Provo – Food for Thought 2022

Thanks to Covid, longest Providenciales hiatus since we discovered the Turks and Caicos islands roughly 15 years ago. Like Columbus, we just happened to be sailing the Atlantic, south of the Bahamas until we found these beautiful, barely manned islands one day and we never looked back. Much has changed since then especially in the food department. The weather didnt cooperate this time, but once you are there, the Provo zen kicks in, and you ignore all your problems. A plethora of great dining options help. Unlike previous visits, even some new places delivered this time. Here’s the recap…

Sweet T’s

Provo is generally expensive, even for NYC standards. But that doesnt mean you cant find cheap local eats. Even with prices pretty much doubling since we started coming to Sweet T’s, its fried chicken is still the best deal in town. You order by the dollar amount. For $5 you get about 10 full wings which is enough for two. Add $2 fries, $1.50 bottled water, $1.50 tip and you got yourself a meal for $10. This has become our usual first stop after landing since its a 2 minute drive from the airport.

Hemingway’s

One of the obligatory lunches for fish and chips and fish tacos at the Sands. While the fish and chips are still the same old flaky goodness, and perfectly seasoned fries… err.. chips, the fish tacos were just ok this time. The tortillas got soggy pretty quickly and the mango salsa sweetness was a little more prevalent this time. Wife liked them though so who cares

Mango Reef 

I haven’t been in MR in so long I forgot why I dislike it. Last visit was at the old location at the Alexandra. I figured since its still fairly popular it’s time to try again in the newer location in Turtle Cove. New verdict: Same as the old. Tuna salad was as basic as something you get in a Panera Bread. Coconut Shrimp was more like it. Appetizer lineup was somewhat lacking, forcing me to order things I don’t usually order. Grilled Snapper was serviceable if not a tad dry. The saving grace was the lobster curry. Surprisingly well balanced curry with just enough heat. I would come back just for this. Mango cheesecake was good and pretty to look at. Sexy even if I may say. Ambiance was that of a cheap wedding that didn’t pay for music. Even the drinks were wedding-like weak.

Omar’s Beach Hut

When Grace Bay misbehaves, head to the always dependable Sapodilla Bay (see below) or Taylor Bay, followed by lunch at Omar’s in Five Cays. You will pass a rough stretch on the way, but the location is superb. Omar spent many years managing Bugaloos next door so he’s no stranger to the conch scene. In almost godfather-like fashion everyone gets a chance to meet him. Well almost everyone. Waiter: “Did you see Omar”. Me: “No, I went to the bathroom, but he met my wife”. Waiter: Would you like to see Omar”. Me: “Ahhm, I think we are good, thanks”.

My lone concern was that “Island time” will take away from FIFA time, but it was quick and tasty. Conch fritters was proof that they dont necessarily need to be crispy to be supremely flavorful. Fish tacos topped with a nice tomato salsa were decent. The winner was the oxtail. You can tell a lot of love went into preparing this dish. Just wished there was more rice to accompany that sick dark gravy. And pretty much the best, freshest plantains we’ve had anywhere. Outstanding lunch.

The Almond Tree

One of the new and exciting kids on the Provo block, located in the stunning Shore Club. Pretty busy on a Sunday since many places including all my favorites pretty much closed. Open kitchen, but surprisingly ventilation issues for such an open layout. Nice looking space dominated by a large tree in the center. I’m guessing of a nut variety (almond?). The food is elevated American comfort food with an emphasis on the south.

The standout was the Pulled Braised Short Rib that comes on three little biscuits. Very nicely executed. The Gnocchi was nice and creamy. Pine nuts and sun dried tomatoes just for decor I suppose, and not much truffle essence from the truffle cream. But still enjoyed it. Old Bay Seasoned Shrimps (doubt it was named by famed executive chef Martin Davies) was good but essentially basic shrimp and grits. Maybe average if you eat it regularly in the south or high end places. Bread was stale, and service overall was lacking. Its a soft recommendation from me for now. If you are after the familiar (nothing wrong with that) go for it.

