It was market day in Punta Gorda – Saturday and everyone was bustling.
“I vote we go and get something to eat.” I said. I had slept in after a hike the day before at Yok Balam cave. I had missed breakfast and was ravenous for lunch.
I, myself and three of the guests at Sun Creek Lodge has accompanied our host, Bruno Kuppinger toPunta Gorda, or what the locals call “PG” for short. A morning spent doing errands was a peek into the everyday life of Belizeans – a unique break from the tourist hustle and bustle.
Roaring around town in Kuppinger’s Landrover provided the vantage point: locals were out in droves, buying fresh fruit, (watermelon had hit its season), shopping, socializing, and loading up on drinks and water at the bottling company.
We all were game for lunch and decided to head to The Olympic Grill. The restaurant, owned by husband and wife, Alvin and Evette Vernon, sits just east of the airport, south of the market and the central park.
I had been to the “O-G” in PG once before, upon my arrival from Belize City. The food was fast and fresh – perfect after a day of travel. On this day, the grill outside was smoking, and piles of ribs were sizzling. I made my way over to see the progress before I took my seat.
“Is that a secret sauce?” I said to the cook. He smiled at me – a bright white toothsome grin. “Yeah, the kind of secret that if I told you…” I jumped in, “I’d have to kill you! Right?” He smiled even wider at the joke.
The ribs had been marinating and a bucket of dark bbq sauce sat next to the coals. Once the ribs were close to being finished, the cook dipped them into the sauce and back to the heat to make a crispy, sticky crust.
I knew what I was having.
Evette Alvin had grown up loving to cook. I wandered over the the bar to order “mixed juice” – a blend of that day’s fresh squeezed fruits. I asked her, “How did the Grill start?”
“About two years ago, we opened. I love cooking and my family encouraged me to open a business. I have always wanted to learn more.”
Her repertoire includes fresh fish, fried chicken of every kind (fingers, wings, whole broilers), pasta, burritos, shrimp, steak and her smashed garlic potatoes. “Every day we also have specials. Depends on the season and what is fresh, but also we have certain food on certain days. As you can smell, its rib day.” said Evette with a laugh.
Tourists and locals packed the outdoor dining room, housed under a palapa-style building. The palapa is adjacent to a large bar. Customers can take their food inside or outside – or even to go. The food is made fresh, everyday; a trait that Belizeans have down pat. “We know what tastes good and we want to serve up the best to our customers.” said Evette.
The ribs, served up with her coleslaw,a homemade flour tortilla and beans, were exactly what I was hungering for: sweet and meaty, and delicious when the pork was pulled and wrapped in the tender, hot tortilla
“My hope is to keep cooking and learning more. I would love to take classes and grow the business.” Evette said smiling.
Her husband Alvin came over. “We are so happy to have you here.” he said. Their happiness was the perfect compliment to my meal.
The Olympic Grill is open daily for lunch and dinner. The Alvin’s take a small break in the afternoon around 4 to 6pm, and then are back to make dinner.
The Olympic Grill Punta Gorda, Toledo District, Belize CA
Telephone 501-702-0078 or 501-663-8929
Kristin Fuhrmann Simmons