Good restaurant choices abound on the island, many of which have open-air seating, ideal for a locale where temperatures average a comfortable 80-something degrees throughout 85% of the year. Eating like a local in St. Croix means eating very well.
Here are three such places, all highly recommended.
La Reine Chicken Shack
There are times when an eating establishment will call itself a shack as a cute or clever way to convey informality. Not the Chicken Shack. It is really a shack. On the road. In a lot. Picnic tables. Styrofoam plates. Plastic utensils. And a perpetual plume of smoke arising from the shed in back where about 100 chickens at a time slowly rotate over hot embers. The scent is intoxicating.
Unless you arrive early, there will be a crowd, both gathering around the lively bar and waiting to place an order at the counter. That crowd has included Martha Stewart, The Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern, and St. Croix homeowner Joe Biden, the dignitary also known as Mr. Vice President. Whatever other daily specials are listed on the day’s menu, you’re always certain to find the scrumptious, juicy roasted chicken, one half of which arrives in a box with rice, rich red beans and salad with great garlicky dressing. That’ll run you $10.50. If it’s available, one can also chow down on the perfectly cooked conch, caught right nearby, served either warm, in butter sauce or cold, as a salad. The lobster stew special one day was decadent and delicious. If sucking tender meat off the bone is your thing, I can also recommend the stew oxtail. Sides include some of the usual suspects, from stuffing, baked macaroni, and sweet potato to the starchy tuber known as cassava, mightily enhanced by savory stewed onions. Whatever you do, make sure to get the johnnycakes! These magic puffs of fried dough are a cross between a pancake and a roll, and they rock. And if you like it hot, ask for their homemade hot sauce in the squeeze bottle, a mouthful of fire courtesy of the brightly colored habanero peppers contained within.
La Reine Chicken Shack241 Estate Slob, 340-778-5717, Open 7 Days a Week for breakfast, lunch and dinner
This is another shack of sorts, albeit of the beach variety. It’s exactly the type of roadside joint you want to end up in after a full day of sunning and swimming just across the street. Stiff drinks, live music, happy people, good grub. Try the wonderful Duck Poppers, one evening’s “food shot”, four of which are served on Japanese soup spoons. They’re Cajun cream cheese, onions, and jalapeño rolled in duck and wrapped in bacon. Holla! You can build your own burger, whether meat, chicken, fish, or the very tasty veggie type. There’s some inventive cooking going on here for the ambitious — or the inebriated. For example, the Manders Peanut Butter Burger is an 8-ounce Angus patty with sweet Thai chile sauce, peanut butter, sautéed onion, fried egg and bacon on a sriracha-seasoned bun. The more conscientious might opt instead for the veggie Alfredo with whole wheat rotini or grilled mahi with teriyaki glaze over rice and arugula with lemon zest. The zucchini fries are superb, and that spongy rum cake won’t hurt you either.
[email protected], 100 c Cane Bay, 340-718-0360
Cafe Christine is no shack. It is an enchanting little spot hidden away in the heart of Christiansted that features classic bistro fare expertly prepared by Christine herself. Grab a table on the patio and consider a cool glass of rosé as you peruse the day’s chalkboard menu. There will be a cold soup — swiss chard when we were there — and a salad. Mine was a toothsome mélange of shrimp, avocado, goat cheese, and mango over mixed greens and red onion, perfectly dressed with vinaigrette. Reliable sources also suggest the steak salad when it’s available. Among other mouthwatering options, we enjoyed the quiche made with chicken, asparagus, feta, and tomato, as well as a tomato farçi stuffed with pulled pork. I’d go back just to try her croque monsieur, France’s famed open-faced melted ham and cheese sandwich. And Do Not Leave without having Christine’s pies. We devoured every one of them. Her perfect crusts support some glorious insides; the coconut was terrific, the chocolate chip pear was incroyable. This woman can flat-out cook, but Café Christine is open for lunch only Monday through Friday and you should call to reserve a table.
Café Christine, 6 Company St., Christiansted, 340-713-1500
8 Must-Try Dishes in St. Croix
You don’t need a passport to experience delicious Caribbean dishes -- just a plane ticket to St. Croix. The largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), St. Croix is true foodie destination with fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and Caribbean comfort foods. Here are eight traditional dishes plus exactly where to find them when you visit St. Croix.
1. Red pea soup: A hearty comfort food, this soup is swirled with kidney beans (red peas) and dumplings in a ham hock-based broth that thickens as it simmers with potatoes and other starches. Order a bowl from Cast Iron Pot, one of the few restaurants on St. Croix that serves red pea soup regularly.
2. Pot fish and fungi: The unofficial dish of the USVI, pot fish and fungi dates back to when slave rations predominantly consisted of fish and cornmeal. In this dish, fresh fish is fried, stewed with vegetables, and served with the cornmeal mush called fungi (foon-ji). Sample it at Harvey’s, the restaurant basketball legend Tim Duncan frequents when he returns home to St. Croix.