Cocovan

A quick enjoyable lunch at this popular Airstream food truck. I preferred the fried chicken sandwich over the grilled Mahi sandwich, she preferred the Mahi, and we both concluded that the Churros were the best thing we ever ate here. Fresh, light, fluffy and awesome. My lone gripe is the elevated prices even for Provo.

Le Bouchon

One of two regulars for dinner. Another flawless meal from start to finish. I think the most common complaint about LB has always been the service, but I feel more confident that kinks are mostly fixed. We’ve been coming here long enough to know what works best for us. Any type of Carpaccio. This time a silky smooth, melts in your mouth tuna. Add a touch of their excellent salt.. superb. Conch Chowder is always flavor packed with plenty of heat. Comes with this Harrisa sauce on the side in case you need even more heat and complexity. Steak Au Poivre still the bomb. You can tell it’s cooked well as soon as you touch it. Maybe a tad on the blue side for us as we prefer medium rare. The fries are like the best McDonalds fries you’ll ever have. And yet another perfectly cooked fresh snapper that makes other island Snappers pale in comparison (I’m looking at you Mango).

Indigo

New for us. A fantastic experience from start to finish that deserves a dedicated post. Will update soon.

Chinson’s

Part of our busy lunch rotation (we are the only Seven Stars guests that hardly eat at the resort). This is where we usually get our Jerk and goat curry fix. So often whether in Anguilla or here we get lesser quality fatty goat, but this one was not the case. Not as spicy as I remember but just as enjoyable. Same for the terrific Jerk chicken. That sauce! I till haven’t washed my hands properly since. The local Gon-Ta-Nort Amber is the beverage of choice throughout the week, again.

Caicos Cafe

Our first and last meal on every trip. Sometimes we even sneak one in the middle. Italian with a Caribbean twist. One of a few mid to high end spots that attract many locals. I met an Italian woman in Sapodilla who said “they are the only ones” when I asked about for her favorite Italian on the island. Well, at first she said “my kitchen”. The one gripe this time is that there were no specials on both visits which was always a rarity. Whether its a fresh Wahoo, Grouper, or a pasta of sorts, I’ve always enjoyed the specials here. But we persevered and then some.

The Tuna Carpaccio on one visit, Tuna Tartare on another were standouts, the former in particular. Just the perfect combination of silky smooth tuna with quality EVOO, salt and pink peppercorns. The Gnocchi was the same ol’ pillowy awesomeness. You won’t find more delicate gnocchi anywhere. The only app that paled in comparison to previous visits is the Octopus. Still good, but missing some of the old oomph.

During lobster season you can count on a solid Spaghettoni Lobster Fra Diavolo. We “Scarpetta’d” the heck out of that sauce with the usual quality bread. On the second night we enjoyed the pungent and meaty Orecchiette. The grilled lobster here is serviceable. I would also feel confident ordering ribs and steak here as we’ve done in the past. And you most likely wont find a better Affogato anywhere in the world. Its a mystery why no one else adds Baily’s to the mix.

Summary and Random Tidbits:

Standout meals: Le Bouchon, Caicos Cafe, Indigo, Omar’s, Chinson’s.

Standout dishes: Snapper at LB, Tuna Carpaccio at CC, Conch Chowder at Indigo, Oxtail at Omar’s, Curried goat at Chinson’s, Churros at Cocovan, short ribs app at Almond Tree, lobster curry at Mango Reef, Affogato at CC

If you are staying at the Seven Stars or even if you dont, try the Tuna Wrap and Caesar’s Salad for lunch.

Pick up some sandwiches for the flight back at Julien Deli (Le Bouchon owner). The Julien classic is good, especially according to Julien

Try picking up the new WhereWhenHow Dining Guide there or read it online. http://onlineissues.wherewhenhow.com/publication/?m=19978&l=1&p=&pn=

A couple of places I wanted to check out but ran out of time:

Sj’s Curryclub – Recommended by a few locals. Opened by a Provo veteran most recently at Graces Cottage. I’m told it’s a small place. I love Indian too much so not usually looking for it on vacation, but I was intrigued by some southern dishes like Chicken Chettinad.

Conch & Coconuts – Recently opened near Turks Kebab. That’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge about it. Would be nice to have a solid affordable local place in the hub even though that particular location can use some sprucing up

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