I knew the day would come. I had an island hunger on and was jonesing for a full-on seaside dinner. A friend looked me square in the eye and uttered the dreaded words: You need to take the 12 steps to Rehab.
When choosing a place to eat among a long strip of restaurant options, other than choice of food style, I’m all about location location location. But a party bar is not my first thought. Presentation can make up for a lot things, even still, a spectacular view can’t make lousy food taste better. Staring out at the deep blue sea though, you’ll never feel the time is wasted. Unless you’re too wasted to feel the time…
This was kind of my thought pattern while being escorted down to Rehab (as is the custom). Located on a well planned dock, the bar overlooks the crystal clear blue waters and white sands of Chepes Beach (sometimes called “Chepa’s”). I knew if the food sucked, it would at least be a good place for people watching.
I was prepared to have bros and babes of all ages doing shots beside my table while screaming along to their favorite songs. The reputation holds strong, as that was exactly the case. It was 8pm on Sunday, Funday, and Rehab was in full effect. Some were there to take the challenge and earn the coveted tank top, while others were simply enjoying a good time, cause they’re not here for a long time. Happy people are contagious, and there’s no shortage at this sea side venue. I almost forgot my hunger, in favor of singing along. For you dear reader, I kept to my mission: Can the food be any good at what is known to be a party bar!?
My dinner companion and I agreed to split two dishes, so we could get the best taste. We ordered simple drinks, vodka sodas with a decent liquor pour and juicy local lime garnish (L.40 each, $2usd), and two fish dinners: The Whole Fried Snapper (L.195, $9.75usd) along with the Tuna Fillet (L.195, $9.75usd).
There are a lot of ways fish can go wrong (is the cook doing shots too?). If you’re a seafood lover, you’ve probably had that disappointing overly dried out fish that’s tasteless, or the disgustingly strong been-sitting-in-the-fridge-too-long fish that makes you regret ever liking seafood to begin with. Fortunately, Rehab is no stranger to the sea, taking advantage of the large bounty in their own backyard.
Both plates were cooked to perfection, succulent and plentiful. The Snapper arrived spilling off the plate, accompanied with plantain chips, rice, and fresh garden salad. Crispy on the outside, tender in the middle, I’ll admit it; I sucked a few bones clean, it was that good. Meanwhile, the Tuna came with not one, but several fillets seasoned in Caribbean spices. Hot sauce to taste (if that’s your thing) and you’re ready to dive in.
It was all the fresh local flavor you expect from a Granny’s kitchen, served by friendly staff at a party
bar! A perfect way to complete Sunday Funday.
Food = less hangover.
Round 2 ! This positive dining experience had me question, was it a fluke ? Maybe this restaurant has mastered the fish, but can they fry an egg? Several people I spoke with raved about the breakfast portions (especially the omelet) that start at only L.100 ($5usd). My food loving stomach had to know, while my view loving eyes didn’t argue.
It’s 10am. The power is out in town, it’s real island life ‘mon. You’d think most people would be grabbing some fruit and heading to a hammock? Not if you’re near Rehab. Locals know best, which is why there were a dozen customers already seated and ordering when I arrived. Power outage won’t stop this kitchen, thank goodness!
Black coffee was ready and in my hands mere moments from sitting down, and it wasn’t Nescafe! So far, so good. The menu has a nice selection for this time of day. From cereal to pancakes to baleadas to breakfast burritos to tipico eggs and bacon; I ordered the ‘RehabStyle’ breakfast combo (L.150, $7.50): 3 eggs, hash browns, sausage, beans, cheese, Spanish butter. A heaping plate full arrived, a true Central American fry-up. As good as my plate was, I tried not to stare at the next table.
I ended up with a dose of plate envy when my dining neighbors started receiving their omelettes. Not only were they extra large for the charge, they were stuffed to the brim with cheese, veggies, meats… ALWAYS listen to the locals. Omelettes start at only L.100 ($5usd) served with garlic bread. At least I now know what I’m ordering for breakfast next time, so I’m not left staring in envy.
It’s really easy to meet people in such a friendly atmosphere. By the time I was finishing my dish, all the tables, locals and tourists alike were conversing over numerous random topics. The guests in front of my table live in Roatan part of the year and make it a point to frequent Rehab when visiting Utila.
They took this opportunity to stock up on the infamous Rehab tank tops – $10usd a pop is hard to beat for a shirt, let alone a souvenir shirt with a story.
Speaking of good stories: Who is the master that was able to successfully combine a party bar with a decent restaurant ? Meet the owner, Lee, who was hosting both day and night, making a point to personally greet guests, follow up table needs, and openly putting himself into every detail of his business. He clearly cares and fully enjoys his chosen life. Well earned after many years in the service industry as an employee, now he gets to do things his way. And it’s definitely working.
When I went back for lunch… Yes, Round 3! I was, after all, in the neighborhood, and the place has benches, swinging benches, hammocks, sun, shade, plenty of tables; of course I had to go back. Anyways, for Round 3, I ordered the chicken wings (Gigantically delicious in a crisp battered coat, suicide sauce didn’t kill me) and a veggie wrap. Thank you veggie wrap for giving me something to complain about.
The cook can cook! But clearly, has never eaten vegetarian. Sadly, it’s a mistake I’ve encountered before – frozen vegetables (heated) in a tortilla does not make for edible fare, unless you’re in college and have nothing else in the cupboards (try Skid Row down the street, they know veggie). I shoved the failed sandwich attempt aside and went back to the wings. Fantastic! No need to starve on this island, which is very important when the next round is shots, shots, shots, shots, shots….
You can find Rehab Bar and Restaurant easily by using our fully illustrated photo tour of the Island of Utila Map
Utila Street Guide – From the Ferry to Chepe’s Beach – Sandy Bay – Blue Bayou