3. Conch: You’ll find fresh conch on the menu at quite a few St. Croix restaurants, where it’s served in the form of fritters, ceviche, and chowder. We prefer the more authentic Caribbean version of stewed conch, which is prepared similarly to pot fish. Try it at Kim’s in Christiansted -- also known for its curried goat and fresh, fried fish.
4. Roti: Roti, an Indian flatbread, has a slightly different meaning in the Caribbean. Here, when people mention this treat, they have in mind potato, chicken, beef, goat, or other fillings wrapped like a burrito in a roti flatbread. Head to Ace Roti Shop where you can sip a house-made peanut punch (a tasty drink made from peanut butter and milk) or a bottled beer with your roti.
5. Salt fish: On St. Croix, salt fish typically refers to a mixture of rehydrated dried cod, lemon juice, and other fresh ingredients that's served on saltine crackers or toasted bread rounds. Place an order for it at Singh’s, where you can find salt fish on the regular. Bonus: Singh’s also has great roti and conch.
6. Ginger beer: Just about every local restaurant on the island has their own version of this intense drink, but we like the pineapple ginger beer at Ital’s in Paradise. The small, upstairs joint also pours "chlorophyll," a green drink made with seasonal herbs and grasses -- not unlike the popular bush tea that’s also served at local hangouts.
7. Red grout: In addition to being the go-to spot for red pea soup, Cast Iron Pot is one of the few places that serves red grout -- a Danish tapioca colored red with guava, otherwise known as rodgrod -- on rotation. If tapioca doesn't float your boat, there's always rum cake.
8. Rum cake: This is the most popular local dessert on St. Croix, and it’s just what it sounds like: cake that’s been soaked in or topped with a hefty dose of rum. We suggest sampling one at Savant, where you can bask in the candlelit courtyard and enjoy a fresh drip coffee prepared at your table.
Eating St. Croix
The email popped up on my screen when I least expected it: “Would you like to explore and write about the inaugural Dine VI Restaurant Week celebrating the local food of St. Croix, US Virgin Islands?” Winter was fast approaching and I suddenly felt ravenous for island food. So my reply was concise: “Hells Yes!”
St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. The name alone evokes idyllic images of pristine beaches, swaying palms, cold cocktails with fancy umbrellas. But there is so much more to this triplet sister in the family of paradise islands that form the US Virgin Islands. It’s not just the turquoise blue of the Caribbean in front of stunning hotels it’s the people – Crucians – who hold their society dear and work hard to at once both preserve and advance their uniqueness. And a proud part of what makes this place special? The food.
Danish archituecture prevails in Christiansted
Not long after checking into the iconic Buccaneer Resort I headed into St. Croix’s main event: Christiansted. Here the Caribbean laps against a quay at water’s edge beside the yellow glow of the town’s namesake fort. Old cobblestone streets lead to many small eateries beneath colored archways of stone and coral dating back to 19th century Danish colonialists. Wafting aromas of spice and curry pulled at me as I searched for pastel paintings of NBA star Tim Duncan on an outside wall. “Just ask anyone about the place with the basketball player,” I was told. And it’s true everyone knows Harvey’s.
At Harvey’s Restaurant the mismatched tablecloths and potpourri of pictures are unapologetically authentic. Equally local is the outstanding food, such as Stew Goat in coconut-curry broth, Pot Fish swimming in an earthy sour gravy, or the favored Old Wife – a fish stew replete with bones, sandpaper skin and remarkable flavor. Sides of “provisions” including fungi – a cornmeal and okra mash – complete every plate. And for the fruity burn of scotch bonnet sauce, Mrs. Harvey will guide you to its ethereal meaning.
The magnificent Mrs Harvey
It doesn’t take long before you sense an energy – electric in the air – that is spinning around the food of St. Croix. It’s a culinary renaissance that’s all about local cuisine. And Dine VI Restaurant Week is leading it, encompassing more than thirty dining options highlighting the best of street food, forever-old local cuisine and high-end “New Crucian” cooking. This gustatory explosion has already attracted the attention of the James Beard Foundation and chefs throughout the Americas. Now everybody wants to be part of what’s cooking in St. Croix.
Even the food trucks are pulling in, and at the first-ever Frederiksted Food Truck Festival more than a dozen lined the main drag of St. Croix’s second city between the colonial architecture and a grassy park slipping into the sea. From homemade mace and nutmeg ice cream to local fried fish, jerk chicken, goat roti and latino specialties, the food at this first-time festival surpassed all expectations. Local island musicians like Pressure raised the street party of more than a thousand people to a fever pitch as a common, excited whisper swept through the crowd: “Just wait until next year when this will be REALLY big.”
St. Croix: A Foodie’s Dream Come True
It’s no coincidence that St. Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s full of love, laughter, and kind people who will never let you go hungry. We were able to learn the ins and outs of how the island stays local by growing, raising, and cooking their own food. Here’s a preview of what you’ll get to taste and see at the upcoming DINE VI restaurant week.
