There’s a new generation of Bahamian chefs in Marsh Harbour, Abaco that are tired of playing by the rules. They’re remaking traditional Bahamian classics but infusing it with different flavours. They’re adding wine cellars filled with wines that you can’t find anywhere else on the island. They’re changing the food culture as you know it but in the best way possible.
The chefs at the local restaurant, Da Blue Hole want their food to provoke a reaction. “What we’re trying to build here at Da Blue is something amazing. Something where Bahamians and tourists alike can enjoy an experience when they come. They could see the presentations, taste the food, the flavour and say wow,” says chef and co-owner Antonio Huyler. At this restaurant, that is conveniently located on the harbour, you can choose between classic favourites such as a simple bacon cheeseburger or a basket of signature wings. Or you can opt for Lemon-Scented Island Fish Cakes or a classic Bahamian favourite Tuna and Grits, the only thing it’s not like how most people prepare it. Rather than tuna salad prepared on soft, warm island style yellow grits, the tuna and grits at Da Blue Hole is ahi tuna prepared on herb polenta, a play on one of the simplest dish proving that no Bahamian classic is beyond reinvention.
The tuna and grits dish isn’t the only classic that’s being reinvented. Another example of the restaurant reinventing a classic Bahamian favourite is the gully-wash baggie. Bahamians grew up on non-alcoholic treats such as this one. “Baggies” are sweet frozen treats that could be enjoyed anywhere at any time. They are an actual sandwich bag, filled with frozen Kool-Aid, and when they are ready for consumption, one would bite a hole into the plastic baggie and suck out the frozen delight. The gully wash puts a delightful spin on it, as gully wash is the Bahamian vernacular of gin, coconut water and condensed milk. Together, not only is it a treat but a delightful childhood played out with every bite. “You should be emotionally charged, we grew up eating baggies and the gully wash baggy is something we do on special occasions. It’s for adults obviously, but it takes you back to when you were a child,” says Chef Huyler.
Da Blue Hole isn’t just a restaurant, it’s a budding community. Its location makes it the perfect place to start or even end a night. Chef Huyler said constantly struggling with places to hang out, birthed the idea of the restaurant. “Something my wife and I struggled to do was to find good places to go out and enjoy ourselves. A safe, yet fun environment to have good food and a great conversation. That’s what we’re trying to build, a community. But the property also allows the hosting of parties for guests to create their own experiences while enjoying out space,” he explains.
Battling between what’s the best part of Da Blue Hole may indeed be an argument you’ll have forever. Between the delicious food, the atmosphere and the premises itself, it’s hard to choose a favourite. The restaurant itself is sectioned off into several parts, the Oasis Room, the Sandbar and the Sunset Deck. Each section is a puzzle into Da Blue Hole’s tagline, Get Lost In Our World. The Oasis Room is nestled into a secluded area of the main dining room, it has the best view in the house, on one side is the harbour with boats in all sizes and on the other side, it’s the new 800 bottle capacity wine cellar. The Sandbar is branded as the best external venue in Marsh Harbour, it’s a beautifully designed yard space complete with string lights for an under the stars events or perfect for a wedding reception. It’s complete with a stage, lounge chairs and cabanas. One’s imagination could go wild thinking of the possibilities. Finally, the Sunset Deck is a 650sq deck on the water, allowing you the option of watching the beautiful Abaco sunset disappear into the horizon while you sip on a delicious crafted cocktail. Everything is intentionally designed, “We’re creating a new concept where we’re introducing stuff like wine and trying to diversify the culture a bit more. The idea is if you want to sit by the bar and have a nice drink while enjoying our duck wings, you can do that. Or if you want a date night, with a four-course meal, that is also an option. Da Blue Hole is not meant to fit into a box but rather to provide versatile options,” says Chef Huyler.
Keeping in mind the goal of shifting the food culture, the menu options are ingenious and Chef Huyler says it’s because they’re not afraid of change. “The verbiage isn’t traditional, it’s a clever play on words, we also change the menu daily because we’re not afraid of change. Just because you ate something here last week, doesn’t mean you should come back expecting it again. It’s so people aren’t bored with us and our offerings. Change is good.”
Da Blue Hole is owned by two chefs that are no strangers to the island of Abaco, Chef Antonio Huyler and Chef David Thompson. They’ve decided to step out and do so boldly with their new venture, Da Blue Hole. Most locals are familiar with them because of ventures such as Oasis Restaurant, the Cabana and Red Marlins. While some locals and visitors are just now getting to know them from interacting with them at Da Blue Hole. The cuisine and the atmosphere are unique expressions of their vision, hunger and ingenuity.
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