Christianstad, St Croix - Trip Report
We spent a few days in Christiansted in St Croix last week, where we ate surprisingly well, so I wanted to do a trip report.
Harvey’s – had lunch at this local place which was GREAT. We hung out there for a little bit before they were ready to serve lunch, chatting with our host, the son of the woman in the kitchen, who was super. The walls are covered with newspaper clippings about St Croix residents doing well (and murals on the outside of Tim Duncan who is from the island) and our host was happy to chat about them, his mom the cook, our lives, etc. I’m actually not usually the chatty w/strangers type, but he was a real doll. Of course, the food is the important part.
We had some of their homemade juices: tamarind which was very flavorful and much lighter and more refreshing than what I’m used to getting canned in the US, soursop (with a bit of milk) which was pleasant, and the winner – sorrel (hibiscus) of which we unfortunately only had a small amount as it was the last of the batch but he insisted we try some. This was much more flavorful than the sorrel I’ve had before (at, for instance, the Red Hook Ballfields in NY). It was definitely steeped with several other spices (ginger and cloves maybe?) and some sugar. It’s apparently a Christmas specialty, but Harvey’s serves it all year. My husband also had a glass of rum to drink. To eat, I had the conch soup which was great. I was a little worried when the bowl came out as it looked, well, like glop, but it was peppery tasty glop with amazingly tender conch. The son was very proud that his mom makes the best conch on the island, according to him, because of how she tenderizes it. Dumplings, potatoes, veggies, tender conch, all in this peppery seafood broth. It was a huge portion, too, but it was one of those times when even though I was quickly full, I didn’t want to leave any over because it was so good. My husband had the stewed goat which was served with plantains and I believe rice, coleslaw, and I don’t remember what else. The goat was really high quality meat – tender with almost no gristle or fat. Everything on the plate was good, even if the conch soup was a touch better over all. We also were given two little cookie tarts (one with coconut filling and one with guava) to take with us at the end by our new friends. Oh, yeah, two huge portions of food, two large juices, a large glass of rum, and complimentary cookies and a third juice? I believe the bill was about $23.
Kendrick’s – an upscale place – lovely courtyard. We were there to celebrate a friend’s wedding. I started with a gazpacho which was really well done – oniony, but not unbalanced which I often find is the case with gazpacho. For my main, I had dolphin-fish with a lemon butter sauce, if I recall correctly, that was delicious but a bit too rich. I don’t remember what my husband started with, but I know he had the duck special of the night – which I believe had a blackstrap rum sauce – which he really enjoyed. Definitely a winner of a restaurant.
Bacchus – the other restaurant that seems to usually be mentioned alongside Kendrick’s as the best in Christianstad (for upscale eating, although upscale in St Croix is very relaxed). We liked it, but thought it was not quite as strong as Kendrick’s. Bacchus makes a big deal about their bread and the olive oil/vinegar/parmesan/etc. dressing they serve with the bread, and we were unimpressed with either (the dressing would be much better without the large hit of imitation balsamic vinegar). My lobster bisque was a touch too salty and my husband’s lobster-asparagus ravioli wasn’t that exciting either. I had scallops with a jasmine-rice cake. The scallops were absolutely perfectly cooked, and I quite liked the rice cake too, but the sauce was too sweet. It definitely needed more of an acid bite, or even a bit of something spicy, to balance out the sweetness. I can’t remember now what my husband ate – I think it was fish as well and quite good but not perfect. We shared a superb dessert of bread pudding. Bacchus was pretty good, but based on single meals, we’d choose Kendrick’s to return to over Bacchus. Both had lovely settings and great servers. We showed up at Bacchus early, and they were happy to seat us, but since we weren’t quite ready to eat yet, also happy to let us play a game of pool first (the best upscale inclusion of a pool table room I’ve seen outside of stuffy clubs).
Of course, we weren’t that hungry when we sat down at Bacchus because we had been walking around the street festival that night, the Jump Up, and couldn’t resist getting shrimp roti from one of the stands (YUM) and washing it down with fresh coconut water mixed with rum and fresh pressed sugar cane juice mixed with rum from a guy with coconuts and sugar cane on the back of his truck. If I’m ever back in St Croix for the Jump Up, I’d definitely not make dinner reservations and just enjoy all the street food.
Rum Runners – on the boardwalk – looks like a tourist trap and despite the great location, almost is though it isn't that bad. Our friends said the catch of the day is usually good there, but it was over cooked. My grilled lobster was much much too grilled and was tough and overdone. Mixed drinks were ok. Conch fritters were delicious, though, and setting is hard to beat. Still, sad that this place is packed and tourists don’t seem to go to somewhere like Harvey’s which is a quarter of the price (not that Harvey’s seemed lacking for business at ALL).
Oddly enough, we ended up a few times at this health food café, Lalita. Great coffee – the best we had in St Croix – good fruit and veggie juices/smoothies and iced teas – good muesli – fine vegan wraps, snacks, muffins (some better than other) – truly beautiful courtyard setting. It just kept sort of hitting the bill for a light snack or meal. I believe our friends, though, had tried this vegan ice cream the owner was pushing and were not impressed.
The only other meal was the Tuesday night BBQ buffet at the Hotel on the Cay. We weren’t expecting much (we were staying there, it was the night we got in, and we were exhausted). And it wasn’t much. I didn't try everything available, but the coleslaw and the mac n’cheese were better than expected, the chicken was ok, and some of the ribs seemed to escape being totally dried out. Good? No. But not terrible either which it might have been. Nice to be sitting out on the beach, and if the entertainment was on par with the food, the drinks were cheap. Not to be sought out, but I wouldn't kick too hard if I had to do that again.
Overall, a lovely few days on a lovely island with some pretty good food. We wanted to try Singh’s Roti shop and didn’t get a chance, and would love to try some of the other things at Harvey’s.