By Ashley Smith
When exploring original and somewhat functional sugar cane plantations, like the one Cruzan Rum was built on, the importance of real food in St. Croix is very present. From local farms raising true organic meat, vegetables, and fruits, to neighborhood restaurants and bars, this island knows what they’re talking about when it comes to good ingredients and impeccable dishes. While St. Croix might be known for it’s beautiful beaches and crystal clear oceans, the food is one of it’s best kept secrets. You may be eating every hour throughout your time there, but we think you will find that you’ll never get full. There are so many different types of cuisine to try, each made with wholesome ingredients that will leave you feeling satisfied and happy.
Crucian culture is a fusion of many backgrounds, with a Danish influence, an Irish heritage, and Puerto Rican traditions. In fact, we got a chance to experience their celebration of multiple customs coming together. During our time in St. Croix, the islanders were partaking in their Puerto Rican Friendship festival. It’s a weekend full of music, art, spectacular food, and the celebration of Puerto Rican influence in their traditions. The days and nights are filled with Hispanic and Caribbean infused music, dance, and food. A park-like setting brings a wonderful aroma of various festival treats. One of the most popular foods is alcapurrias. It’s a classic Puerto Rican dish that has meat inside of dough, kind of like a beef patty. The meat is typically ground beef mixed with tons of spices and green banana. A simple yet exquisite alcapurria is an explosion of tropical flavors from islands throughout the caribbean.
Luca Gasperi preparing to work
Something that’s very special about St. Croix is how intimate it is. It’s a place where everyone knows you by name and possibly relative. On an island that is small enough to drive across in one hour, you can only expect wonderful things, kind strangers, and a connected community. One way that keeps the food community grounded, is it’s use of produce and meat from local farms like the ART Farm/Farmers Market or the Ridge 2 Reef Farm.
The ART Farm is run by husband and wife, Luca and Christina Gasperi. During their on season they not only have a weekly farmers market, but they also have an art gallery that is showcased to their visitors. The gallery contains work from local artists, as well as the couple’s own pieces. Christina expressed that like painting, gardening is very visual and creative. The two art forms flow nicely together, making their farm a unique and refreshing place to be.
Most of the produce and meat from the farm is sold locally. They grow a huge variety of fruits and vegetables including lettuce, microgreens, various tomatoes, carrots, onions, beets, dragon fruit, pineapple, and more from seeds. The couple stressed to us that their farm was so organic, that you could eat anything whether it’s fruit or compost, it wouldn’t harm you. As the parents of a young girl, their main concern is to make their produce safe for the human body and the environment. Even through tons of experimenting with varying methods of plant growing, they never use any chemicals or pesticides.
Due to a previous drought, places like the ART Farm had a major threat to their business. The worry of brush fires was on their minds as they wondered how to keep their pastures and produce going. Luca made the observation that they needed to change the way they farmed.
Christina described how when it comes to chefs, they need to be flexible with the ingredients they have in the kitchen that day. They have to be able to get creative with what they’ve got in front of them, even if they were planning on using different ingredients. Like a chef, a farmer has to be quick on their feet in a time of crisis. So with great motivation, Luca and Christina began to experiment with permaculture. Permaculture is an approach that allows crops to be sustainable and self-sufficient, with little help from a third party (aka humans). They utilized two methods that turned out to work wonders for them:
These are created when a huge hole is dug and filled with logs and brush. As they decay, the moisture and nutrients from the soil nourishes the surrounding plants.
This other strategy is not only helpful to farmers, but it’s also a great DIY idea for anyone with their own garden. The process starts the same way however, the hole is layered with plastic, gravel, permeable geotextile fabric, and a pipe is stuck through all the layers. Water is fed down the pipe and absorbs into the plants from the roots up. Instead of watering the plants everyday, Christina would only have to water them once every ten days.
In terms of livestock, the ART Farm has chickens, turkeys, rams, sheep that are guarded by indestructible dogs, and a very special breed of cow. The breed that they raise is called Senepol, which is originally from St. Croix. Senepol beef is said to be some of the most succulent meat, because these animals are eating wholesome and pure foods. This goes for all of the ART Farm’s livestock as well they stick to eating greens, fruits, seaweed, and very minimal grains if any at all. Only a small percentage of their Senepol beef is sent to the states, but most of it stays within the U.S. Virgin Islands.
While there are still the usual threats to their farm such as wildfires, set fires, and hunters, Luca and Christina are confident that their new ideas will help bring their farm back to life.
Nate and Shelly Olive are another couple that has taken on the task of running a large scale farm. The farm is fully functional and doubles as a community kitchen as well as a learning center for survival and plant knowledge. This bounty in the mountains is quite the trek, but once you make it there it’s absolutely worth it. Shelly described their farm as “the wall of green that turns into the grocery store.” Every ingredient they could possibly need is right at their finger tips.
