Worth the Trip
Silver Palm is North Caicos’ own oasis of good food and hospitality.
Story & Photos By Kathy Borsuk
Every time I go to North Caicos, I wonder why I have let so much time lapse between visits. As soon as I step onto the TCI’s “Garden Island,” two things make an impression: a pleasantly rich smell of fertile vegetation and the peaceful sound of silence — Provo’s incessant rumble is noticeably lacking.
These days, it’s easier than ever to spend time on North: the TCI Ferry Service operates daily with Swiss-like precision between Walkin’s Marina at Heaving-Down-Rock in Leeward and the new docking facilities at Sandy Point, North Caicos. And, I recently discovered a whole new reason to make the trip: the food and hospitality at Silver Palm Restaurant in Whitby.
Karen Preikschat, the Silver Palm’s proprietor, has been resident on North Caicos for most of her life. Her father, the late Peter Preikschat, designed and built the Ocean Beach Condominiums on Whitby Beach in the early 1980s. Karen served as resort manager there, while at the same time cooking for the guests from a small kitchen on the second floor of her condominium. Along with college training in hotel and restaurant management, Karen honed her skills in planning meals, procuring ingredients and catering to the tastes of an international clientele in the unusual and sometimes difficult environment of a small, isolated Caribbean island.
The experience served her well. Four years ago, she opened Silver Palm Restaurant in a charming, gingerbread-style building designed by her father, and located just south of the Ocean Beach property. With her own kitchen, bar and huge dining room (including tables on the breezy wrap-around veranda), Karen is clearly in her element.
The Silver Palm specializes in native and international cuisine, and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. (Karen lives on the second floor, so is never far from the kitchen!) The menu is replete with traditional North Caicos fare — including boiled and steamed fish and conch dishes, conch chowder, lobster salad, ribs, and the ever-present peas ‘n’ rice — yet also has some unexpected selections, including a deep-fried “blooming onion” and chicken curry, along with more plebian fare such as pizza, chicken wings and nachos. Coffee-lovers will appreciate Provo coffee-roaster Victoria Turner’s special “Silver Palm” blend, created just for the restaurant.
Because much of her trade depends on the resident North Caicos population, Karen has gone out of her way to offer lots of variety and daily dinner specials, which include a three course meal and wine. These include Italian, Chinese and Caribbean nights and BBQ and prime rib specials. Her beautifully decorated dining room, complete with hand-painted “silver palms” on the walls, cozy pub-style wicker lights, local straw work, linen tablecloths and napkins, and proper place settings and silverware make Silver Palm an ideal place to celebrate special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and even weddings — whether local or visiting tourists. Karen also gives folks a good reason not to stay home for the holidays — from Valentine’s Day to Christmas, she offers special menus and makes sure the restaurant is “dressed” for the occasion. (Plans for New Year’s Eve 2008 included an appearance by local music legend Lovey Forbes and his band, with the clock rolled back an hour so everyone can attend the traditional New Year’s Watch Night church services at midnight.)
With a steady stream of customers, Karen relies on the talents of North Caicos native Henry Butterfield to help out in the kitchen. Previously employed for many years at The Meridian Club on Pine Cay and the upscale restaurant at Parrot Cay, Henry wanted to “come home” and Karen welcomed him with open arms. During our luncheon visit, I watched in awe as Henry fried up a batch of tasty conch fritters for the crowd, boiled a lobster tail for my ever-so-fresh lobster sandwich and prepared a bowl of delicious conch chowder . . . all without blinking an eye!
Anyone familiar with North Caicos knows that while the soil is fertile and most anything will grow, it’s not always easy to get a steady supply of produce or seafood products. Karen knows all the tricks, though, and says she uses local fruits, vegetables and seafood as much as possible, patronizing the small grocery stores for staples and making the trip to Provo for “extras” only once or twice a month. I’ve always had a hankering for North Caicos bread and Karen assures us that Henry bakes their own when he has time or she purchases it from Agnes Swann or Miss Jones’s venerable bakery.
Karen’s genuine hospitality and obvious concern for each and every diner infuses Silver Palm with a warmth well beyond the temperate climate. During our visit, Karen took pains to prepare a very late lunch for two hungry Middle Caicos visitors (including hand-cut fries with their sandwiches). She had asked Henry to bake me a homemade carrot cake, recalling from a visit nearly a decade ago how much I loved this treat. She’s the type of hostess who makes sure every detail is just right, no matter what it takes, and the restaurant, kitchen and restrooms are always spotlessly clean.
While Silver Palm’s bar has become a popular watering hole for expatriate homeowners and Islanders alike (I understand the rum punch is a killer), Karen wants to expand the locale’s appeal with monthly appearances by Lovey Forbes and his rip-saw band. We got to hear the toe-tapping, hip-wagging sounds of his lively combina music, complete with Karen’s partner Hymenaus “Poach” Misick on the rip saw and local homeowner Ron Shepard shaking the maracas. No doubt it will enliven quiet North Caicos evenings!
I agree with Karen that Provo residents and tourists are missing out on a good thing. With this in mind, she is busy putting together “A Day in North Caicos” land or sea-based excursion packages, which can include a ground tour of the lush island (including Wade’s Green plantation, the Flamingo Pond, and, of course, lunch at Silver Palm) or fishing/snorkeling/scuba/beach excursions on Captain Poach’s 26 foot Twin V Cat. I believe that Provo residents searching for peace, quiet and a change of scene would be revitalized by a weekend on North Caicos . . . along with a meal or two at Silver Palm. a
Silver Palms is open Tuesday to Thursday, 7:30 AM to 8 PM, Friday and Saturday 7:30 AM to 9 PM and on Sunday from 9 AM to 4 PM. Catering and banquet facilities are available; VISA and Mastercard accepted. For more information, call (649) 946 7113.
Karen has dedicated the restaurant to her parents, Peter and Lois Preikschat, for making her dream a reality.
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Cover photographer Christine Morden works for Paradise Photography www.myparadisephoto.com , a full service boutique company based in the TCI. She especially enjoyed the Rejouvenance photo shoot to learn about the benefits of coconuts and to smell the amazing scents of their hand-crafted products.