the main attraction is the cracked conch. As bartender Patrick says, “You haven’t been to Grand Bahama if you haven’t had the conch,” and Billy Joe’s does not disappoint with a heaping serving of some of the freshest, tastiest conch I’ve ever had. They serve up about 200 dishes of the stuff every day, so clearly they know what they’re doing.
The secret to the succulent conch at Billy Joe’s is an incendiary homemade hot sauce called Goat Pepper. They know it around the bar as the Devil’s Kool-Aid, and yeah, it’s that hot! Just a little dab is all it takes to keep the cold beers comin’, which I guess is the point.
Meeting Billy Joe himself also adds flavor to the experience of this place. At 75 years-old, this former cab driver has seen it all in Grand Bahama over the years. He can be a bit gruff, and is fairly busy running things at the bar, but if you hang out long enough (something that is not hard to do here, believe me) you’ll find that he’s happy to share a story or two with visitors to his little corner of beachfront heaven.