St. John Bar Recommendations

St. John’s nickname is “Love City” because, it was said, there wasn’t much else to do there. Well, St. John may still have no movie theater, no bowling alley, no golf course, and no library – but they do have plenty of bars.

(Now, by bar, I am only recommending places to drink – food, although it may be available, is not counted in the rankings of these bars. Some bars have great food in addition to being a great bar, and some, well – you’re not there to eat, are you???)

————>Click here for St. John restaurant recommendations.

Woody’s Seafood SaloonCan’t Miss It, Cruz Bay. Yes, that’s Woody’s with the people spilling out into the street, almost getting run over by random cars and taxis. Yes, it’s crowded – yes, it’s crazy, but Woody’s is bar none the best people-watching on the whole island. Where else can you get a mix of locals, tourists and a few random oddballs, all melting into one fun mass of humanity night after night? It’s only an added bonus that Woody’s has an awesome Happy Hour from 3-6 each day with cheap beers, island specialties, and mixed drinks. The only downfall? Time seems to fly when you’re at Woody’s – you may show up at 5:00 and next thing you know, you’ve missed your 8:30 reservation down the street. Good thing they serve great bar food until 2am – the latest place on the whole island.

The Beach BarWharfside Village, Cruz Bay. Where Woody’s is crazy fun, The Beach Bar is relaxed beachside cool. Located right on the water, sit at the large square bar and listen to the waves lapping at the beach, or listen to the great live music available most nights. Don’t miss the Sunday Jazz Festivals with jazz greats playing all afternoon. Also, if T-Bird is playing, stake your territory and enjoy an awesome show. Best bartenders on the island, and best Painkillers outside of Jost Van Dyke. Food is pretty good too. Don’t forget to ask for the Silver Spoon if nature calls – you’ll look like you’re a regular.

Fred’s Disco & LoungeDowntown Cruz Bay. You may laugh when you first see Fred’s – it seems more like an empty garage than a “disco.” But on most Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Fred’s has the best local music anywhere. Inner Visions, Ah-We Band and my personal favorite, Cool Sessions are some of the local acts that can be seen at Fred’s most of the time. Although the clientele may be mostly West Indian, do yourself a favor and spend some time inside. The drinks are cheap, the music is awesome, and the West Indians are fun and enjoy watching you try and dance!

The Gecko GazeboMongoose Junction, Cruz Bay. Besides being a fun local bar, the Gecko has great frozen drink specialties and lively conversation to boot. In the middle of the nicest shopping on St. John, it’s a good place to relax after a day of shopping. If Tyler is working, then you’ve got some special entertainment on your hands as well. Also, if Tyler is working, make sure you have a ride home, because he is known to pour a strong one once in awhile. (So I’ve heard, anyway.)

Aqua Bistro BarCoccolobo Mall, Coral Bay. This cute round outdoor bar is a good place to sit and have a few drinks while others shop in the little mall that surrounds it. Always an interesting local crowd around to entertain you with their stories and maybe an argument or two. Good food, too.

Skinny Legs, Coral Bay. Skinny Legs is probably the only other bar on St. John as well known and well loved as Woody’s. Always crowded on Sunday during football season due to their numerous TVs, Skinny Legs is a great place for drinks, a damn good cheeseburger and the game. Good local music most nights, too. Only downfall – the bugs suck – but, they have bug spray behind the bar if you ask for it.

St. John Restaurant Recommendations

We are lucky enough to own a place in St. John, US Virgin Islands that we rent out when we are not there. I get a lot of questions regarding where to eat on St. John from people renting the house, so I thought I’d post it here for the rest of the world. And, if you haven’t been to St. John, you’re missing out on a very special place….

FINE DINING

Chateaux BordeauxTop of Bordeaux Mountain, Centerline Road. Small, romantic fine dining restaurant with lace tablecloths and impressive wine collection. Best view on the whole island, and it doesn’t even have a sunset. Cute bar to have a cocktail before dinner. Best place for a quiet, romantic (and expensive) dinner. (UPDATE 3/10:  Recently reopened under new management/staff. Haven’t been there yet, so I can’t vouch for the cuisine just yet.)

