No one is quite sure why Thursday is D-Day at the Bay Tavern in Martin’s Bay. Especially since it’s the kind of location you only find if you know exactly where you are going.
But, after navigating precarious hairpin bends and more potholes than roads, the reward upon arrival makes the journey more than worth it. Right by the rugged St John coastline is a bustling all-inclusive watering hole where the drinks are cold, the seafood is fresh, and the vibe is that of family.
On my afternoon Across Country, I was welcomed warmly by strangers and friends alike, and almost forgot I was on assignment.
The recent phenomenon of sargassum weed –– piling up on almost every Barbadian beach –– is starkly present on the shore just beyond the lining palm trees. Its scent hits your nostrils even before you position your car in one of the two designated parking areas. But no one seems to mind. There are far more titillating aromas emanating from both inside and outside Bay Tavern.
Let’s start with the dish synonymous with the location: whole grilled red snapper, with any variety of salads and side orders. After ten years in operation, one of the managing directors, Junior Griffith, is quite proud of the snapper reputation and the quality of the meals in general.
“The key focus is making local food more palatable wherever possible, so we can cut down on import costs. The old people used to live off this food before, and we try wherever possible to focus on the menus that the older generation used to eat, and bring them in tune with how the youngsters would try to make it more palatable for them.” explained the mild-mannered boss.
And that’s just the so-called “inside food”, prepared from the kitchen attached to the bar. The “inside” menu features healthy portions of all types of seafood, including grilled swordfish, kingfish, marlin, and even shark. These are accompanied by breadfruit dishes, macaroni and shepherd’s pies, and a variety of fresh salads.
On Thursdays there’s a special tent on the outside offering spare ribs, pigtails and fishcakes, which the friendly cook Jenny and her team prepare all day, and well into the evening.
“The fastest selling is the spare ribs and chips,” says Jenny. “Everybody just dies for those spare ribs and chips. They can’t seem to get enough!”
(Clearly Jenny has a “sweet hand”!)
That menu is far from exhaustive, with pork and chicken done any way you like it high on the orders list as well. But, for Jenny, it’s more about the Bay Tavern vibe.
“We have a great time down here. It’s a lot of fellowship; you get time to breeze and enjoy good food and good unity together.” she boasted.
That’s what’s interesting about the Bay Tavern. While behind the scenes everything runs like a well-oiled machine –– orders are placed for “inside food” and announced on the public address system when they are ready, and payment can be made by cash or credit card –– there is nothing about the area that feels rushed, hurried or crowded.
It’s a distinction, when compared with other popular liming spots, that Mr Gittens is keen to point out.
“I guess the mature element of the crowd prefers a quieter situation than Q In The Community, so they tend to focus more down here where they can get a nice seat, sit down and enjoy the nice breeze and relax. It’s natural and unspoilt, as you can see.”
But at every lime, especially where adult beverages are being consumed, there’s one guy whom everyone knows by name: a loveable rogue with a sweet word for all the ladies; and, for the fellas, some brusque but playful ribbing; and he is the first one to offer you a beer. At the Bay Tavern, this rogue’s name is Bevy.
Despite the running commentary on any topic that comes to mind, this shift worker was hard to pin down. At the bar, singing karaoke (for which his friends don’t think he should quit his day job!) and flirting with the regulars, he was clearly the life of the party.
“It’s nice being out with friends, liming, having a drink, eating some of the delicacies [like] fish, the ribs, the chicken . . . . Everything is great. The service is immaculate. There’s nothing to complain about.
“My work schedule is very busy; but once my off day falls on a Thursday, you will find me up here liming. I encourage a couple of friends to come along as well –– just to have a great time,” said Bevy with a wry smile.
To say the Bay Tavern is off the beaten track would be an understatement. Yet, its reputation brought from as far as Sunset Crest in St James some tourists, who say they prefer the more relaxed atmosphere, with the bonus being it’s right by the seaside. Some whom I spoke to said it was a fixture on their holiday calendar for however long they were here. And meeting up and making friends with locals is, of course, the greatest pull.
With tourists and locals in mind, there is local art and jewellery on sale; and, from time to time, there are drinks promotions that sometimes keep action at the Bay Tavern pumping well into the wee hours.
But no matter what time you go, you will find everyone –– from grandparents minding their grandchildren, to businessmen and politicians, to regional athletes, to co-workers, to canoodling couples, and to neighbours “from just up the hill”. All are welcome, and all can indulge, unmolested, in fresh seafood, cold drinks and that “fellowship” which Jenny is so proud of.
And, if you’re a technofile who still needs to be connected while you’re liming, there’s free Wi-Fi access too!