You will find all of their crops and learning settings on the east side of the community center. Majestic trees like the giant Baobab, mysterious Moringa, and various types of bamboo forests make this place quite the wonderland. Plants that fulfill more purposes than nourishment thrive here, and are quite surreal. Trees like the Moringa prove to be an unknown superfood. While a handful of it’s leaves could provide your daily source of protein, a tablespoon of seeds could purify a gallon of bacteria-filled water. The east side also contains endless herbs, vegetables, and fruits such as jack fruit (the largest fruit in the world), passion fruit, mango, turmeric, ylang ylang, mulberries, lemongrass, sour orange, various nuts, multiple breeds of basil, and so much more. As you loop back to the center of the farm where the kitchen and bath houses are located, there are a handful of bunk houses made for visitors or employees of the farm. Shelly referred to this area as Cabanaland, a place of calm and complete relation to nature.
The farm has their livestock on the west side. Sheep roam with their companion donkey, pigs rest in the shade, and all are fed foods from the farm. Shelly expressed that companies that have purchased their pork were amazed at how sweet and spectacular it was, including the rich layer of fat. These pigs love to eat mangos and it shows. Nate and Shelly’s farm is still growing, however there’s no doubt that they have great things to come. They already send fruit and vegetables to their local CSA every week. The farm also hosts various events, including one where chefs from all over compete in a challenge. Each chef has to create an interesting six course meal with only the ingredients on the farm, including a meat and veggie option for each course. Events like these bring the community together, as well as promote the Ridge 2 Reef Farm.
Farms are the foundation of all the delicious food that comes from the island. We were lucky enough to go on a food crawl with St. Croix’s well known chef, Digby Stridiron, to see what dishes those farm fresh ingredients were going towards. Chef Digby, half Crucian and half Puerto Rican, is a colorful cook who sticks to his roots. As president of The West Indian Chefs Alliance, contemporary West Indian chef, and future owner of his restaurant balter, Chef Digby’s aura oozes his passion for food. He travels all over the world, from Milan to the White House, for special events and competitions. No matter where he goes, his cooking goals remain the same–to keep his dishes and ingredients rooted in St. Croix’s values, and tweak them into innovative and equally delicious meals.
Digby started his education at a young age by watching the cooks in his family make some of his childhood favorites like fungi, potato stuffing, or ceviche. His college experience began at Johnson and Wales where he learned how to be a pastry chef, which turned out not to be his thing. Chef Digby truly found his way when he continued onto Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. When talking to him about food, it’s evident that all his years of reading and hard work fueled his love of making something that tastes great and is good for you.
We had the perfect guide to show us some of the best kept secrets on the island. Our first stop was Ital in Paradise, a small vegetarian/vegan/gluten free spot. After drinking fresh lemonade, we experienced crispy lentil balls. The all-natural dish is simply ground up lentils mixed with various spices and seasoning. The lemonade was the perfect combination for this quick snack.
On our way to the next place, we were able to stop by the site of Digby’s new restaurant, balter. While the building is still being renovated, Digby has a clear vision of what it will look like. Just outside the restaurant will be outdoor seating right near a stage for live music, as well as the garden where he’ll grow his ingredients. He plans on collaborating with the ART farm to use their wicking beds for his garden. The chef would also like to continue a custom that includes an outdoor butchering table. He feels that the event of butchering the meat and preparing it with the community is something that’s an old cherished tradition, which is important when it comes to food and knowing it’s origin. Digby also wants to focus on supporting small business. His restaurant will have handmade clay dishes from a local potter, glassware and glass signs from a neighborhood artist, furniture from local trees, and ingredients from the island. While every piece of art is unique, Chef Digby welcomes the individuality because he takes pride in making every dish distinct from one another. With creating West Indian cuisine, he hopes to “capture the ocean in [his] food.”
Next to the construction site was a small and casual farmer’s market where various fruits were being sold. Orange plums and plump guavas proved to be extremely juicy and sweet.
Our last stop of the day was The Cast Iron Pot, a great restaurant to have lunch or dinner in a home-cooked fashion. The chef and owner, Burt Peterson, assured us that his number one desire in cooking is to serve a dish that will make the customer happy. It’s safe to say that no one could leave his restaurant unsatisfied. Most foods are made in a cast iron pot which increases the health benefits, because of their limited use of oil and the iron that’s cooked into the food. You may have to wait a tad longer for your meal, but that’s because The Cast Iron Pot doesn’t let their cooked food sit they make it fresh as you order.
Their beverages are made on the spot as well. We got a chance to try two drinks that are flavorful and detoxifying at the same time. Mabie is an old, natural island drink that’s known for it’s healing properties. It’s made from bark and includes spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Mabie has the perfect amount of sweetness with a strong, earthy after taste. Burton recommended Mabie as a great way to detoxify your body. The second drink was a classic, ginger beer made with real ginger. This drink was a sweet treat, with a flavorful zap of ginger after each sip. This too would serve as a nice internal cleanser.
