By Candyce H. Stapen
Turks and Caicos, a foodie destination with its share of luxury resorts that offer fine dining, also has some tasty local finds. These are the places whose food conjures up the destination. Crackpot Kitchen, helmed by chef Nik Smith, stands out for its delectable local fare infused with international flavors.
The culinary ambassador for Turks and Caicos, Smith grew up in South Caicos. He was inspired by the neighbors' home cooking and schooled in the summers assisting his dad, Aulden "Smokey" Smith, at his popular Smokey's Restaurant in Providenciales' Blue Hills. After training at several of the island's top properties, he opened his own restaurant.
"I incorporate the flavors of Turks and Caicos and the Caribbean," he said. "I use local ingredients whenever possible in my dishes. My spring rolls have lemon shark from the East Harbour, South Caicos. Drunken Bird is a jerk game hen with roast cornbread stuffing. I put local seared snapper, conch and soft-shell crab in my Caicos Reef Curry, and I mix boniatos, a local potato grown in North Caicos that's very sweet, in with white potatoes for my smashed potatoes."
It's good to go with a crowd for a chance to sample everything Crackpot Kitchen has on its menu. Our group of four adults and two kids dined on grouper that was crusty on the outside and moist on the inside, savory seafood stew and tasty mahi-mahi with Cuban beans. Smith's tamarind tropical barbecue lamb ribs made this non-rib-eater a fan.
To locate Ricky's Flamingo Cafe in Grace Bay, find Ocean Club Resort, drive down the dirt road and park where you can. Then walk toward the wood frame building facing the water. The beach shack and bar serves good food. The restaurant plates grouper seven ways, among them blackened, fried, Creole and coconut. The kids in our family favored the crispy chicken fingers and especially liked the barefoot ambience, where no one noticed a shout or two — or even a flying French fry. Service can be really laid-back, so if there are hungry tots with you, be sure to inform the accommodating staff.
Another popular local restaurant is Da Conch Shack. At the waterfront eatery in Providenciales' Blue Hills, conch shells line the walkway, and guests dine on picnic tables. We liked watching the staff cracking the conch with a machete to dig out the meat. Go really local by pairing the conch fritters with Johnny fries, which are French fries seasoned with local salt and a mix of black bean and pepper sauce. The place also serves jerked chicken wings. Children can wade in the water while they wait for their food.
WHEN YOU GO
Crackpot Kitchen, Ports of Call Shopping Plaza, Grace Bay Road, is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Wednesday and Friday and Saturday: www.crackpotkitchen.com.
Rickie's Flamingo Cafe-Beach Bar and Restaurant has no website.
Da Conch Shack, Blue Hills Beach: www.daconchshack.com
Candyce H. Stapen is a freelance writer at www.gfvac.com.
Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @FamilyiTrips, on Instagram @CandyceStapen, and discover www.hennyskids.org, Stapen's nonprofit that gives solar-powered computers to rural schools in Africa. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
A seafood stew created by chef Nik Smith welcomes visitors to the Crackpot Kitchen in Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos. Photo courtesy of Candyce Stapen.