Eat (and Drink) Like a Local in the Abacos, Bahamas

Where to find the best conch, burgers, and rum punch, courtesy of Captain Clint Kemp of BlackFly Lodge

photo: Jason Myers

photo: Jason Myers

Clint Kemp.

For twenty years, Captain Clint Kemp, co-owner of BlackFly Lodge in the Abacos, worked as a fisher of men—a minister like his grandfather. A three-month sabbatical, which he spent knee-deep on the Bahamian flats, convinced him to set his line for a different quarry, and so he left the clergy to become a full-time fishing guide—like his father. Then in 2010, he and a handful of partners, including the marine artist Vaughn Cochran, opened BlackFly on Schooner Bay. The eight-room lodge with wide Bahamian-style verandas is booked up almost a year in advance. And the on-site restaurant, which sources produce from the lodge’s own island farm, is one of the hardest reservations to snag in the islands. But if you want to know where to grab a quick bite—or sip a rum punch—with the locals, Kemp, whose family came to the Bahamas from Cornwall, England, in 1690, knows all the islands’ secret haunts. Below he shares a few—but not all—of his favorites.

Pete’s Pub
Little Harbor

“Pete’s Pub is a great little dive bar about twenty miles south of Marsh Harbor that sits right on the beach. Seems like it has been there forever. But the real story is that Pete Johnson, a world-renowned sculptor, came to Little Harbor in the 1950s. For two years, his family lived in a cave nearby. He built a metal foundry and then constructed a little restaurant off of the side. They serve the best hamburgers in Abacos. You can get there by car or boat.”

photo: Peter Frank Edwards

Just another day at Pete’s Pub, in Little Harbour.

Jamie’s Place
Marsh Harbor

“This is the type of place that I can walk in and know everybody—a nice little diner. The Sawyers still run it. They’re an old-time Loyalist family. (Lots of families who were loyal to the British crown came down to the Abacos from the Carolinas after the Revolutionary War.) Jamie’s is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Order the steamed or cracked conch.”

Great Guana Cay

“Go to the infamous Nippers on Sunday for the weekly pig roast. My cousin Johnny Robert runs the place, and it’s one big party. Most people approach by water. Nippers sits up on a bluff overlooking this amazing white sand beach. There’s even a pool up in the dunes. Order the signature Grabber—with caution. It’s a bunch of different rums and it will knock you on your ass.”

photo: Courtesy of Nippers

A view of Nippers, overlooking the beach.

Miss Sheba’s
Marsh Harbor

“Miss Sheba’s is just a cinderblock building with a screen window that you walk up to and place your order. It’s a true local place with down home Bahamian cooking—peas and rice, steamed fish, steamed pork chops, and the like. There’s no seating. And every day you’ll find a line in the yard, but people just park it under a tree and wait. Your order comes in a styrofoam box, but it is awesome. Trust me.”

Firefly Bar & Grill
Elbow Cay

“Jump over to Hope Town and head to Firefly. It’s a newer spot—was opened by the group of South Carolinians who created Firefly sweet tea vodkas few years back. They came to Hope Town and bought a little bungalow and created this awesome restaurant. The food is excellent, and you can tie the boat right up at the restaurant. It sits on the water and is west facing, which makes for a great sunset view.”

photo: Courtesy of Firefly Bar & GRill

Al fresco at Firefly Bar & Grille.