AsolareTop of hill overlooking Cruz Bay. Cool kids fine dining.. Located in an old St. John estate home with beautiful view of St. Thomas and Cruz Bay. Interetsting pan-asian cuisine with a caribbean flair. Stay away from the sushi – no good. Everything else is, though. Good wine list. Great bar. Ask for a table on the balcony.

ZoZo’sAt Gallow’s Point Resort. Upscale Italian (that means no spaghetti and meatballs, buster) with great wine list and fabulous appetizers. Always fresh and always delicious. Be sure and come early and go up one level to the bar to see the best sunset on the island (as well as the best martinis.) There’s a reason Brangelina and entourage had a private meal here last month. Ask for a table by the deck for a cool Caribbean breeze while you dine.  There’s a reason this is everyone’s favorite spot, hands down.

CASUAL

Lime Inn In Cruz Bay, across from Fred’s. Definitely the best place in St. John to have succulent, fresh Caribbean lobster. Prepared on the grill, perfect every time. Most other items on the menu aren’t that great, so I wouldn’t go there unless you want the lobster. Neat bar built around an old ficus tree. No a/c – but you don’t really need it. Great place for kids. Can get crowded, especially in season.

Sun Dog Cafein Mongoose Junction, Cruz Bay. Great outdoor lunch/dinner spot in the middle of great shopping. The fish tacos are really good, as well as specialty sandwiches, burritos, salads and specials. Ask for a frozen drink in the pretty, hand painted take-home glass.

Shipwreck Landing Coral bay. Best bloody mary on the island, as well as great food and homemade hot sauce to boot. (It’s more like a curry sauce than hot – and you can buy a bottle to take home.) There are so many good things here, but my favorites include fresh mahi beer battered fish and chips, quesadillas of the day, and a homemade veggie burger with lentils that I just love smothered in that hot sauce. Great breeze and nice people make this one of my favorites.

JJ’S Texas Coast CafeIn the park, near the ferry dock, Cruz Bay. Super people watching location and decent tex-mex at reasonable prices. Yummy fish burgers, and good down-home specials like chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. Service can be a bit slow, as they tend to focus on the locals more than the tourists.

Uncle Joe’s BBQCruz Bay, across from Cap’s Place. Fabulous BBQ at good prices. Ridiculously long lines can mean a big wait, but it’s worth it. If you like pulled pork, BBQ chicken or any of the traditional sides like cole slaw, macaroni and cheese or corn on the cob, this is the place for you. Don’t give them any attitude, though – or you may never get your meal! (Also, don’t bother to order ahead on the phone unless you know them personally… somehow the ticket always gets “lost.”)

Candi’s BBQCruz Bay, just before Starfish Market. Now that Candi’s is here, there is no need to put up with the long lines and attitude from Uncle Joe. Incredible BBQ chicken, steak, pork and Mahi (to die for), great sides like pasta salad, coleslaw (with rasins, mmmm), peas and rice and potato salad. Friendly and fast service, and reasonable prices to boot.

Tourist TrapSalt Pond.  Worth the drive past Coral Bay to the Salt Pond just before Concordia Eco Tents.  Literally a tiny cafe in the owner’s front yard.  Choose from daily specials such as wings, hot dogs,  or my favorite, the famous Lobster Roll.  Is $11 a little steep for a lobster roll on a hot dog bun and a bag of chips?  Probably – but it is damn good.  Also try Larry’s Soon-to-be-Famous drink, Drink Right Keep Left – basically a bunch of flavored rums with juice.

PLACES TO STAY AWAY FROM

DaLivioCruz Bay, across from Lime Inn. I don’t know if there is a curse on this location, but this was the second time in as many restaurant incarnations that I have had one of the worst experiences ever on St. John.  I hate to say this, but the food at this restaurant was almost inedible.  I did have a very nice appetizer of razor-thin zucchini drizzled with olive oil, but this is hardly something that is difficult to make.  Everything else the four of us had was just plain awful, and I had pasta!  The “bolognese” sauce was literally tasteless chunks of ground beef.  It tasted like what you would eat if you made Hamburger Helper without adding anything past step one.  Everyone else had some seafood stuff and let’s just say it was “off.”  One person had a seafood “en croute” where the inside was uncooked and doughy.  And, it wasn’t cheap!  There is much better Italian on the island – ZoZo’s for one.

