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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.