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

6 thoughts on “St. John Restaurant Recommendations

  1. Appreciate your comments, but will take issue on a couple of points. First, Cafe Roma is air conditioned, and we had a terrific meal there last June (2006). It wasn’t slow, the service was good and responsive, and the woman at the next table even flashed the restaurant, which was a pleasant surprise. Really felt like the islands. Also, we ate at The Equator, and at least as of June, wasn’t a buffet but a fine restaurant. The best experience of our week on St. John, in fact, though the waiter could have used a personality transplant.

  2. Well – for having a/c, it certainly is hot in there all the time. And, my opinions won’t hurt Cafe Roma’s business any – it’s always packed.

    It was last fall when I ate at the Equator and it was just plain awful. Not at all like it was when I ate there many years ago and was one of the best meals of my life. And it wasn’t all buffet style – they had uninspired menu along with a buffet option. I should have made that clear.

    But, as always – these are just my opinions and should be taken as such.

  3. FYI : I took down my bad review of Cafe Roma, as they are under new management and staff. I haven’t been there yet to see if they still have the gut-bomb sausage, so I reserve judgement until then.

    Also, the Equator at Caneel Bay has also changed it’s menu and hired a new chef, so I took that bad review down as well.

  4. You’re pretty right-on ,in my opinion as far as the restaurants that I’ve visited in your list.
    I’m dieing to try Candi’s, thus breaking the 10 year long habit of Uncle Joe’s, and also try Shipwrecks’ Bloody Mary’s, rather than the one’s that I’ve loved at JJ’s. We’re staying in Coral Bay this april, and have to make a point of limin’ on the East End moreso this time.
    Thanks & smiles-
    MJ

  5. Thanks, MJ. I just got back from three weeks on STJ on Sat and have lots of new news that I need to update.

    Have a great trip!

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