It’s 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon, but the white sand beaches in Williams Town on Little Exuma are empty. Everyone is at Santanna’s, a delicious open-air seafood bar on the water. While Chef Dee serves up delicious fried shrimp and grouper, the real draw is the cracked lobster.
Upon first walking into the wooden bar you’ll notice vibrant Caribbean-style music playing while happy locals dance and sing. From the ceiling above the bar license plates and colorful hats dangle down, enhancing the quirky atmosphere of the venue. Best of all, Santanna’s sits right on the beach, so you can watch the waves lapping up onto the white sand while you eat.
A smiling man brings me at ice cold Kalik beer, and plops a white Styrofoam to-go container in front of me. For those who think a great meal must be presented in an aesthetically-pleasing manner, don’t judge a book by its cover, especially when ordering Santana’s cracked lobster.
Unlike your usual broiled lobster, this fresh catch is fried while still in the shell with oily pieces of batter dripping into the bed of creamy lentils and rice that it’s served on. The lobster is surprisingly sweet, due to Chef Dee’s “secret sauce” (sorry, I tried to get it out of her but she wouldn’t budge). She did tell me, though, that all ingredients are local and many are sourced from her personal garden.
Although the rice tastes stir fried I’m told it’s boiled, with most of is flavors coming from the sweet native onion, onion leaf, natural salt from the local salt pond and pepper. It also has a delightfully sweet and savory contrast that is further enhanced with sides of corn kernels and coleslaw.
It doesn’t hurt that this family-owned restaurant also has an onsite “Mom’s Bakery,” run by none other than Dee’s mom.
While they only serve a few items — marble cake, vanilla rum cake, chocolate rum cake, and a crepe-like pasty called “coconut filling” — everything is made fresh. I got to experience this firsthand by ordering a decadent slice of chocolate rum cake.
The dessert is pulled fresh out of the oven before the woman working heated up some local rum and generously poured it on top. I’m not sure if it was the alcohol or the fact I was eating a warm and satisfying local treat, but I was love drunk upon first bite. I’ll definitely be back for a Bahamian breakfast or dessert stop in the future.
Despite the fact Santana’s looks like a fun-loving dive, its anything-goes nature has allowed it to create a culture where Dee can be experiential with her cooking and serve it to locals who consider her establishment their second home.
It’s an attraction in itself. In fact, Santana’s cracked lobster may not only be the best meal in the Bahamas, but the entire Caribbean.
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