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Where to eat cheap in St John USVI?

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My future husband and I will be honeymooning in St John in April of 08 and wanted some suggestions on where to eat cheap and good. We hope to do lots of beach hopping and relaxing. We are looking for little spots nothing fancy.

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  1. The bottom line: nothing on St John is cheap and $15-20 is about average for an entree at most restaurants. If you want to eat cheaply, I'd suggest either going to the Marketplace (near the Westin) where at Starfish market (which is pretty standard fare) or Dolphin Market in Cruz Bay (where the locals shop-- good selection, relatively cheaper).

    On the bright side, due to the relatively small size of the island, restaurants are in pretty strict competition with eachother, most of the food is good. Your cheapest option, Skinny Legs, is on the east side of the island and a bit of a drive but worth it for 'the islands best burger', $2 presidents and the local hangout (Little Boston). If you keep driving down there road east, there is a small shack called Ms. Vi's with local food and the island's conch fritters. You can pay her money and snorkel on her property (and it's supposedly really good). Trouble is she keeps her own hours so her availability is hit or miss.

    For fine dining, go to Le Ch√Ęteau de Bordeaux which has a tremendous view and extremely excellent food. Be prepared to pay onward $40 up for an entree, but it's well worth it. Highly suggest their Cuban style flan for dessert, it's amazing. Ask for Patricia as a server, she's great.

    Otherwise, in Cruz bay the options are pretty standard american/carribean cusine. Probably the biggest surprise was the excellent mexican food at Margaritas (again relatively expensive at about $15 for tacos). Highly suggest the conch handmade chalupas which is as the server announced on arrival of the food, "Nature's Viagra."

    As for snorkeling, check out the remote watermelon/leinster bay on the east side of the island near annaberg where the mosquitos are horrendous, and you have to hike out a bit to the beach, but there will be no one to bother you and it offers amazing snorkeling.

    If you partake in "smoking", the police have the best. We were told by locals to ask them for it if we got stopped. We didn't. Look for the rasta looking dudes with coconuts. Their shtick is they "sell coconuts" but if you ask them, they'll hook you up. Be forceful with what you want because they can rip you off and sell you dirt. Tell them directly what you want and they'll generally oblige and for cheap.

    Enjoy!

    4 Replies
    1. re: mountaintosound

      Thanks for your tips. We are will aware that everything in St John's is expensive but if we are going to pay big bucks we would rather eat local food. Your idea of Ms. Vi's is exactly the type of places we want to visit. If you can think of any others please let me know.

      1. re: Future Ms Lauzurique

        Vi's & Skinny Legs' are in the Coral Bay area, and another couple of my favorite not-so-expensive places in that area are the Donkey Diner (especially for breakfast), Miss Lucy's (especially sunday jazz brunch), and Island Blues.

        Cruz Bay has some really good restaurants that are higher priced, like Zozo's, Taj, 10 Tables (might be closed now), & Tapas. My experience is that the more moderate restaurants in Cruz Bay are a little bit cheaper but the food is really mediocre. I can't think of any to recommend on the low price end, although the barbeque stand over near the ferry is supposed to be good.

        1. re: Rocket88

          The barbeque stand by the ferry, which you look at and wonder how it is still standing, has AWESOME food and is very cheap- the barbequed chicken is absolutely incredible, and I can't wait to go next month and pick some up on my way to the beach!
          Zozo's is good and bad- the osso buco is fabulous, the pasta with shrimp is awful- I hate saying that, because it IS so pretty there. So go with the osso buco, even though it doesn't feel like you're in the Carribbean when you're enjoying it! It is very pricey there, though, probably our most expensive meal between there, ten tables and tapas. Hope we're going to Taj this time, that sounds great. Also the sushi/martini bar on top of the grocery store is great- sorry I've forgotten the name!

          1. re: Rocket88

            Just returned from 10 days on St John. I'll add Shipwreck Landing in Coral bay to my recommended inexpensive spots. Also had great takeaway sandwiches from Deli Grotto and Baked in the Sun in Cruz Bay, the edge going to the latter.

            Also made a nice dinner at Morgan's Mango by ordering 4 or 5 things from the appetizer menu.

