Bugaloos Conch Crawl Five Cays, Turks & Caicos IslandsReviewed May / June 2015
Bugaloos Conch Crawl on the beach overlooking the Caicos Banks.
Does the name Berlie Williams mean anything to you? How about the name Bugaloo? Oh yes, I see some nods of recognition now. An island celeb of sorts, Bugaloo is the man behind the legacy of the immensely popular restaurant that bears his name, its equally popular repertoire of dishes that all began with conch, and everything irie.
“Welcome to Bugaloos’ House.” That’s the enthusiastic greeting you will hear from partner, Mike Stolow. If Mike is not in the house, prepare to be lotioned by Omar Sharif, manager and “a good PR guy” Mike adds.
Bugaloo is the one who started the conch craze way back in the Blue Hills days. At today’s Bugaloos in Five Cays, “It’s his original recipes and then some,” Mike explained. In the kitchen, Cuenel is “our main guy” trained by Bugaloo from the days when he had his shack on the beach in Wheeland.
Great Margaritas - go with everything - at Bugaloos
Sit back, relax, kick off your flip flops, and enjoy the view. Mike’s design was inspired by places he had been to in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. He wanted to recreate that ‘old’ banana boat look, with the old Caribbean feel. You can hear local vendors nearby, as they tirelessly blow their conch horns in the hopes of enticing you to come and check out their wares. Chickens freely scratch about your feet, while horses leisurely plod their way along this natural and picturesque stretch of South shore beach. Sound idyllic? It is. At lunchtime, local artist Stanley Roots plays a comprehensive compilation of music on his guitar; including reggae and R&B; his steel drum resonates music in ways I’ve never heard before.
Tables are strewn everywhere – on the deck, on the beach, and even in the sea. Nowhere else on Provo can you experience ‘sea service,’ where your server will wade out to your table without rolling up their jeans. Do they draw a short straw? Apparently not. Mike chuckled and said the sea service goes to the newbie, but they also usually get better tips, so they don’t mind.
You’re going to love the menu. It has all the expected island accoutrements like conch, fish, and lobster (in season) plus a lot of surprises. Let’s begin with the main attraction, the mollusc that started it all, conch. As I browsed through the menu, I couldn’t help but recall memories of the film Forrest Gump and the infamous ‘Bubba Gump’ shrimp dialogue, but with a conch slant. They have conch fritters, cracked conch, coconut cracked conch, buffalo cracked conch, conch salad, Bahamian conch, scorched conch, conch sautée, grilled conch, and a conch burger. For the record, Bugaloo claims to be King of the Conch Salad, and Mike admits, it is their specialty.
Bugaloos very popular Coconut Shrimp with Mango Ginger dipping sauce
In season, Bugaloos can go through 2000 conch a week. “Last time, I had 3000 conch in the crawl and we still ran out,” Mike admits. In what seemed like planned unison, we all exchanged looks of astonishment, followed by a rousing round of, “That’s a lotta conch!” Bad weather can also wreak havoc on conch stocks, as they are more difficult to find in the murky sea. But have no fear, there is usually a supply of frozen conch on hand for these conch catastrophes.
Lucky for us, there was no conch crisis on this breezy Sunday, and conch was in good supply. While it is labour intensive to crack, clean, and beat the conch, it’s also a very entertaining and fascinating show and a great photo-op that’s usually ongoing throughout the day.
Classic Conch Fritters, Bugaloo’s traditional Bahamian recipe
Our out-and-out seafood smorgasbord began with a Conch classic, conch fritters. A traditional Bahamian recipe, Bugaloos’ version was excellent. “These are fantastic, almost creamy” raved my fellow diner. He even went as far as to say, “Best conch fritters in 27 years!” Mike explained their secret, first they only use fresh conch, and the juices from the conch meat are added to the dough to give it more flavour.
Cracked conch is another bastion in the conch clan of dishes. Deep-fried until golden, these morsels of tender, savoury conch and Bugaloos fabulously seasoned fries are finger-lickin’ good
Cracked Conch with Marie Rose sauce.
The conch dipping sauce, A.K.A. Marie Rose Sauce, is homemade with our local Sakaja hot sauce and Bambarra rum. It’s the piece de resistance that you just can’t resist smothering all over these conch delicacies.
Now, back to those claims of ‘King of Conch Salad.’ I took one bite and all I can say is, long live the King! I am not kidding when I confess that this was the most tender conch salad I’ve had to date. I clearly was not alone in my affirmations, when, from across the table, my fellow diner raved of its freshness and added, “I could eat a whole bowl of this.”
Fresh, right out of the ocean, Conch Salad
The Coconut Shrimp were outrageously delicious, completely crispy outside and plump and juicy inside. After plunging the first shrimp into the mango ginger dipping sauce, I became completely captivated. So utterly consumed in this crispy and delicious delight, I could see Mike’s mouth moving. He was saying something about how it’s the Baker’s coconut they use and then something to do with the frying, but all I really heard was blah, blah, blah, blah. I politely nodded, eager to return to the plate and seize another shrimp before they all vanished.
The whole red snapper was a show stopper. Funny, I don’t recall my husband saying, “Supersize me” when he ordered it. This was a snapper of substantial size and scope. Perfectly grilled, the skin had great char-grilled flavour and the meat inside was lovely and moist. A popular sharing dish, it’s not unusual for groups or families to share a large four to five pound snapper.
Bugaloo’s Grandma-Style Mac N Cheese made with Penne Pasta
It doesn’t get any better than grilled lobster. “That’s what most tourists want,” Mike said. Again, that fabulous char-grilled flavour served with a decadent and lethal garlic butter dipping sauce.
Mac and Cheese is a popular island side dish, but Mike has created a version worthy of applause! Made with Penne pasta, this was creamy, moist, and rich, with lots of cheddar cheese. What Mike called, “Grandma Style and really unhealthy.”
Also worthy of mention, check out the burgers, both conch and beef. Mike employed the talents of his son and his college buddies on a recent vacation and put them to work to create a bigger, better burger. Mission accomplished. Mike also hails his conch burger and explained why. It’s a ground conch burger, not cracked conch on a bun. “If you weren’t so full, I’d make you one now,” Mike joked.
Bambarra Rum Cake served with ice cream
The Rum Cake is TCI’s very own infamous and delicious Bambarra rum cake. Moist and tantalising, this indigenous delight was soaked with an ‘adult’s only’ buttery rum sauce, together with a scoop of ice cream that melted and saturated every nook and cranny.
The sky-high slice of house made Key Lime Pie, with a refreshing scattering of fresh lime zest, tasted unexpectedly light and amazingly fluffy. There’s a secret ingredient that makes it so light and fluffy, see if you can guess what it is.
We discovered this afternoon that Margaritas go with everything! Later we moved to a Belle Glos Pinot Noir, “I could put Belle Glos on drip in my arm,” Mike teased. We grinned and nodded in communal agreement.
It’s the little unexpected and surprising touches that really hit home with me, attractive dishes, beautiful stemware for wines and cocktails, and even wine decanters. Bamboo beer bottle holders safeguard your brew from those really strong breezes. As I applauded these unexpected touches Mike nodded and acknowledged, “Presentation is a big thing.” Another surprise was the very impressive wine selection and an equally impressive collection of fine rums, whiskeys, tequilas, and cigars.
Bugaloo’s Grilled Whole Red Snapper was delicious
Soon come, watch for floating gazebos at the Five Cays location, and a new Bugaloos is set to open in our nation’s capital, Grand Turk.
Bugaloo still makes appearances from time to time, happy to sit out at the tables and chat with the tourists wearing his classic ‘I AM BUGALOO’ T-shirt. Always ready for a photo-op, he’s a feisty fan of the ladies, but be forewarned gals, he has a reputation for being fresh! Just like his conch!
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