I was back in Corozal for their fair this last Saturday. Ever since my first visit to explore Corozal last month, I had made it a point of coming back to experience the fair. They celebrate in honor of their patron saint, the Lord of Esquipulas. I arrived early, to get a chance to stroll around the community and get to know if better. Corozal has one paved entrance that leads from the CA13 highway to the community. The road runs perpendicular to the sea and then turns right parallel to the beach. From there in continues about 350 yards before turning north towards the CA13 road. The is downtown Corozal.
I parked my car in front of Chamorro´s Restaurant and then took a stroll towards downtown. I was soon at the paved street that is parallel to the Caribbean Sea. You cannot see the beach because there are many homes between the street and the beach, but there are alleys that allow you to walk to the beach. During my hike, I was always met with friendly people who wore big smiles on their face. I must say that I felt very welcome in their community. I took one of the alleys to the beach. From there, I could see Cayos Cochinos out far towards the north east. To the West I saw a couple of structures with a thatched roof that looked like restaurants. I decided to walk along the beach to check these buildings out.
Upon arrival, I found that there were two different beachfront restaurants. It turns out that the first, Restaurante Tio Fito is the oldest restaurant in Corozal. It has been in business for over 24 years, since 1996. This is where my gastronomical adventure in Corozal commences! The food here is excellent, and the service outstanding. This is really the only sure formula for a successful restaurant over the years. The local atmosphere is great which a third indicator of their success.
This restaurant is open daily from 10:00 am till 9:00 pm. On Saturdays it is open till much later. In addition to great sea food and Garifuna recipes, they have a very complete international bar with top brands readily available. As in any Garifuna restaurant, they offer the traditional guifity drink. They prepare their own guifity here and of course, guard their recipe zealously. Their specialty are seafood soups, ceviche’s and whole fish plates. The fish is offered either fried or steamed. I tried the seafood soup which was out of this world! It was almost too much after a magnificent ceviche that I had as an entrée.
On the western side of Restaurante Tio Fito is Sea Watch. This is a more modern setting with thatched roof champas on the beach. It is a branch of the operation that has been in Sambo Creek for many years. There is also a Sea Watch in La Ceiba. If you enjoy sipping an ice-cold beer on the beach, this is probably your best option in Corozal. They are open daily from 11:00 am until 9:00 pm, but on Saturdays the are open until much later.
My gastronomical adventure in Corozal continues in the opposite side of town, within what I call the tourist zone. Hidden behind Chamorro’s Restaurant is Villa Zapata. A lovely garden serves as a setting for this restaurant that has a strong authentic Garifuna feeling to it. Many of the spices and herbs that go into their food are grown in their gardens. The owner, Pablo Zapata is an enthusiastic Garifuna who is passionate about his culture and heritage. If you want to learn about the Garifuna traditions, and some of their history, you would do well to chat with Pablo at the Villa Zapata.
In addition to authentic Garifuna recipes available at Villa Zapata, Pablo goes out of his way to provide a unique menu. On Saturday he had a special dish from southern Honduras. Some small clams that are native to the Pacific coast of Central America and not found in the Caribbean. These clams are known as “curiles” and they are sent to him from the port city of San Lorenzo. To my knowledge, this is the only place on the Caribbean coast of Honduras where you can find curiles! Pablo prepared this special dish for me to try. It is a dish fit for a King!
Before my gastronomical adventure in Corozal came to an end, I decided to visit Don Marino at his bar, La Corozaleña. I needed a shot of authentic guifity from Corozal to finish my adventure. Although the bar is quite informal, the atmosphere is friendly and inviting. From the porch you can see all the locals as they walk up and down the street. It is the preferred meeting point in town for many locals.
As I departed, I made a quick stop at a local exhibit of Garifuna products. Here I found several local products, such as coconut oil, coconut bread and cassava. The products where very fresh, and the coconut bread was still warm from the oven. I could not resist the temptation and bought some coconut bread and cassava. I should have bought more, because my kids at home devoured the bread. Before I knew it, it was gone!
In addition to the restaurants that I visited; I must put in a word for Chamorro’s Restaurant. They are on the beach and offer great quality. They are the only establishment in Corozal that boasts the Atlantida Calidad Turistica seal, which means that they offer great food and outstanding service. Next to Chamorro’s is Arenas Bar and Restaurant. They have a beachside lounge that is very inviting to sit down and enjoy an ice-cold beer or your favorite cocktail while you enjoy the cool trade winds. It is also a great spot to watch the sunset.