Cheap Eats: The Roulottes of French Polynesia

Every guidebook writes about them—the roulottes of Tahiti. Tahiti, which is one of the more expensive island getaways, boasts a wide selection of restaurants and eateries. But the places to go if you want an authentic island experience (and want to eat with real Tahitians) are les roulottes, small groups of Tahitian food trucks, clustered in neighborhoods and pull-offs around the island. Here’s a run-down of my favorites and their specialties.

First off, the roulottes of Place To’ata. Place To’ata is located in downtown Papeete, right on the wharf. Cons? Parking can be a little tricky, as it doesn’t have a lot. Pro? It’s the widest array of roulottes on the island, and right on the water besides. Despite the variety, one roulotte rises to the top: Chez Mamy. Their steak frites, a staple of roulotte fare, is excellently seasoned, char-grilled (literally) to perfection. Beyond that, they offer an excellent selection of Chinese dishes and seafood.

If you’re staying beyond the city (say, in Le Meridien or Manava Suite Resort or a pension) Chez Vatea in Punuaiaa should be on your radar. They were one of the cheapest roulottes we found, offering ample parking and even more ample portions. Seriously huge plates heaped with fries, chicken, steak, veggies, rice…amazing. They share the parking lot of 2 + 2 Elementary School with a dessert roulotte, whose nutella crepes are to die for.

If you’re staying on the other side of Papeete (in the Radisson area) Chez Jacob should definitely be on your radar. Grab a seat and butter up your freshly sliced baguette as you wait for your meat to come off the grill—if the butter and fresh herbs don’t get your stomach rumbling, the smells from the barbecue certainly will!

(Poulet citrus and steak frites from Chez Mamy)