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Feb 5, 2011 06:15 PM

St. John USVI end of month. Recs?

Spending a week at a privite res at the end of the month. Looking for local cuisine (by cuisine I mean anything from street food to fine dining). Local is key as I can get great Italian, French, etc at home. Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

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  1. St. John is our regular vacation spot and we eat almost every meal out. We challenge ourselves to NOT eat anything on vacation that we can easy get at home, we eat as local as possible.

    We visit the following at least once each trip -

    The Lime Inn - excellent whole grilled fish and caribbean lobsters. This place has been in business a long time and the food and service is consistantly good.

    Morgan's Mango - We go more for the frosty drinks, which are soooo good, than the food. The menu has a global theme. I think their fish dishes are always good.

    Shipwreck - we like lunches here. Excellent grilled and fried fish dishes, conch fritters.

    All of the above are casual.

    At the higher end -

    Caneel's Monday night seafood buffet is really good. (and I normally avoid buffets) There is a very good selection of seafood as well as cheeses, veggies, etc. It will be crowded and reservations are a must.

    Zozo's - not my favorite place, the staff has too, too much attitude to suit me but others in our group really like it so I go along. The food is really good but the menu is rather limited - 5 or so entrees. Go prior to sunset and have a drink at the upstairs bar. Reservations are a must.

    La Tapa - consistantly good food, the specials are always excellent. I like their wine list.


    La Panche de Mer (I might not have the name right) moved from its old location to Mongoose Junction. Locals and visitors rave about this place. We have never managed to fit it into our rotation but a number of my foodie friends just absolutely love it.

    Sogos - local place across from the Lime Inn. We never managed to hit it when it was open. Local food and it is reported to be very reasonable.

    I also hear good things about the Waterfront Bistro. The menu was too "mainland" for us so we passed on it last trip. Same with Spyglass - good reports from friends but the menu didn't tempt us.

    Sweet Plantains over in Coral Bay is one we have always wanted to trip but never make the trip (too far for us at night) People seem to love or hate it. Too much flavor and too much $$$ is the reason that seems to pop up over and over again.

    8 Replies
    1. re: cleobeach

      Thanks so much. This will certainly get us started.

      1. re: bobbert

        Thoughts on a few other places -

        While we haven't visited in a few years, Miss Lucy's was a favorite of ours for a long time. It located on the road to Salt Pond. There is a patio right on the water as well as dining in the screened-in area. She is known for her Sunday brunches and full moon parties.

        A new restaurant that may be open during your visit is the Fatty Crab. Apparently, it is an outpost of the owner's NYC restaurant with the same name. Sources on the island report the menu will focus on smaller plates and the feel with be casual.

        For super-casual, no fuss, basic food, the High Tide (right on the water) and the Banana Deck are fine. Nothing great, normal bar food. The High Tide often has live music. A lady singer by the name of T-Bird sings there, she is a fixture of the local music scene.

        What we like about Cruz Bay is it is walkable. You could, for example, have a sunset drink at the Beach Bar (right on the beach) and then walk two blocks La Tapa for dinner.

        If this is a rental house, there should be maps of the downtown waiting for you. If not, you can find the maps at the STT airpoint and at many other spots (ferry dock, free paper boxes)

        The Equator at Caneel is absolutely beautiful. A nice night would be to arrive at Caneel 30-45 minutes prior to sunset, get a drink at the Beach Terrace Bar, sit on the top level and watch the sunset. Follow that with dinner at the Equator. You will need reservations for the Equator.

        The Equators is in the restored ruins of a former sugar plantation. It sits up above the main resort and the views are very nice.

        Caneel welcomes paying customers. There is a guard house at the entrance. If you go, just tell them you are there for drinks/dinner. They comp the parking fee if you spend $10.

        1. re: cleobeach

          cleobeach, thanks! We are going to St. Thomas and St. John at the end of March, and will be certain to hit some of these spots. We're like you - want to immerse ourselves in the local food culture wherever we go.

          1. re: njkori

            Uncle Joe's Bar b q in Cruz Bay. This is a tiny place without a sign across the street from the post office. You can call ahead for your order and they'll have it waiting for you to take back to the villa. We always go snoreling at Caneel and then have lunch at the buffet overlooking the beach. It is just a really nice thing to do and the snorkeling is great. Have a wonderful time. We'll be back in April....can't wait.

            1. re: DaisyM

              We have also had great take-out from Candi's, which is located over by the Star Fish Market. For us, two things at Candi's tops Uncle Joe's - Candi's has ample parking and grilled fish. Just like Joe's, you can call ahead for the specials and to place an order.

              (We were told Candi's was formerly associated with Joe's but broke off to strike out independently so the food is very similar)

              On St. Thomas, we had a wonderful lunch at Gladys' Very local and very good.

              1. re: cleobeach

                We're going to try Candi's on this trip.

                1. re: DaisyM

                  Since finding Candi's we haven't returned to Joe's. In addition to a broader menu and the parking, the staff is also a bunch more pleasant.

      2. re: cleobeach

        Four of us were in St. John's last week and had lunch at the Lime Inn based on this recommendation. I'm happy to report that it was excellent. I had the smoked fish salad and the others had grilled Mahi-Mahi ($15) - delicious and fresh. Good local beer, too. If this place had a view of the water, i'd be perfect.