Cruz Bay PrimeWestin Resort – Great Cruz Bay. Another disappointment from the Westin.  After one failed attempt at a steakhouse last year, a new steakhouse has opened in the old Chloë & Bernards site, now called Cruz Bay Prime.  My $48 filet mignon was not only absurdly expensive (this price does not include anything except the steak) it was completely inedible.  It was so charred to a crisp on out outside that it tasted like a Kingsford briquette.  The uninspired sides (at $11/pop and not really sharable) were tasteless and boring.  I mean, how can you make macaroni and cheese tasteless?  By adding unseasoned, plain breadcrumbs on top of it, that’s how.  My wedge salad, instead of being served with traditional blue cheese dressing, was served with ranch dressing with blue cheese bits.  My dining companions, well versed in fine dining, were convinced that they did not receive the cut of steak they ordered.  We were all convinced that none of these steaks were actually prime grade – although the price would make you think differently.  Stay far away.

————-> Click here for St. John Bars

Best Sushi Ever: Cabo San Lucas?

yum
I just got back from a week in Cabo, Mexico. I’ve been there before – it’s a nice Mexican resort town with something for everyone, from fine, six course formal dining to 3 for 1 Tequila Poppers n’ Nachos (I had all of the above.) We were told by someone who goes to Cabo a lot that the best sushi restaurant in the world is in downtown Cabo. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical – I am kind of a sushi snob, having my first taste of the stuff when I was in Aspen one summer during college and wouldn’t even touch any sort of fish, let along raw fish! But, after much coaxing, and much sake (first time for that, too!) one taste and I was literally hooked.

I was lucky enough to move to Evanston, IL after college, a great town in all respects, but also in the fact that the best sushi restarant in Chicago was located two blocks from my house. Kuni’s at Main and Chicago Ave is always incredible, and furthered my taste for good and fresh sushi creations. It also ruined me. When I moved downtown, all the other sushi places paled in comparison. And, don’t even get me started on that nasty stuff they sell in the supermarket. That stuff is like calling a McChicken Coq au Vin.

But, that was then, this is now. Back to Cabo – well, I have to say, the place was out of this world. The rolls we ordered were the freshest, most perfect rolls I have ever had. We also had the Chef’s Specials each night, a six course extraveganza with ultra fresh creations such as Spanish Mackerel with an Avocado Sauce, Fresh Tuna with Jalepenos and my personal favorite of the week, a whole Parrot Fish in an incredible Curry Sauce. Each dish was fresh and full of interesting combinations of flavors I can’t say I’ve ever experienced before. The fish was the freshest I think I’ve ever had – it practically melted in your mouth. Every expectation I had was exceeded by an infinite amount. It was even better the second night we went.

So, if you are ever in downtown Cabo San Lucas, I highly recommend Nick San Japanese restaurant. You won’t be sorry! Now, if I could just get to Japan…

Favorite Sushi Places:
Nick San – Cabo San Lucas, MX – Downtown Cabo at the Marina – (624) 143-2491
Kuni’s – Evanston, IL – 511 Main St – (847) 328-2004
Okada – Las Vegas, NV – Wynn Resort and Casino – (702) 248-DINE
Sushi Den – Denver, CO – 1487 S Pearl St – (303) 777-0826
Sagano – Barrington, IL – 110 Hough St – (847) 382-8980

Famous Fast n’ Easy Dip

Well, famous between my friends and myself, anyway.