            For higher end eats, had our 3rd and final mediocre dinner at Paradiso,
            a great meal at the upstairs bar at Zozo's (much nicer service and atmosphere than the dining room), and a typically fine tapas dinner at La Tapa. Unfortunately 10 Tables and Taj are closed now.

            Tried 2 of the 3 restaurants at Caneel Bay, but wouldn't recommend them unless you're staying there. Pricey and just OK.

            Top honors goes to Asolare, excellent food service and atmosphere. Recommend the 5:30 sunset view seating

      2. We went to St. John a few weeks ago for the first time and absolutely loved it. I would not say, though, that it was the greatest food vacation. We are vegetarians so that might have made it harder.Our favorite food night was dinner at Da Livio in Cruz Bay. It is one year old and the Italian food was great and it was not highly priced. Banana Deck had a very nice linch menu, food great, not expensive. Lime inn was okay, not great. We LOVED Miss Lucy's, food and the BEST view!!!! A must see. Goats and chickens everywhere, it is very special. We thought Zozo's was HORRIBLE and SO overpriced for what it was. We got scallops, they gate us 4 on a piece of toast for $28.00, and they were terrible. The Japanese restaurant above Starfish is called Happy Fish. It was very good and not too expensive. There is a very cute bakery above Starfish also that had great muffins, coffee, pastries and breads. The last night we were there we went to Paradiso, expensive and just okay.
        We will definatelly go back but I think I will cook more, I found that the Dolphin market had better produce that Starfish. All in all it is a great place!!!!!

        4 Replies
        1. re: Alica

          Interesting that you thought ZoZo's was horrible. Coming from NYC (the food capital of the world) and traveling to St. John for nearly 20 years now, I would say the overall ZoZo's is my favorite restaurant on the island. We eat here usually twice during our stay. I haven't heard of them getting a new chef, so hopefully they were having a bad night. Will be going in a few weeks and I am looking forward to my meals here.

          Give it another chance if you are ever visiting again.

          Chow.

          1. re: jenniebnyc

            I guess it's a bit harder for us because we are vegetarian. Once in awhile we eat scallops, which is what we ate there. For about $30.00 they gave us 3 scallops on a piece of toast with a bit of I think it was cole slaw. The scallops were sort of undercooked, we had to send it back, you know how that goes. We are from RI so maybe we are used to our seafood.
            You mentioned that new Italian restaurant, we ate there and LOVED it. That was our favorite place there. We loved St. John and will certainly be back, but I will plan on cooking more dinners at the villa next time. Oh, we loved Miss Lucy's! Heard Sweet Plantains was great but far to drive for dinner (and a few painkillers!!) There was a restaurant on the water right near there that we had lunch at and loved. It is so beautiful there!!

          2. re: Alica

            Thank you for your comments- definitely well appreciated. A bit confused by your comment that the two of you are vegetarians but your recommendations included fish... I would think that you would find many options if you were pescatarians, considering it is an island. Is the fish local?

            1. re: yourwaitress

              I loved St John but I did not think the restaurants were that great there. I come from an area that has wonderful seafood. We were there years ago so I am sure things have changed. I loved the Italian restaurant and Miss Lucy's.

          3. There are plenty of cheap and good places on STJ especially if you are lookling for little not fancy spots
            These are all in Cruz Bay
            Cafe Roma- Basic italian but HUGE portions
            The Beach Bar- Great spot on the water in Cruz Bay- Try the Tuna Down Now
            Deli Grotto- Mongoose Junction- Great beach sandwiches on freshly baked bread
            La Tapa- Not super cheap, but fabulous food worth every penny-
            Inn at Tamarind Court- Every night except Saturday, there is a guest chef with a different type of cuisine. Greek night is great and so is West Indian night. Funky little courtyard dining.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Tinkerbelldee

              Just back from STJ. Cafe Roma is closed-it's for sale for 150K according to the real estate rag I picked up. Of course, a place to live is another matter...

              Our favorites in STJ: Stone Terrace, Paradiso (we ate there after our wedding 15 years ago and go back every time we're there. Food was the best I had ever had there), Morgan's Mango, Fishtrap (had an awesome Lobster Pot Pie). Banana Deck had good food but we basically got rained out in the middle of dinner. Since we stayed at Gallows Point, we ate at Zozo. It was just OK, although my little neck clam app was to die for.

