As tour guides are apt to tell you, St. Croix has been owned by no less than seven different countries since Europeans first landed on its sandy shores. This historical diversity combined with a melting pot of incoming jobseekers, first at the sugar cane plantations and later the islands oil refinery manifests itself in many aspects of Cruzan culture, and food is no exception. From international fine dining to traditional dishes to a burgeoning health food scene, St. Croix is a foodies paradise.
Those expecting generic resort restaurants might be surprised by the multitude of delightful fine dining options on the island. Tutto Benes gut-busting portions of southern Italian fare are just what you need after a day spent paddle-boarding or snorkeling at Buck Island. You cant go wrong with the pastas, from traditional spaghetti Bolognese to seafood with capellini in a white wine herb broth to fresh veggies and penne with pesto cream sauce.
For a special occasion, locals recommend The Galleon, an upscale restaurant serving Continental and Caribbean cuisine. Its one of the priciest spots on St. Croix but the location overlooking Green Cay Marina is unbeatable.
If youre in need of a little detox after indulging in all the fabulous restaurants, St. Croix boasts a few standout eateries for lighter fare thats good for you, too. In Fredericksted, Pollys at the Pier serves up organic salads, soups, and grilled favorites, sourcing many of its ingredients from Ridge to Reef Farm http://www.visfi.org (the only USDA organic farm in the USVI). Be sure to try the award-winning, all-veggie Love Burger.
Over in Christiansted, head to Lalitas Juice Bar at the Kalima Center for a mostly raw food menu with plenty of options for vegans and those with other dietary restrictions (gluten-free, etc.). Concoctions like the fresh herb cashew cheese spread may not actually taste like cheese, but they sure are delicious. Dont forget to wash it down with an all-natural, fresh fruit smoothie.
Festivals devoted to different aspects of Cruzan cuisine take place throughout the year. Next up is the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience (April 17-22), a celebration of the islands chefs and restaurants. Tickets for the keynote event, Taste of St. Croix (April 19), typically sell out in less than an hour. Tip: Book a stay at Divi Carina Bay, which hosts the reception, to get guaranteed tickets and not have to worry about driving back to your hotel when the evening ends; all-inclusive stays from $225 per person, per night during the festival, three-night minimum.
Each June, the St. George Village Botanical Garden hosts the Mango Melee and Tropical Fruit Festival with workshops, demonstrations, contests and of course, tastings!
The Agriculture and Food Fair, popularly called Agrifest, takes place each February and draws vendors from around the Caribbean. Visitors can load up on all kinds of Cruzan specialties, like kallaloo (spinach and okra soup), fungi (similar to polenta, made from cornmeal), and red grout (a guava jelly dessert with cream, from the Danish rødgrød pictured at left).
For a taste of traditional Cruzan flavors year-round, follow the locals to roadside stands, bakeries, and roti shops. One popular spot is La Reine chicken shack. This St. Croix institution serves close to 170 chickens per day (if you dont believe it, check out the rotisseries in the back, which turn dozens of birds from morning to night) and roasts a whole pig on Saturdays. For an easy, low-cost lunch, pick up a half chicken and two Johnny cakes for $5.