Go! Destination Marketing

Ribbing Miss Mary
Story and Photography by Mark Rogers

I’ve been to a lot of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, but Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua is the only one that has its own down-home rib shack. Called The Outhouse, it’s the equivalent of a ramshackle roadside stand, but instead of being stuck by the side of the road, it has a glorious position on a bluff overlooking the ocean.

The Outhouse makes a nice change of pace from the restaurant and snack bar dining at Grand Pineapple. Around noon, when a hoisted flag waves on top of the hill, guests on the beach notice the signal and begin making tracks up the path to The Outhouse. The food is not exactly jerk and not exactly barbecue; it’s pretty basic serve yourself fare of grilled Miss Marychicken and ribs, sliced bread, green salad and three bean salad. You can also dip into a cooler and grab an icy Carib beer or a soft drink. It’s the killer view that makes the place special, as well as its legendary owner and head cook, Miss Mary. She’s been serving meals at this location for decades, and when Sandals purchased Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua, Miss Mary kept right on cooking.

“Mary’s was a bit of a surprise for us when we purchased Grand Pineapple Beach in 2008,” said Adam Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts International. “But the charming restaurant quickly became a pleasant surprise. Some guests have endearingly called the experience shacktastic and I’ve hosted some of the most productive and relaxed meetings there myself. It’s become a second boardroom.”

Back in the 60s Mary saw an opportunity to set up shop to feed hungry hotel workers who were building a new resort. Her goal was to provide a comfortable, cool place for workers to relax and eat a meal. The Outhouse became an instant hit with locals and hotel guests alike. It’s a tradition for guests to mark their visits with notes of thanks, warm wishes and tacky poems, such as:

Tilly Poole was here in the sun
Havin’ fun with her mum
Who has a rather large bum

Miss Mary is known for her warmth, but on the day I dropped in, she was more intent on wiping down the tables instead of talking to me. She refused my request for a picture. I probably didn’t help matters when I asked her old she was; which I’d been told was an Antiguan secret.
Miss Mary
“How old I am is my business,” said Mary. “People comin’ on a vacation don’t need to know how old I am.” I decided on another tack and asked her what her secret to life was and she answered, “There are all different ways to enjoy life. I eat and drink and get my sleep.”
But still no picture.

I sat down and nursed a beer, enjoying the wonderful view. I watched hungry cats roam between the tables hoping for a tidbit, and mongoose scurry along the brush at The Outhouse’s perimeter. That inspired another gambit to get a photo.

I asked, “Miss Mary. In a fight between a cat and a mongoose, who would win?” Her helper cracked a laugh at such a crazy question. “I’ve never seen them fight,” said Mary. “Who would you bet on winning?” “I don’t bet.” I was running out of ideas. Then– “Miss Mary, are you a Christian woman? She looked at me like I’d been out in the sun too long, bringing religion into this. Then she nodded.
I said, “Then how about showing me some Christian charity?”

That got her smiling and she finally granted me a quick photo.

The rest of my stay at Grand Pineapple I had lunch at The Outhouse every day, and Miss Mary and I  both found we had a talent for making the other person laugh.

Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua