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RESTAURANT LE COTTAGE
97 Boulevard de Grand Case
The quaint fishing village of Grand Case is the restaurant capital of the island—some would say of the Caribbean. Here at Bruno Lemoine's cottage, the ocher walls set off cozy upholstery and silk drapes the color of red wine. That's a libation well represented on a mostly French list, one of the island's best, chosen by sommelier Stéphane Emorine. The fancy-bistro-style fare, both French and Creole, has a contemporary flair. Chef Sébastien Duhoux's various renditions of lobster and foie gras are specialties, but the rack of lamb in coffee-infused jus and the roast monkfish with bacon and olive tapenade, served with eggplant gratiné and sweet-pepper sorbet, are also outstanding. Be sure to leave room for one of the decadent dessert soufflés, in caramel, Grand Marnier, pistachio and violet.
This downtown Philipsburg classic has been going strong for more than 35 years. The food is consistently great—French with Caribbean touches, including house specialties like escargots prepared seven different ways and duck in pineapple and banana sauce. The place is a charmer, beginning with the yellow, blue and white gingerbread-trimmed cottage, dating back more than a century and a half, that houses it. Owner-chef Joël Morand and his wife, Sonya, are sweethearts—not to mention a lot of fun, which they prove each Friday evening from October to June with a floor show that includes various islands performers, along with your hosts impersonating the likes of Maurice Chevalier and (gulp) Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. By the way, print out and bring in the coupon on L'Escargot's Web site and they'll knock 10 percent off your check (except on show nights).
JOHNNY B UNDER DE TREE
15 Miracle Drive (about four miles from Philipsburg)
Street or roadside food stands here are called lolos (short for "low country"), and while Grand Case has a bunch of good ones (such as Talk of the Town), this one on a beach on the Dutch side's south coast some four miles west of Philipsburg is extra special, thanks to the man in charge. Friendly Johnny B (for Bridgewater) has decided that grilling succulent baby back ribs, chicken and lobster under "de tree" (an enormous mango) is more fulfilling than high-end cooking—and is he ever a whiz at it. Grab your choice with a helping of typical rice and beans and a cold one, sit down at one of the two picnic tables and chow down with a view of the Big Blue.
LE POULET D'ORLEANS
202 Shamba Hill, Orleans Quarter
National Road, between Philipsburg and Orient Bay
This is a step up from the lolos—it's housed in a building and everything. You get the real, down-home Creole dinner deal in this modest, pretty clapboard cottage with white gingerbread trim, over by Oyster Bay, on the French side of the island. Sit a spell on the little front terrace and enjoy the chicken (fresh and home-raised) and other local dishes, all cooked by Chef Tony, served by his kids and attractively priced. It's a must-dine, even though not exactly a secret anymore—especially not since Anthony Bourdain (a part-time Saint Martin resident) spilled the rice and beans by visiting with his No Reservations show on the Travel Channel.