For an island that is only 37 square miles in size (approximately 7 miles by 5 miles), St. Maarten / St. Martin sure has a lot of restaurants--by some counts as many as 400! Even more amazingly, most are superb. You’ll find an excellent listing of restaurants, with descriptions, menu suggestions, reviews, maps and links to the restaurant web sites at DineSXM and SXM-Restaurants.

French Side
The gastronomic heart of the island lies on the French side of the island in the tiny village of Grand Case, just north of the French capital of Marigot. Grand Case bills itself as the "Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean," with some justification. The emphasis here is on elegant French food in casual Caribbean surroundings. In recent years however, restaurants on the Dutch side of the island have made great strides to improve their quality and ambiance, resulting in a friendly though serious competition between the two sides when it comes to offering memorable fine dining experiences.

Grand Case
Restaurants such as Alabama, Le Cottage, Hibiscus, Le Tastevin, Le Maëva, Chez Martine, Fish Pot, and Pressoir all have partisans that swear that each is "the best." You’ll also find excellent French/contemporary restaurants such as Rainbow Café and California, and fine Italian restaurants such as Spiga and Il Nettuno. Prices are not cheap, particularly when the Euro is strong, but justifiably so.  For more modest budgets, there are quaint Creole restaurants such as Ti Coin Créole and Repaire du Pirate, and the Lolos, a section in the middle of town where you can watch your ribs, chicken, fish, or burgers cooked on grills made of split metal drums, and then eat them at tables overlooking the Caribbean. In the high season (December to April) Tuesday night in Grand Case is Harmony Night, when the main street becomes a pedestrian zone and strolling bands and dancers entertain the crowds.

L'Hibiscus - Excellent fusion of French and Italian cuisine with a Caribbean flare. North end of resturant row in Grand Case with superb service, intimate atmosphere and exceptional food quality.  Expect different types of menus such as the Lobster Menu, Creole Menu or al a carte, something for everyone's taste.  Great value for the money. 

Le Pressoir – Great French cooking and superb service; what more can you say?  On restaurant row in Grand Case as are the following two restaurants.  Bring your credit card.  One appetizer, two main courses, a bottle of wine, and one dessert for $175.00, including tip, this could easily top $200.  But, hey, second mortgages are at historically low rates, and you aren’t likely to see this kind of meal back home!

L’escapade – Try to cop a table overlooking the picturesque harbor, with a flotilla of sailboats in the foreground and the lights of Anguilla in the distance.  Taste, presentation, and service are all outstanding, and dollars in cash are accepted one-for-one for euros.  This reduces the price of the meal by about one third, and is offered by only a few of the fine restaurants in the area.  So if you have cash, “bring a sack and save a lot.”

Le Tastevin.  Seated by the waterfront again, everything can be perfect.  About $150 for one appetizer, two main courses of fish, shrimp, and scallops, a bottle of wine, two desserts, and tea.  Great wine selection, which includes a muscadet with a Wine Spectator rating of 80, at 20 euros a bottle. 

The French city of Marigot, as you’d expect, also has many fine restaurants.  Some, such as La Vie En Rose, Bistro Nu and L’Oizeau Rare are located in the center of town, while a number of fine casual restaurants can be found in the Marina section where the docks are surrounded on three sides by restaurant after restaurant such as Brasserie de la Gare, Don Camillo, Main a la Pâte, and Tropicana.

Perennial favorites Mario’s Bistro and Le Santal are located a short way out of town in Sandy Ground. For casual dining on the French side, many people swear by the beach restaurants on Orient Bay, including Bikini Beach, Kontiki, and Pedros. Not far from the beach you’ll find the romantic Sol E Luna and Le Taitu.

Dutch Side
The Dutch side of the island is the more Americanized of the two, so it’s here that you’ll find the american fast food restaurant chains.  You’ll also find a lot of very popular casual restaurants on the Dutch side, such as Topper's (formerly Bananas), Pizza Pasta, Ric’s Place,  and Cheri’s Café, along with a wide variety of ethnic foods such as Chinese, Indian or Tex-Mex. Don’t get the impression that high-end gourmet dining is confined to the French side of the island however, as the Dutch side not only has restaurants with great food, but also a more formal atmospshere.

Atlantis Casino / Cupecoy
The Atlantis Casino complex, for example, has several fine restaurants, including Le Montmartre, La Gondola, Rare and Temptation. The latter serveing five-star meals in a room with the ambiance of a Manhattan bistro. Also in the same area, you'll find Sugarcane Cafe, Thai Savanh, Carlo's Bella Napoli and Casablanca.

Simpson Bay
The Simpson Bay "strip" is quickly becoming the Dutch side's dining mecca, and boasts a great variety of dining establishments. Favorites include Saratoga, Jimbo's, Valentino's and Tutta Pasta in the Simpson Bay Yacht Club, as well as Pineapple Pete's, Pride of India, and The Boathouse which are all located nearby. Closer to the Simpson Bay drawbridge, you'll find Tijuana Yacht Club, The Wharf, Skip Jack's , Pizza Galley and Halsey's. The Pelican resort, whose entrance is in Simpson Bay, features Tex-Mex style cuisine at Picante,  Argentine beef at Los Gauchos, and contemporary cuisine at La Vista's Hideaway.

Past the bridge, on the way to Princess Juliana airport, mainstays such as Tequila, Rancho and Uncle Harry's have been joined by newer establishments such as The Stone, Pasta Cafe, Aldywan and Jo's Steakhouse. 

Maho / Caravanserai Area
While Bamboo Bernie's has recently moved from its open air location at Caravanserai Resort to second floor of Maho Arcade, its former  neighbors A Taste of Bliss and French Touch continue to serve innovative creations to discerning diners who opt for a high quality experience without having to drive across the island to Grand Case or Marigot. Update 10/20/2008: A Taste of Bliss and French Touch are both temporarily closed due to damage from hurricane Omar.

More than a dozen other restaurants are located only a stone-throw away in and around the Sonesta Maho Arcade. To mention only a few: Sopranos, Mario's Bistro, RomAntica, Bajatzu, and the new Bamboo Bernie's in the arcade itself, and Le Charolais and La Rosa II right across the street.   

The newly constructed Philipsburg boardwalk is a hotspot for the many visitors arriving on cruise ships. Popular lunch places include the Ocean Lounge, Taloula Mango, and Oualichi. Fusion restaurant is new on the scene, and features a contemporary fine dining menu. Mainstays include L'escargot, Anand's, Chesterfield's and The Greenhouse.

Low Season
One thing to keep in mind, some of the fine gourmet restaurants in Sint Maarten / St. Martin close for the season from mid to late August through September with some staying closed through November. Please check with individual restaurants if you are looking forward to some specific fine dining experiences during this period of the year.