A real cheeseburger in paradise: Miss Debs charms Belize with American-style fast food
With a tip of the hat to Jimmy Buffett ... this is a cheeseburger in paradise.
Last week, I was in downtown San Ignacio in the Cayo District of western Belize on a jumping Friday night. I saw a crowd of locals lined up at a food truck. As I drew closer to see what the fuss was about, the unmistakable aroma of drive-through cooking hit me.
Yeah, I get around, I'm a regular Anthony Bourdain without the phony, and when I visit a foreign land, nothing hits home like a big juicy burger hot off the grill.
Miss Debs is Debbie Baldwin, originally from Arizona, who married a car customizer from Belize in 1985 and moved south.
"I have always loved to cook and I've always wanted to have a diner. So my husband and I compromised and we bought the shell of a 1996 Chevy P30 truck," she said.
Husband Nat and son Levi tricked out the truck with a grill, fridge, fryers, and prep table and Miss Debs started rolling in 2014.
Here's the classic cheeseburger breakdown
A 1/4-pound beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion on a toasted bun. So simple, so elegant. Manufacturer's suggested retail price: $3.50 U.S.
"We sell American-style fast food. Our slogan is 'Real Food - Good Food.' Many of our menu items were unknown or not well known in Belize when we opened," she said.
You won't find a McDonald's or Burger King in the whole country — not even in the Belize City airport. Subway tried a few years ago, but quickly flopped and got out of town.
"All of our food is locally sourced. It took a while to introduce some things, like corn dogs and chili cheese fries, but now we have 16 different burgers and seven kinds of fries. We have a lot of chicken items and vegetarian burgers.
"We have a regular route up and down Belize (it's a small country, two hours driving time wide and five hours long), and we do festivals and parties. We've had the truck at a party at the U.S. and Mexican embassies," Miss Debs said.
Miss Debs also has a catering business, with "everything from tartlets to tri-tip."
Proving that you can take Miss Debs out of America, but you can't take the American entrepreneurial spirit out of Miss Debs ...
"My goal is to get a few more food trucks and eventually (get ready) franchise."