It doesn’t take long to figure out conch’s significance in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. The native sea snail—think a slightly tougher version of squid—is on just about every restaurant’s menu in some way, shape or form.
Three days into my five-day stay in Turks and Caicos, I had already sampled conch (pronounced “conk”) a handful of ways. But I wanted more.
“Go to Da Conch Shack,” one hotel receptionist implored. “It doesn’t get any better. Just go.”
And so I hopped in a cab (about $20 each way) from my spot on idyllic Grace Bay Beach to see what all the fuss was about.
Dining By the Shore
Da Conch Shack is located in on a stretch of beach in Blue Hills, a popular area with locals that’s set away from the tourist-heavy Grace Bay strip. You can’t miss it—there’s a sizeable fishing boat lying on its side and stuffed with old conch shells by the road.
Two large white huts with bright blue trim sit just off from the shore, with a bunch of quaint pink, yellow and white picnic tables scattered in the sandy space between for open-air dining.
Diners can opt to eat in one of the buildings if they choose—but why restrain yourself with walls when the view is this pretty and the sun is shining?
Fresh Fish Dishes
Da Conch Shack’s ocean-side setting isn’t just for show. Fishermen deposit their conch catches daily in small pens located in the shallow azure waters. On the beach, Da Conch Shack staffers crack open the shells and prepare the meat for the restaurant.
My mouth salivated at the thought of having seafood that fresh.
As you might imagine, there were a slew of different conch dishes on deck, including conch salad (a ceviche-like dish), conch chowder, conch fritters, stir-fry conch and curry conch.
But I ended up settling on the classic cracked conch for $14, which are basically fried strips of conch. The conch’s coating was crisp and just ever so slightly greasy—the signal of a great fried dish in my mind. The conch meat inside was flavourful and chewy.
My two sides—peas and rice, plus macaroni and cheese—rounded out the meal and made me reconsider my declaration upon arrival that I would have the rum cake for dessert (the menu claimed it was world famous, but alas, it would have to wait for another time).
Though dominated by conch, Da Conch Shack’s menu isn’t all about the marine snail. If you hit this place at the right time (remember—it’s all about fresh here), you could have snapper, grouper, lobster or shrimp, too.
Chicken is served steamed or as a curry for landlubber eaters.
Turks and Caicos isn’t generally known for its cheap food. But Da Conch Shack’s prices were decent, with entrees with great portion sizes ranging from US$14 to $20.
The Final Say
My experience at Da Conch Shack was one of those meals where I actually had to silently tell myself to eat slowly—a challenge when the food tastes so ever-loving good.
Kicking off my flip-flops, I dug my feet into the powdery white-sand beneath and munched away happily. With the sun shining overhead and the bartender singing along to a local jam on the radio, I knew it was a moment to be savoured.
Caicos Conch Farm
Before you even set foot on the tropical island of Providenciales—or any island in the Caribbean, really—there's one thing you absolutely need to know.
Conch, the sea snail that's found on local menus everywhere, is pronounced "konk," not "konch."
Fight the urge to pronounce that "ch" sound. It's a newbie mistake, and you're a far more seasoned traveller than that.
But quirky pronunciation is just one tiny aspect of this species. To delve deeper into the world of conch, head straight to the Caicos Conch Farm.
Turks and Caicos Chef Insider: Wolfgang von Wieser
In 2011, chef Wolfgang von Wieser left the non-stop scramble of Las Vegas for the slower pace of Turks and Caicos. Here, he shares how he's bringing contemporary German cuisine to Grace Bay Club on the island of Provindenciales. Plus, three of his favourite restaurants on the island.