When it comes to Burton’s dishes, he makes it clear that seasoning is the key. The Cast Iron pot uses it in everything because no seasoning, means no flavor. They use their in-house, “pound seasoning,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like they take twelve different spices and herbs, and pound them together into one flavorful combination.
Juicy pork chops served with pound seasoned rice, sweet potato stuffing, and red beans
Fresh fish soup with handmade dumplings, noodles, and spices
Along side this dish we indulged in fresh fish, barbecue chicken, and fungi (a caribbean classic polenta cake made with okra).
Real rum raisin cake and rum raisin ice cream with a caramel drizzle
Even though St. Croix is a small island, the food options are endless. Here a few more places that are a must.
Victor Mencho’s is an old, mom and pop shop that’s the go-to breakfast sandwich joint. Mencho’s started out as a bakery, and has been passed down the family. Back in the 70s, the bakery would turn into a disco at night and run until fresh bread was being made. People would walk out as the sun was rising with a hot loaf in their hands.
Today the Mencho family has their classic sandwich, The Cubano. Mencho’s Cubano has sweet pickles, mustard, their iconic bread, and fresh ham of course, however instead of using pork, they use beef that’s cooked with vinegar. If you visit St. Croix, you can’t leave the island without having a bite of this sandwich.
We also tried their veggie sandwich made with lettuce, tomato, cheese, mustard, peppers, pickles, and cranberries. All of the flavors work together between their homemade bread.
Their breakfast omelette wrap is a close second to their Cubano. Inside a spinach wrap is a steamy omelette filled with seasoning, hot peppers, cranberries, and cheese. You’re guaranteed to be set for the day with just one of these sandwiches for breakfast.
Another hot spot is the Le Reine Chicken Shack. This is where you’ll find anyone and everyone right after church on a Sunday. The shack is one of many restaurants that makes you feel like your eating from your mom’s kitchen. With lines going for hours, the Chicken Shack does a speedy job of getting every customer served. The two most popular dishes here are their roast chicken and Johnny Cakes, a Caribbean comfort food.
Tuscan Restaurant Fiaschetteria On Outdoor Dining and Challenges Since COVID-19
Try the moist stewed goat full of spices. The meat is cooked until it’s soft, smooth, and falls off the bone. Their take on potato stuffing resembles The Cast Iron Pot’s, but of course everyone put’s their own unique spin on it.
The famous roast chicken is cooked on a rotisserie to perfection with the right amount of seasoning. The special flavor may be attributed to their unique methods instead of typical charcoal, they use a specific type of bark that heightens the chicken’s flavor while it’s being roasted.
Johnny Cakes are another traditional food that never gets old. It’s common that each person makes it differently, but we heard that Le Reine Chicken Shack has some of the best on the island. The soft sweet bread is typically a dessert treat. These delights are perfect on their own, but are also a great vehicle for flavor combinations. We recommend trying them with the red beans.
Zion Modern Kitchen is a wonderful place to get the “Crucian infusion” experience. This new restaurant takes basic dishes from all over, and reinvents them with a Caribbean style. The team works extremely hard to serve good quality food, and it definitely pays off.
Mixologist Frank Robinson is known around the island for his well crafted cocktails. Frank’s drinks aren’t about the liquor, their about the cocktail experience as a whole. One of our favorites was the Ginger Thomas. It’s simple and refreshing with squeezed orange juice, ginger syrup, vodka, and topped with lemon zest and clove.
Their curried calamari is on the money with thin, crispy batter served with a passionfruit mayo.
Zak and Mary (members of the Zion team) made a salad! Zak’s hydrotonic tomatoes are the thickest and juiciest we’ve ever tasted, and Mary’s mozzarella is everything you’re looking for in a cheese.
Let’s not forget their drop-dead gorgeous chocolate mousse in a Mason jar. Rich chocolate and a chantilly creme make for a spectacular treat.
The most highly anticipated place to visit in St. Croix is the Cruzan Rum distillery. Cruzan Rum is in it’s own category of liquor for several reasons, but the most historical is that the present day distillery is on it’s original property. The land started out as a sugar plantation the original sugar mills and stables from the 1700s are still used. The distillery was established in the 1760s, and the structures were refurbished in the 1900s.
Something that most rums don’t have when compared to Cruzan Rum is molasses. Yeast, water, and molasses are the only ingredients used to make the liquor. The tower on the plantation has tanks for the fermentation process. The yeast tank contains molasses and yeast to begin the process. This takes 36 to 48 hours until completion. A unique step takes place afterwards–the rum is distilled five times and filtered again at the end of the process. This may give some truth as to why drinks with Cruzan Rum are less likely to give you a hangover. Do you need anymore reasons to give it a try?
The molasses remains are filtered into the ocean. This doesn’t harm the sea life, but it definitely contributes to the sweet fish you’re getting from the islands.
