Wondering who gets to enjoy this sunrise every day? Wonder no longer. It’s Denise Mccreary, owner of Driftwood Beach Bar and Pizza Shack in Hopkins, Belize. Denise and Driftwood were one of the earliest people to like the Beach Bar Bums facebook page so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview her and highlight this pizza purveyor.
Of all the beautiful islands in Belize – Ambergris Caye, Placencia, Caye Caulker, etc. – how did you end up on the mainland?
“My partner Oliver and I arrived in Belize in September 2009 from New Orleans where I was a GM of a restaurant bar in the French Quarter that did (you guessed it!) PIZZA!!! Our premise there as well as here is good quality, tasty food that won’t break the bank! We travelled for 6 weeks in Belize before we settled on Hopkins although my decision was easy once I saw the Caribbean Sea again!”
“I lived and worked in Grand Cayman for 8 years so am in LOVE with the beach and the sea! Although I spend more time in the kitchen than on the beach!”
“We opened Driftwood within 3 months of arriving in Hopkins and our Grand Opening was New Year’s Eve 2009. We just turned 3 this past New Years!! This is our 4th high season and life is good. I would never have imagined that we would have been as well received in a tight knit community like this. Hopkins people are AMAZINGLY friendly! I think the best in the country! I love the opportunity here to create a fun friendly place where local Belizeans and local expats as well as visitors all feel welcome.”
Making pizza in the French Quarter must be a lot easier than in Belize. How has that worked out? Is there anything else on the menu besides pizza?
“One of my main premises here is to provide quality food and service at an affordable cost to the guest which is difficult with pizza since 80% of the ingredients are imported and subject to duty and large amounts of taxes. Not to mention sourcing good quality and consistent products! My favorite thing is that you can walk into my unassuming ‘shack’ and be fed amazing great food! It surprises a lot of people (read some of the reviews on tripadvisor if you get a chance).”
“Our pizza is very special, the crust is a secret recipe that took years to perfect, thin and crispy. Nowadays they call it ‘artisan’ but that’s a bit too pretentious for this lil shack! We have a build your own menu as well as a specialty menu (check out driftwoodpizza.com).”
“Since we cannot ‘live on pizza alone’ (even our pizza), we provide daily lunch and dinner specials. These are locally sourced ingredients which are less costly and provided to the consumer at more reasonable prices. Since I have been lucky enough to have lived in a few wonderful places, I bring my food knowledge ‘to the table’. We do Mexican, Cajun, southern US, Caribbean (being Jamaican, Caymanian, Trinidadian and Bahamian) as well as veggy and vegan occasionally upon request.”
What about the bar? How do you pull people into the bar (besides with the pizza, of course)?
“Our drinks are nothing to be sneezed at. All punches and specialty drinks are made with fresh squeezed or freshly juiced fruit! That’s a lot of labor but I think if you’re not gonna do it right then don’t do it at all!
We have a lot of fun! We also have THE best Mardi Gras party south of the border as well as celebrate all fun days such as St Paddy’s, Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day and Canada Day (to name a few!) All are usually themed parties with fun food and drinks and great music. Weekly we do a Sunday BBQ on the beach and volleyball. Every Tuesday is our ‘Customer Appreciation’ from 4pm til 7pm when we provide cheap drinks and snacks. Then at 7pm on we start our ‘Jam Nite’ where we open the floor to all musicians to come together and play for the love of music! Since we are extremely fortunate to have some of the best drummers in Central America here in Hopkins they are a Tuesday constant!”
I love music! Any special visitors ever show up?
“A few weeks back we had an amazing surprise! Aurelio Martinez, a renowned Garifuna artist, showed up for our Jam Nite! What an honor!”
It sounds like running a beach bar/restaurant takes a lot of time. When you have some time to get away, what do you like to do?
“When I get ‘down’ time, I love to sit at a beach bar anywhere in the world and stare at the sea while sipping on a yummy cocktail! I love Playa del Carmen for the people watching and then I do LOVE Tulum for the serenity! I’m a Gemini so I like both sides of the coin! As long as they keep the cocktails flowing I AM THERE!!!!”
Photo courtesy of their facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Driftwood-Beach-Bar-Pizza-Shack/192418217444836.