The abundance of food riches on the tiny island of St. Croix is unexpected and impressive. Local chefs and residents incorporate local ingredients whenever possible, and many use homegrown produce and herbs to avoid the high costs on importing. It’s also helpful that the seafood is fresh and plentiful, and chickens are literally everywhere (Pro tip: stay away from the roosters—they can attack). The wealth of these local resources make the farm to table lifestyle a cultural institution.
The old adage of "don’t judge a book by its cover" rings true at some of the best establishments on the island. For example, Ziggy’s, the East End gas station that churns out some of the islands best brunches, to the food truck, Killer Tacos, whose street tacos rival those from the Baja peninsula. The wealth of different cuisines is due in part to the island being home to mainland expats from all of the United States, and the fact the island was ruled by the French, Danish, and the British, since its discovery in the late 1400s.
Modern-day St. Croix is home to over 50,000 people, with the main population centers around the capital city of Christiansted in the northeast and Frederiksted on the west coast. If gastro-tourism is a reason for your visit, consider staying near Christiansted or in the east end. Here are some can’t miss restaurants and dishes during your stay on St. Croix.
After your first visit, you will be tempted to eat breakfast here every day of your stay- it’s that close to breakfast perfection. Toast is most famous for their Rum Cake french toast, which melts in your mouth and feels like a warm hug on a plate. They are so delicious—syrup isn’t even required. The diner is also famous for their vast arrays of breakfast and lunch arepas—the classic Venezuelan white corn cakes make the perfect sandwich. If you are a more traditional breakfast connoisseur, they do all the American classics and serve a wide variety of fresh juices and boozy cocktails. The best part: all this deliciousness comes at very reasonable prices.
Every Sunday, the "best gas station in the world" hosts a Sunday Grateful Brunch that brings out lines of locals and tourists alike to try Chef Aaron Matlofsky’s brunch creations. The menu changes every Sunday, but the eggs Benedict special is always a go-to. If a sweet breakfast is more your speed, the strawberry cheesecake stuffed french toast, or the drunken blueberry pancakes are the stuff dreams are made of. In short, it’s impossible to go wrong with anything on Chef Aaron’s menu, and do not turn your nose up at the fact you are eating in a gas station parking lot.
Chances are your visit to the island will include a visit to the northern beaches of Cane Bay or the Tide Pools at Annaly Bay. Use this as an opportunity to have lunch or a snack at Rowdy Joe’s. Their blackened fish tacos with a habanero mango chutney slaw is a legendary dish on the island and not to be missed during a visit. The rest of the menu is created daily and presented on a chalkboard for both lunch and dinner every day but Tuesday and Wednesdays.
These perfect street tacos will transport you to Mexico by way of a food truck parked on the corner of East End Road and Christiansted Bypass. The tacos, quesadillas, rice bowls, and burritos are made from scratch with fresh ingredients every morning. They have chicken, steak, pork, tofu, and fresh fish options for proteins. Don't miss the homemade sauces from mild, medium, hot, and killer to finish off the experience. The only downside is their hours are daily from 12-4pm, which doesn't leave much time to enjoy the taco goodness aside from lunchtime hours.
If you aren’t already convinced to go to Ziggy’s, here it is again. (Hint: GO). While the Sunday brunch may be the very best of Ziggy’s, their weekday lunch menu is also worth a visit. They offer Cuban sandwiches, pulled chicken sliders, and chicken salad. Call ahead and grab food to go for the perfect tag along on all your island adventures.
Boardwalks are usually synonymous with tourist trap restaurants, but not in St. Croix. There is some amazing food to be had here, and the frozen drinks and coal oven fired pizza at The Mill are a welcome treat when you need a break from seafood and a fun lunch or dinner spot.
One of the most idyllic settings for a restaurant, Duggan's sits right on the beach of Teague Bay on the east end of St. Croix. The interior of the restaurant itself feels like a mashup of the Cheers bar in Boston and an ode to all things rattan. What it may lack in updated ambiance it more than makes up for in flavor and friendly service. The warm light and ocean breezes make for a wonderful evening, and the food coming from the kitchen is both delicious and elevated. The lobster bisque rivals any in recent memory, and the crab cakes or delicious tuna tartare appetizer were enough to make a meal, but not saving room for the mains would be a mistake of gastronomic proportions. The main attraction here is the Duggan’s Famous Irish whiskey lobster—a large lobster sauteed in whiskey and topped with fresh cheeses. After all, the motto here is “fresh fish, or no fish," so you know you have a quality seafood feast in store.
Ready for a more upscale night out on vacation? There is no better spot than Savant. For over 20 years, they have lead the way in the St. Croix dining scene with their farm to table approach and sourcing from local fishermen and farmers each day. The daily fish special is always a popular choice, as are their flavorful seafood pasta dishes. Make sure to get a reservation and request to sit on the back patio. One of the owners used to work on movie sets and designed the outdoor space to resemble something out of a 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.
A relative newcomer to the food scene in downtown Christiansted, the restaurant derives its name “17/64” from the coordinates of the island of St. Croix. There is an attention to detail at 17/64 that is evident from the moment you walk in or visit their website. The food follows suit, with perfectly prepared fresh seafood dishes like the local fish tacos or the Wahoo crudo. The atmosphere is sophisticated and warm and has the same signature friendliness that much of the island is known for. Whatever you do, don’t leave without trying the coconut creme brulee.
From the minute you step foot on the island, chances are you will hear about the infamous beer drinking pigs. The Mt. Pellier Domino Club is in the rainforest of St. Croix and is where you can find this glorious spectacle, and also imbibe the (island) famous, Mamma Wanna liquor—a homemade liquor made with rum, honey, and secret roots and spices. Taking a shot of Norma’s (owner and proprietor of the Domino Club) secret blend is a must when visiting, as is taking in the O'Douls drinking pigs in a stall out behind the restaurant. The Domino Club is an outdoor bar and restaurant, resembling a tiki hut in the middle of the rainforest. They do serve food, and the locals rave that it's tasty, but many are here for the pigs, or a hard-earned beer after hiking the nearby Annaly Bay Tide Pools.
Great live music, a happening crowd, great (strong) drinks, and the perfect place to catch a sunset in a lively atmosphere.
In the alley behind the restaurant Savant, lies local hangout Nauti Bar and Grille. Nauti is a favorite watering hole for locals to watch the game, play pool, shoot darts, or have a rowdy time. The bar and grille is also famous for their BBQ and quality smoked meats, done with "Southern pride" on a rotisserie smoker. The beer is cold, and the crowd is always lively. They have live music, karaoke, and the aforementioned games.
Every Monday and Friday they have Crab Races, starting at 5:30pm and live music on most Thursdays. The crab races are definitely worth your time, it's a lovely mess of locals and tourists coming together over a pint and yelling at crabs to go faster. How it works: Bet on a crab and give it a name, then proprietors (Tito & Sue) write it with a sharpie on a shell. The crabs are all placed in a bucket, turned upside down and then race to the outer rings of the chalk-drawn circle. The prizes are fantastic and range from a free snorkeling adventure in Buck Island to a bottle of Cruzan rum. The cost to enter is $2 per crab.
I heard great things about this place from locals, but never had the chance to visit. If fancy cocktails are your thing, this is the spot.