There are three different darkness levels of Cruzan Rum: aged two years (clear or light), aged five years, and aged twelve years.
The rum is stored the old-fashioned way–in barrels. They are reused up to seven times and who knows, after a few uses you may be able to purchase one. When the rum is ready to be shipped off, it is emptied the traditional way as well. The barrels are rolled onto a platform that drains into a dumping trough. They are whacked until the cork pops out, and all of the rum flows into the trough. What’s authentic about Cruzan Rum is that everything is done by hand. The rum is eventually shipped off to Florida, and is distributed from there. After a tour of Cruzan Rum, be sure to stick around for a rum tasting .
St. Croix is the most underrated out of all the U.S. Virgin Islands. With activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, going to the horse races, marveling at the heavenly beaches, and endless diverse food, what’s stopping you? Visit a culture that is truly a community and supports the movement towards real food for real people.
Why not explore this paradise during a food festival? DINE VI is just around the corner, starting October 28th. The event goes on until November 8th. balter is expected to open it’s doors in January 2016, which is when DINE VI will expand into a month long event. You’ll be able to try Chef Digby’s new restaurant, “a contemporary West Indian kitchen,” as well as all of the mouth-watering restaurants we’ve mentioned. Let St. Croix be your first and best USVI adventure!
For more information on the DINE VI festival, go to dine.vi to learn more.
Ashley was raised on Guatemalan and West Indian cuisine both backgrounds are filled with vibrant flavors and spices. Working at a French bakery in the past--and getting introduced to craft beers and cheeses during her time at the University of Vermont--has piqued her interest in experimenting with food.
You can&apost visit St. Croix without trying gooseberry ice cream, and Armstrong&aposs Homemade Ice Cream is the place to get it. The company dates back to 1900 and still produces its ice cream using an original Danish recipe, which the family adapted and made their own. One of their most popular flavors is gooseberry, crafted from the small, yellow, and incredibly tart fruit that we like to boil with sugar into a "stew" and enjoy as a snack. Incorporating this whole-fruit stew into ice cream makes for a decadent dessert, but be careful of the tiny seeds.
This fried bread is a traditional island favorite, enjoyed any time of day. It was originally known as "journey cake" because people would eat it on their way to work. Over time, "journey" became "Johnny," but the flavor remained the same. Crunchy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, this unleavened bread is carefully kneaded and then fried to golden perfection. It&aposs best paired with a fried chicken leg or chicken roasted on an open grill from La Reine Chicken Shack.
Not to be confused with a Jamaican patty, this delicious handheld favorite — similar to an empanada — has a crispy, crunchy pastry crust. Stuffed with spiced beef, saltfish (salted cod), chicken, conch, lobster, or veggies, it&aposs the perfect island snack when paired with fresh local juice, such as passion fruit or tamarind. Rosa&aposs Booth in Frederiksted is a good place to try one.
Sample St. Croix’s Local Cuisine
St. Croix, like many Caribbean islands, is a cultural melting pot. One of the many great things about this mix of ethnic groups and cultures is that it results in some amazingly diverse local cuisine. As you taste your way around the island, you will experience a multitude of influences and fusions including Caribbean, African, Indian, Latin American, European and American. There is also a huge diversity of ingredients available on the island, from locally caught seafood and locally raised meat, to the diverse fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices the rainforest and farm belt have to offer. In order to truly experience St. Croix, you must sample the local fare!
The most obvious influence in the local cuisine is that of the Caribbean and West Indian islands, which are themselves a mixture of cultural influences. Like the history and diversity of the island itself, many countries have left their mark on what is considered ‘local’ food on St. Croix. Here, the cuisine relies heavily on the use of herbs and spices to marinate meats, flavor soups and sauces, and season rices and beans. You will often taste herbs and spices like bay leaf, lemongrass, curry, basil, cinnamon, culantro (similar in flavor to cilantro), cumin, pepper, ginger, jerk seasoning, and spicy scotch bonnet peppers. In fact, you will find a plethora of delicious locally made hot sauces in restaurants, at farmers markets and grocery stores, and for sale at local events. While these sauces are all made from different recipes and vary in heat intensity, they are often made from a base of fruit (such as mangoes or bananas) blended with vinegar and habaneros or scotch bonnet peppers.
The Caribbean cuisine also takes advantage of the great local seafood such as conch, wahoo, mahi mahi, kingfish, ‘pot fish’ (or small reef fish), and lobster. Some of the more well-known Caribbean dishes you will find here on St. Croix are saltfish, conch in butter sauce, kallaloo, and fried kingfish steaks. Saltfish is fresh fish that has been salt-cured and dried until all the moisture has been extracted. To prepare saltfish for cooking it needs to be re-hydrated and most of the salt removed through a process of overnight soaking in hot water or milk and subsequent boiling. Saltfish is an essential part of a traditional Crucian breakfast, which consists of the saltfish, boiled eggs, johnny cakes or dumb bread, and cooked greens. Another popular dish you will see is kallaloo – a delicious, green soupy stew gets its roots from West Africa. While this soup was originally based on the use of taro leaves (sometimes called callaloo), a number of variations on the kallaloo recipe have since evolved. On St. Croix, spinach is most often used as the base for kallaloo, and the soup generally includes onions, green onion, celery, thyme, parsley, and okra. Depending on the variation, ingredients may also include taro root or pumpkin, as well as fresh fish, crabs, conch, lobster, ham, smoked pork, or even tofu cubes.
