The Caribbean Has a New Culinary Destination

March 18th, 2016 | 3:22 pm
croix

By Alexander Britell

It’s home to great beaches, world-class rum and one of the most beautiful historic cities in the Caribbean.

And while the US Virgin Island of St Croix has long tended to stay under-the-radar as a tourism destination, it’s now pushing itself onto the tourism map with a major new driving force: food.

Thanks to the efforts of local producers and a collection of talented, mostly young Chefs, St Croix is quickly becoming a Caribbean culinary hotspot.

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A restaurant renaissance that really began with eateries like the recently-reopened [email protected] Bay (and the efforts of those like Chef Frank Pugliese, now operating the Frankly Food catering company) has put the island’s spotlight, and, more importantly, helped drive a movement focusing on reviving local agriculture.

“The culinary scene in St Croix has evolved into a true branding for St Croix,” US Virgin Islands Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty tells Caribbean Journal. “It’s a great entree for us becuase the Governor [Ken Mapp] has made it a priority to look at agriculture as a territory.”

zion

Right now, there are three restaurants at the center of the culinary movement: Zion Modern Kitchen, which opened in Christiansted in 2015; 40 Strand Eatery, a casual “good eats” restaurant with a wide offering aiming to please everyone from meat-lovers to vegans; a classic Italian restaurant, Un Amore.

40strand

And, perhaps most importantly, there is Balter, a St Croix eatery that hasn’t even opened yet but is generating significant buzz.

It’s the brainchild of Chef Digby Stridiron, perhaps the island’s most famous young chef, set in a historic building in downtown Christiansted and will feature a hyper-local menu including everything from Tortolian whelks braised in whey to St Croix-reeled yellowfin tuna carpaccio.

Digby Stridiron

Chef Digby Stridiron

Of course, creative new restaurants are just a start. There has to be a community buy-in, both from locals and from existing restaurants — all of which seems to be happening, bringing fish n’ fungi together with haute cuisine.

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Above: the historic streets of Christiansted

Indeed, last year, St Croix was the scene of the launch of Dine VI, a program modeled on those like Miami Spice that brought together 35 restaurants in St Croix to “display the diversity of our food,” Nicholson-Doty says.

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For this year’s DineVI, which begins Oct. 27, almost 100 restaurants across the US Virgin Islands are now participating, with everything from street food expos to food trucks to fine-dining experiences.

It’s an example of what a focus on food, on produce, on sourcing can achieve: it doesn’t just bring in visitors — it makes the island even more livable for the people who are already there.

And it makes St Croix the Caribbean’s newest culinary destination.

 

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