              There are 2 good markets in Cruz Bay-stock up on breakfast and lunch food if you can keep it where you stay and spend your $$ on dinner.

              In Coral Bay, I agree with Skinny Legs and Island Blues.

            2. There are several places for you to try. Our favorite is Uncle Joe's for fantastic
              bar b que. Huge servings and delicious. Also, try Woody's for a grilled fish sandwich and the Beach Bar for hamburgers and fries. Also, go to Deli Grotto and order a huge sandwich for the beach. Another idea is to go to Starfish (the supermarket) to stock up. Have a wonderful honeymoon. St John is one of our favorite places.

              1. In spring '07, the last time I was on St. John, the best food BY FAR I ate was at Sweet Plantains (Caribbean) and Aqua Bistro (Med/Italian), both in Coral Bay.

                The golden grits at Sweet Plantains are otherworldly. It's a small, modest semi-open-air restaurant with a bedouin-like design. The chef's won a best-in-USVI award for her food. Prince, her husband, works behind the bar.

                Little in Cruz Bay stands out for me, with the exception of Margarita Phil's for Mexican, the Grotto Cafe for small breakfast/lunch snacks, and the fruit stand for a banana/strawberry smoothie. Everything else in town ranges from only decent (Cafe Roma, Fish Trap) to utterly disappointing (Woody's, Tap Room, Morgan's Mango, The Lime Inn, Stone Terrace).

                1. there are lots of good, cheap restaurants on St John. cruz bay has lots of local food stands, including hercules pate, nature's market, andother roadside stands where food is prepared onsite; my favorite is Mojo's cafe next to the ferry on the strip for good Indian food and BYOB, most entrees are around $10. We like to go to Starfishmarket and take out entrees for the beach around $6 each. Also Beach Bar and Sosa's are good too. Even Paradiso's an upscale restaurant, has a 2 for 1 appetizer before 7:30 more than enough for a light dinner or pizza. don't forget Woody's, Inn at Tamirind Ct and Cafe Roma's, my personal favorite is Rhumb Lines-put together a $4 PuPu platter, lot's of fun and good food, too.

                  Coral bay has Skinny legs and island Blues among others. Be open and try local places. More fun at half the price. by the way Jencke, Tap room doesn't serve food only home-brew.....Joe Horstmann

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: joe horstmann

                    We had lunch at Island Blues and it was wonderful!!! We had Greek salads and I believe, spring rolls and we loved it! Nice, laid back atmosphere, great waitress. My favorite place still is Miss Lucy's. The view is to die for!!! We enjoyed to food also, not outrageously priced. Worth the trip!!

                  2. You've picked a great spot to honeymoon. I'm very familiar with STJ and have been going there since 1994. A couple of resources for you:

                    Virgin-Islands-On-Line.Com (a great forum loaded all kinds of info; especially helpful for newbies)

                    NewsofStJohn.com (newsletter with podcasts to listen to/download), informative intereviews with islanders on best beaches, villa rentals, etc.

                    Starfish Gourmet and Wine recently opened and according to the podcast they have imported cheeses, wines, pizza, pastas. Might be a good place to take out a nice picnic lunch or finger food dinner to take back to your villa.

                    Rhumb Lines is good; asian fusion.
                    Banana Deck has a make your own Bloody Mary bar at Sunday brunch. (bar food)
                    Pastory Gardens is ok, very reasonable prices.
                    Lime Inn - very popular all you can eat shrimp night on Wednesday.
                    Asolare is very romantic, expect to pay for that view.
                    Balcony - good food, but spotty service

                    This year our group is going back Chateau Bordeaux...trying Sweet Plantains for the 1st time, always have lunch at Skinny's and Shipwreck Landing.
                    I would avoid Morgan's Mango....great caribbean atmosphere but consistently poor
                    food.

                    Enjoy your trip....

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: firststater

                      Hi firststater,

                      Thank you for the information. We have gone to STJ three times and love it! We always went in the fall due to our work schedules. The island is great then because it is not too crowded and we have gotten lucky with the weather at that time. However, some of the fun spots are closed since it is off season. We are looking to go next March and I am hoping these places will be open (restaurant, etc.) Do you know if this is still high season and places are open? I guess I can call and ask some of the places but thought I would check with some folks who have been there.