In addition to seafood, Crucians also enjoy some ‘exotic’ meats, like goat and the local breed of beef cattle called Senepol. Stewed or curried goat, and goat roti are popular dishes here on the island. Roti is an Indian flat bread made from stone-ground wholemeal flour, that is filled with a curried meat, potato and chickpea filling and then folded up (kind of like an Indian burrito). You can also get conch, chicken, beef, or vegetarian roti. Pate is also a must here on St. Croix if you get a chance to try it. Pate is a well seasoned, meat-filled pastry, often made for special events and available from local street food vendors. Like many other countries, Crucians also utilize most parts of the animal in cooking, hence dishes like stewed oxtail, bull foot soup and souse. Souse is a soupy broth consisting primarily of pickled pork culled the head, feet, and tail.
St. Croix’s local cuisine is heavy on starches, which include breads, rice and beans, as well as breadfruit, yucca, cassava, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, plantains and pumpkin. You will often find ‘provisions’ as a local side dish, which is a mixture of boiled starches which usually includes breadfruit, yucca, cassava, and/or white potatoes. ‘Crucian stuffing’ (a sweet, souffle-like potato dish with raisins), fried or stewed plantains, red beans and rice, seasoned rice with pigeon peas, and good old baked macaroni and cheese are hugely popular side dishes as well. Johnny cakes are a must-try here on St. Croix. These delicious fried breads are slightly sweet and are served as a side, or by themselves. Fungi (pronounced foon-ji) is a cooked cornmeal paste, similar to the more well known Italian polenta, that is usually served in the bottom of a bowl of kallaloo, or with saltfish cooked with onions, tomatoes and peppers.
If you have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of cakes and treats to choose from. You can find fresh, locally made coconut or ginger candies at the local farmers markets, as well as many homemade jams and preserves including tamarind stew or gooseberry stew, which is often served over vanilla ice cream. At buffets, bakeries and farmers markets across the island you can find delicious miniature fruit tarts filled with coconut, pineapple, or guava filling. For a true taste of Caribbean tradition at Christmas time, black cake is a must. Black cake is a traditional Caribbean fruitcake made by soaking a mixture of fruit for months in rum and brandy, and then blending it up and mixing it into a delicious cake. Of course, you can also always find delicious rum cakes made with rum distilled right here on St. Croix.
Last, but not least, don’t forget to sample the locally made beverages if you get a chance. Bush tea, is a mix of local leaves, and herbs that is steeped like herbal tea. My personal favorite is a mix you can find at the farmers markets which includes lime leaves, mint, lemongrass, and moringa. Sorrel tea is another popular drink made by steeping the bright fuchsia sorrel flowers. You can also find ginger beer made from fresh ginger, or try some hydrating locally harvested coconut water. Coquito is a hugely popular rum based drink made with cream, vanilla and cinnamon, usually enjoyed around Christmas time. Coquito is often made from family recipes passed down through the generations, and it is so popular that there are coquito festivals held each year to celebrate this drink and see who makes the best coquito on St. Croix.
There is a fantastic variety of local cuisine to feast on while you are here on St. Croix, so try something new. Stop at the farmers markets to sample and shop for locally made preserves, hot sauces, seasonings, and fresh produce. Take time to visit some local festivals, events, or jump ups to try traditional dishes like kallaloo, conch in butter, and johnny cakes. If you find a food truck or street vendor, try some of the popular street foods like roti or pates. Or, support the local restaurants while you try the fresh seafood and local fusion cuisine. However you choose to indulge, make sure you savor the flavor of St. Croix!
Living in St Croix
We experienced living in St Croix for 3 years. We loved every moment of it. You should have seen the view we had…of course we were anchored in Christiansted harbor. We were living on a sailboat.
How did we get ashore, simple we had a dinghy that got us from the boat to the shore. After the first year we bought an island car, a Honda that served us well. It took some getting used to driving on the left (or wrong) side of the street. When the US bought the Virgin Islands in 1917 from Denmark, they were driving that way…and folks I want to be far, far away if they ever decide to make the switch.
St Croix is the largest of the Virgin Islands and is a US territory…like Guam. What that means is you cannot vote for President, but you pay US taxes, and have all the rights and protection afforded US citizens living in the 50 states.
It is 28 miles by 7 miles you can easily drive all over the island in a day, making stops for shopping, eating, etc. But there is no rush the locals sure are not in a hurry. You will find the locals warm and friendly with tourism a big part of the local economy.
