The Mayan culture and food are an integral part of the Belizean culture, however, sadly, many of the traditional dishes have gone by the wayside in favor of quicker, simpler eats. This trend continues with many other cultures seeing a loss in their heritage. Lately, there has been a resurgence in peoples’ desire to preserve their history and traditions and that trend has definitely carried over into the culinary world.

Elvi’s Kitchen on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize, is one such spot that is working to preserve the Mayan aspect of Belizean culture.

On Friday nights, Elvi’s Kitchen offers a traditional Mayan buffet for 50BZ ($25 US) that is certainly worth a try if you are vacationing in San Pedro. Before you groan that this is probably like other cultural buffets that are just masquerading as overpriced tourist traps, give it a try. Elvi’s Kitchen is one of the top restaurants in San Pedro, and all of Belize, and has earned a loyal following over the years from both locals and tourists alike.

Elvi's Kitchen offers a Friday night Mayan Buffet that is worth a visit.

Elvi’s Kitchen offers a Friday night Mayan Buffet that is worth a visit.

Now in her 80’s, proprietor Elvia Staines is still actively involved in her family business. Her daughter and Executive Chef, Jennie Staines, took a week-long culinary course that focused on Mayan traditions and ingredients. With the skills acquired during this course, she helped create the very popular Friday night buffet that gets so crowded you should consider making a reservation.

The quality of ingredients and chef Staines’ passion for cooking shine through in everything from the handmade tortillas to the desserts like dulce de papaya.

Handmade tortillas...my weakness!

Handmade tortillas…my weakness!

Dulce de Papaya...may be one of the best things I have ever tasted. And yes, we ate that entire bowl between three of us!

Dulce de Papaya…may be one of the best things I have ever tasted. And yes, we ate that entire bowl between three of us!

Elvi’s Kitchen Mayan Buffet features rotating dishes weekly so in order to try everything, you need to make a few visits. I keep hearing about this elusive pumpkin soup that I must try soon! Look for very traditional dishes like Pork Pibil, seasoned and wrapped in banana leaves that are buried in the ground for cooking. The tamales and tacos I sampled were also out of this world.

A look at some of the dishes available at Elvi's Kitchen Mayan Buffet

A look at some of the dishes available at Elvi’s Kitchen Mayan Buffet

I was very lucky to be invited to try the Mayan buffet by my friend, granddaughter to Mrs. Elvia Staines. The entire family is very passionate about the quality of the buffet and that everyone is happy and satisfied with their meal. I gained incredible insight to a family that I already knew was passionate about food, but it extends far beyond that. Elvi’s Kitchen is all about sharing the Belizean food and culture with family and friends. There is a happiness that comes from eating the food, but there is a divine happiness in sharing that with your loved ones.

Plantains are a staple in Belizean cuisine and Elvi's makes some of the best I have ever tried.

Plantains are a staple in Belizean cuisine and Elvi’s makes some of the best I have ever tried.

Soups at Elvi's are extraordinary -- from black bean, tortilla, sopa de lima, try whichever one is featured on the buffet.

Soups at Elvi’s are extraordinary — black bean, tortilla, sopa de lima, try whichever one is featured on the buffet.

Mole enchiladas

Mole enchiladas

My recommendations for the Mayan Buffet — come hungry and try everything. As the buffet rotates, there is no confirmation you will try any of the same dishes, but everything I had was excellent. I will admit I had my own reservations as I’ve always found that quality can suffer in a buffet setting. Spending far too many nights in hotels with breakfast buffets tends to make anyone skeptical after awhile. Elvi’s Kitchen is very conscientious in portions that are brought out, keeping them small and manageable so as to ensure nothing was sitting out for very long. On the night I dined, there was certainly no risk of that as the place was packed and the buffet was the popular option for most patrons.

Be sure to try the desserts and the cafe de olla, a Mexican spiced coffee that was the perfect end to the meal. If you only eat at Elvi’s one time during your holiday and you still have a little extra room left — order the coconut pie on the dessert menu. I’m told that Ms. Elvia still makes it herself daily and that no one else has the secret recipe. It’s truly one of a kind!

Save room for dessert and the Mexican coffee!

Save room for dessert and the Mexican coffee!

I was a guest of Elvi’s Kitchen for the Mayan Buffet, but all views and opinions expressed are my own. All photos taken by my friend Joe Chung for my blog and accompanying articles

About The Author

Erin is a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including AFAR Magazine, Destination Belize, Viator, TripAdvisor, Trivago, and Roam Right Travel Insurance.

Related Posts

One Response

  1. Yvonne Thomas

    Feb, 6th 2015 I had lunch at Elvi’s it was curry shrimp & rice it was the best I ever had just couldn’t get over how delicious it was. Sorry I couldn’t be there for the buffet.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.