                      Thank you for any information, Take Care,

                      Debra

                    2. We fly out from Kansas City to St john 9:30 am in the morning. They are predicting 6 to 10 inches of snow tonight. I getting up at 3:30 am to shovel my drive and the ladies drive next door. The plane better be on time. Cuz I can't sleep and am ready to go.
                      This is our yearly trip to the island and it will be all about FOOD,SUN,SNORKELING,and RELAXATION. 7 days in Heaven. We've been cooking and serving for 12 months and now it's our turn.
                      We will eat at Sweet Plaintains at least twice. This is the one place we have to go to. Everybody, LISTEN UP, this is the place you must try. Wait , but not this week.I haven't made reservations yet. Donkey Diner for breakfast. A burger at skinny legs.
                      Gotta go and try to sleep. YAHOO !!!

                      1. For sure hit up Morgans Mango on an Thursday. Live music and 2 for 1 margaritas. Can't go wrong with the Cirtus Chicken, burger or any of their fresh fish....you choose the rub, sauce, salsa, etc. Killer frozen drinks!

                        Banana Deck is another great spot. Best conch fritters on the isle. I always get the curry shrimp, but the steaks and burgers are great as well.

                        Margarita Phils is another inexpensive and casual spot with delicious mexican food.

                        You cannot vacation on St. John without paying a visit to Uncle Joe's for ribs, chicken and fresh made sides. For us this is more of a lunch spot, but he is opened for dinner as well.

                        I am assuming you will have a few special nights as well. For these I highly recommend ZoZo's and Asolare. ZoZo's more so for the food (and great view) and Asloare....for the great view. Had some problems with the staff last year at Asolare, but for first timers/honeymooners you must dine at Asolare.

                        We hear the Sweet Plantains is very good, but unless you are staying on that side on the island it is a tough spot to drive to...especially if you are cocktailing.

                        Another place we will be tring this year (will be in St. John in April as well) is the new Italian place called Dilivios. Hearing great hings about this place.

                        Congrats on your wedding and enjoy your stay in St. John.

                        1. ****Skinny legs- burgers

                          *******la tapas- AMAZING food but not too cheap.

                          ****Morgan's Mango- great seafood and great mixed drinks

                          ****Shela's bbq cart (right in front of the ferry)- great bbq chicken and amazing shrimp...ps. she uses 2 sticks of butter for the shrimps.

                          ***Starfish Market- believe it or not they have prepared foods there and let me tell you it is really really good. you can get a dinner plate with sides.

                          ***da livio's - italian good food but could have been better. I heard Zozo's is really great but didn't have a chance to go.

                          ***fish trap- decent seafood..not as cheap as I thought it to be.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: minimill23

                            I've been going to St. John and St. Thomas for many years, and have eaten many lousy meals and a few very good ones at the restaurants above. But I have to put in an endorsement for Da Livio, the Italian place in Cruz Bay listed a couple of times here. I've lived in Italy, New York, and San Francisco, and Da Livio is the kind of Italian restaurant I would have been thrilled to have down the street from me in any of those places. The food (cooked by a very shy woman from Italy, whom I met when I was there) is extremely authentic, and the quality control is impressive, considering the general lack of fresh produce in the islands. Livio and his wife are charming hosts. This is not a place for "island" food--for that, go to Hercules or one of the unnamed food shacks up toward the ferry dock and the Westin. But if you want Italian food like nonna used to make, run, do not walk, to Da Livio.

                          2. Perhaps the cheapest route of all? Bring your food with you from the US. We just did that last week. We brought ribs, steaks and chicken. Enough for three dinners for two families. To surround them, we stopped at local markets and bought what we needed.

                            As for good, we had several terrific dinners including Skinny Legs, Shipwreck, and Sweet Plantains.

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/649113

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: thseamon

                              Years ago on a trip to S John I packed a big cooler and stuffed it with meats and bags of homemade pesto and ice packs. I duct-taped the whole thing and it worked perfectly except it was on the deck of the ferry over the engine so we had to eat the stuff on the bottom right away. I'm wondering what your technique was and how it works to arrive at an airport these days with a giant duct-taped cooler. Thanks for your help.