Here is a good story about this dip, which comes from one of my best friend’s mother. My friend was visiting me many years ago when I lived in Evanston, and we were having some people over for a party, and of course, we wanted her to make this dip that we all loved. So, we go to my very racially diverse Jewel in my racially diverse neighborhood to shop for supplies. As we are going down the aisles, my friend is at one end of the aisle and I am at the other, and I yell, “Hey Brab*, what else do you need for the dip?” and she yells back “What, you mean what do I need for the Coon Dip?” The color drains from my face as I notice about five other people in my racially diverse Jewel turn around and stare at us at either end of the aisle. Now, I had grandparents that grew up in Indiana, and unfortunately I know the “colorful” meaning of this particular word to a particular group of people. My face, probably beet red, and I walk slowly up the aisle to the other side and say, “Brab, I don’t care what your parents call the dip, you shouldn’t say that around here!” My friend looks confused for a minute and then bursts out laughing and explains to me that the dip is called “Kuhn Dip” as her mother’s maiden name is Kuhn. Ooops. Chalk one up for the idiot who though it was something else because it was a brown dip.

*Names changed to protect the innocent

Anyway, here is the recipe for yummy Kuhn Dip – my friend tells me that this recipe has never really been written down, so this is a first, with blessings from her mother, of course.

FAMOUS KUHN DIP

2 8 oz. Bricks of Cream Cheese, softened to room temperature
2 Beef Bullion Cubes
1 Cup Water
Worcestershire Sauce
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt (optional)

Add bullion cubes to cup of water and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes or so until dissolved. Put cream cheese in a large bowl and add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a few dashes of bullion, mix up with fork. Slowly keep adding Worcestershire and broth in alternating groups until broth is gone and dip is well mixed (should be a light beige color). Add Lawry’s Seasoned Salt to taste, if using. Serve either chilled or room temperature with Potato Chips, Fritos or Pretzels. Enjoy!

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again! Do you know that last year was the first time ever I have kept a New Year’s Resolution for the entire year? Do you want to know what it was? I resolved to keep every dental appointment I had scheduled without canceling or rescheduling. Yes, that was it. Well, I have a problem with the dentist and I wanted to try and change it. Actually, I hate the dentist. More than anything. One time I faked having the stomach flu to get out of my appointment and didn’t go back for 5 years.

It started with my childhood dentist, who really was a total sarcastic asshole. My parents loved him (probably because they enjoyed the fact that he tortured me) and never listened to my numerous complaints about him. He used to have these flash-card type things that he would give you that said things like, “Stop, that hurts” or, “I don’t like that.” and you were supposed to flash him the card in case something was going on that you wanted to communicate and couldn’t talk. So, after years of putting up with his pain crap, he finally did something that I really didn’t like and I found the card that said, “Let’s take a break” and I flash it to him. He looks at it and then looks at his dental assistant and says, “Gee! I wish I could read that – I don’t have my glasses!” laughs, and continues with his sadism. I was 12. It didn’t help that I also had to have big fat metal braces for five years, along with the fun of a dorky headgear and painful “elastics.” (Do they even have those any more?)

So, after many years of not going to the dentist, I finally went to a guy they call Dr. Sleepytime. He’s still a dentist, so I don’t really like him very much, but he does give good painkillers and actually puts you to sleep for long procedures. So, I guess he’s the least offensive of the worst profession I can think of. Everyone asks me if I worry that he might molest me or something while I’m under the sleepytime drugs. My answer is go right ahead – as long as I don’t feel anything while doing the dental work, molest away! (No, really, they address those types of things right up front. All the exam rooms are open like little cubicles so anyone walking by can see everything that’s going on, and you are never alone in the room. But, I digress.) The good news is that I have been going to him steady for four years now, and didn’t miss one appointment last year! Hooray for me.

This year I am going to try to take my stupid vitamins every day. I hate vitamins almost as much as I hate the dentist, but I have to admit they do you good. My husband has been a big vitamin guy since his 20s and I swear to God the guy is never sick. I’ve been with him for a long time now and he has been sick in bed once while I am sick in bed at least once a quarter. So, I want to get on the bandwagon. Wish me luck!

Oh yeah – and a big fuck you to my old childhood dentist, Dr. D!  You know who you are.