Cruise ships call on St Croix. The cruise ship dock is in Frederiksted,the second largest city on St Croix. We enjoyed sharing stories with cruise ship passengers who were floored that we were living in St Croix. Hey it sure worked for us living on a sailboat 200 yards from the harbor walk. Restaurants, shops and all the historical sites within easy walking distance.
The church we attended was downtown, 2 blocks from the dinghy dock. The church was first built in 1740 and improved in 1834. It was complete with a governor’s box, marble floors and a beautiful mahogany altar. We enjoyed it and spent many a Sunday afternoon as guests of locals who attended church and lived there all year. We came to the mainland in the summer, hurricane season.
The climate is very nice year round, 80 during the day and 70 at night. The only heavy coat I saw in St Croix was in the freezer section of the big grocery store on island.
At close to 18 degrees north latitude we knew what Jimmy Buffett meant by changes in latitude changes in attitude. We enjoyed living in St Croix, you will too. Enjoy.
Gary Pierce is the webmaster of http://www.frugal-retirement-living.com he retired early at 49, still retired at 64. He has experience in lifestyles that are both fulfilling and frugal. More on St Croix It is 2009 and many are wondering if they can ever retire. Don’t give up until you check out this website. Enjoy.
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Sleep in. Now that you’ve been properly indoctrinated into the rum culture here on St Croix, it’s time to hit the beach. Grab some snorkel gear and head out to the North Shore of St Croix and hit Cane Bay Beach. This popular beach is not only an awesome place to get in some excellent offshore snorkeling but it’s also the place to see the world famous Cane Bay Wall.
If you’re a certified diver, you can grab tanks and head out on a spectacular and easy shore dive that will have you peering over the underwater cliff into the abyss. Over the side of the wall you’ll often encounter sea turtles, schools and schools of bright tropical fish and the occasional reef shark looking to see if anyone has a lionfish treat for them. If you’d prefer to stay on top of the water, you can walk across the street and rent a kayak from our friends at Virgin Kayak. While you’re there, check out Jill & Bryan’s pre-Columbian art gallery and their eco-camp! And don’t forget to sign up for one of their Salt River Kayak Tours.
After a late morning/early afternoon of beach time, walk across the street and grab lunch from [email protected] This funky little beach bar has some of the best food on the North Shore and a fantastic array of fruity, frosty cocktails – not to mention a killer wine list.
If you’re up for some more activity following lunch, take a hike down to the Annaly Bay Tide Pools – there’s a trail from the Carambola Beach Resort public parking lot. The hike takes roughly an hour in and an hour out. You’ll go up and down a hill each way. It’s not a killer hike, but is a moderate one. So be sure to bring a backpack with water and wear sneakers or tevas. Once you are down to the beach landing, you’ll climb over some rocks to get into the pools – so flip flops aren’t recommended. Be sure to make your way back at least an hour and a half before sunset to ensure you have plenty of light on your way back.
Head back to your accommodations later in the afternoon to wash off the salt and sand and then treat yourself to a relaxing evening at one of Christiansted’s finer restaurants. St Croix has become a beacon on the culinary map developing some super start chefs. Each April the island boasts a week of food-centric events, seminars and competitions with the St Croix Food & Wine Experience. It also attracts some renowned chefs from across the country who share their talents and passion for the art of eating.
Said to be one of NBA star and local celebrity Tim Duncan’s favorite places to eat in St. Croix, Harvey’s is an institution on the island. Unlike the other places in this article, Harvey’s is neither relaxed luxury nor a shack but something in between. It is almost like eating homemade food at someone’s house, with a dozen new friends. The daily menu appears on whiteboards and, oh, yes, Harvey’s runs out of food. My pictures show availability when we arrived and when we left 75 minutes later. I love the homemade hot sauce sitting on tables in recycled rum and vodka bottles.
menu at Harvey’s in St. Croix
homemade hot sauce at Harvey’s in St. Croix
Harvey’s menu when we left
Frontline Bar & Restaurant
You’re gonna have to ask a local how to get to Frontline. Go for the breakfast and go on Sunday if you can. Tell the man at the counter you want the breakfast. Pay him cash it’s under $10. Wait. He’ll hand you a box. Take the box get back in your car. Drive to the beach. Open the box and find a Johnny cake, a boiled egg, a chicken wing, a small green salad, fish salad and a hunk of bread.
Local Island Breakfast on St. Croix
Now you know that whether you want a beachside snack or a gourmet meal you can find it at one of the tasty restaurants in St. Croix. The abundance of fresh seafood, locally grown produce and locally sourced products (and Cruzan rum!) make this a food and drink paradise.
Be assured that the island services are up and running. The positivity and resiliency of the Crucian people is palpable and you will feel like you have arrived home. After all, you will discover favorite cousins you have never met and they will stay with you long after your time on this tasty and beautiful island.