        Our waiter (Peter) told us that there was no Wi-Fi there, but in fact you can pick up the signal from the Computer Connection across the street, so were were doubly delighted to be able to Skype some people at home.

      3. Well, we're back - gained about 8 pounds. Here's the report:
        Long flight/drive/ferry - went first to happy hour at Spy Glass in Cruz Bay. $2 beers, 2 tacos for $5 - fish and the chicken tacos were ok. Basic bar food - nice spicy sauce. Great view.
        Walked to Woody's which is a dive but good burgers and good conch fritters. Mahi sandwich was pretty good as were the fries.
        Next day back in Cruz Bay - ate lunch at Deli Grotto which is good - they bake their own bread - but pretty mainland.
        Next was a rain shower day so we spent it at Caneel Bay. Buffet lunch was ok for the $35 per person price tag with mostly mainland type selections though the cold mussels were very good. Caribe lobster bisque too salty. Almond encrusted salmon/sea bass was good but a bit over done. Especially if it's a rainy day, this is a good spot. You can snorkel in the rain or be on the beach and when the rain starts, do lunch in the open air (but covered) restaurant overlooking the beach. I would plan to eat early as the hot items were probably better before they sat in trays for an hour or two. Couldn't do the Monday dinner as it didn't fit the schedule.
        That night we attended a private party in Coral Bay catered by Miss Fretty. She owns a little restaurant on the corner by the bus stop. It's a pink building with no sign (in typical St. John fashion). There's a dry erase board with the hours on it that they may or may not keep. Conch fritters, curry chicken and a chick pea dish were very good as was fried carib fish and West Indian potato stuffing. We did stop by a few days later for chicken roti and were very disappointed with the number of bones in the dish though the flavors were very nice.
        Lunch the next day at the Banana Deck. Once again very casual and a pretty good jerk mahi sandwich. A couple of drinks (bushwackers) led directly to a two hour nap.
        Dinner was Skinny Legs for burgers. Not known for food, the burgers were actually very good. Perfect med rare - nice pink inside - in the islands, they do not care if the food kills you but it was a very nice burger with a mango salsa.
        Next day tried to go to Zozo's for the upstairs bar/apps. You absolutely need reservations and the upstairs area is now reserved for people dining. Couldn't get in so moved to...
        La Tapa. Ate at the bar which was nice. Tables roadside are very close to the street, as in you can high five people as they drive by. Nice wines by the glass. Great bread with three dipping sauces- mango avocado, artichoke spinach and a dill thing. Pork belly with an apple slaw was excellent as was the seared scallop. Grilled langostinos with a passion fruit aioli - little salty but very tasty. Nice cheese selection - they bring the uncut cheeses to you to describe and chose - nice touch. La Tapa was our favorite spot.
        Apps at Morgans Mango: Great tuna tartare. Skirt steak and gorgonzola quesadilla - needed more gorgonzola. Very good shreaded pork belly over polenta. This was another nice spot.
        Stopped at Margarita Phils after being too early for the BBQ joints in Cruz Bay. Descent wings and good but over priced tacos.
        Side trip to Jost in the BVI's (not known for its food) and had a great Chicken Roti at the Soggy Dollar (disclaimer: had already drank several painkillers). Christine's Bakery - also on Jost - had a wonderful beef pate. This place is up the road past the police station.
        Last night ate at the Shipwreck back in Coral Bay. Coconut shrimp tasted like something I might buy frozen but the fish - blackened grouper for me and curry mango grouper for my DC were both very good.
        Funny, but prior to reading about it from cleobeach, we had lunch at Glady's back on STT. Definitely a great lunch stop on the way back to the airport. Excellent goat stew and lots of local choices.
        Overall, some very good places and some ok places. As the quality of the food goes down, it is usually offset by the corresponding increase in the “character” of the place. Very entertaining.
        Thanks for all the suggestions.

        3 Replies
        1. re: bobbert

          Thanks for sharing your experiences. You are certainly correct on the food quality/character aspect of STJ dining!

          I am glad you enjoyed Gladys'. It took us years to find that gem and we learned about it when several STT business men recommended it to us.

          Concerning the chicken bones in the roti - that must be the traditional way to serve it (I can't understand why) because when we travelled around the BVIs and I would order it, the server always asked me "with or without bones" I always ordered without.

          I have seen it prepared at some stands and they literally would just chop the chicken pieces with a clever and put it right into the wrap.

          1. re: cleobeach

            Afterr the fact, we were told by the friends we were staying with about the bones in the roti being common. Like you, I don't get it and can't imagine ordering it "with bones please" if given a choice. We too were guided by local business people (jewelers - apparently we hadn't spent ALL our money yet so my wife had to fix that) to Glady's and agree that it is a gem. Would love to eat my way through that menu. We also tried to hit Sweet Plantains in Coral Bay but they are apparently closed on Sundays. Once again thanks for all the recs!

            1. re: bobbert

              A couple of new spots we tried and liked:
              Sam and Jack's for excellent Italian to go. (great if you are staying at a villa like us)
              La Plancha for dinner
              Starfish Wine shop--also has cheese, crackers and desserts