St. John, the smallest of the US Virgin Islands, beckons travelers with its seductive white sand beaches on glistening turquoise waters and hiking in the tropical forests of Virgin Islands National Park. But between swimming, lazing, and hiking, you will certainly enjoy the time lingering over delicious meals and unique island cocktails. This list will take you to the best restaurants in St. John in the island’s main town of Cruz Bay. Check out the handy map at the end with all these spots for quick reference!
The best part about dining in St. John is that there are no big-chain restaurants here. Most places are owned locally by people who were raised here or who arrived as visitors and made St. John their home. These restaurateurs are an integral part of the island community who’ve stood steadfast with their fellow residents during hurricanes and storms. Like the time when The Longboard owner Clint Gaskins arrived on the island just before Hurricane Irma and served more than 2,500 free meals to fellow islanders. Or when Chirag Vyas and Kevin Chipman of St. John Brewers gave away 2,400 surplus bottles of beer during Free Beer Fridays following the twin hurricanes.
Not just the owners but talented chefs, bartenders, and wait staff form the backbone of tourism on the island. These restaurants are labors of love of the people committed to St. John, who believe in extending the island hospitality to travelers. From pizzas and burgers to the traditional rotis and patés, this curated list of the 9 best restaurants in St. John, Cruz Bay will make your vacation even more memorable.
1. The Longboard
The Longboard offers an upscale drinking and dining experience in a true island-style casual laidback setting. The white wooden porch of The Longboard has Caribbean flair written all over it. The cane light fixtures and surfboards affixed to the ceiling carry on the island vibe inside.
The space is intimate and cozy whether you take a seat at the bar or one of the tables lining up the outer side of the porch. You can enjoy people-watching if you’re facing outdoors or admire the walls lined with alcohol in every color if you’re seated at the bar.
The drinks here are top-notch, with the frozen painkiller topping the popularity charts. Painkiller is a unique concoction of rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, and cream of coconut! And this frozen version gives a slushy twist to this island classic. Try to make it out here during happy hour from 2 pm to 4 pm every day when these frozen painkillers are for $10 instead of $12. Or try one of their vintage cocktails like Hurricane (Cat 5) pictured above which is an aged light and dark rum-based drink topped off with passion fruit foam.
Start off your drinks with bar snacks and then move on to the more substantial fare like poke bowls and ceviches. They also served rice bowls at the time of our visit and all of the bowl options – cauliflower, pescado (fish) and chicken were fresh, well-seasoned, and topped with flavorful sauces like harissa. The use of local spices, locally-caught seafood, and fresh produce is clearly reflected in every bite.
The stellar drinks and food options as well as the overall dining experience make this a must-visit spot on your St. John vacation. They don’t take reservations but you can add your name on the waitlist in person and explore and enjoy a fresh coconut next door at Market Smoothies until your turn arrives.
2. The Roti King
The large, bright red and yellow food truck in the lumberyard parking lot is hard to miss. The tall food truck has a small window in the front to place your orders with wooden steps in the same color-coordinated style leading up to it. The vehicle features the friendly face of the owner Abdue Hill, aka The Roti King, with his arms crossed in front of this signature red truck.
It is incredible how such a small space can whip up such incredible flavor. The signature dish at this restaurant is the roti, a thin flatbread made chiefly with whole wheat flour, which originated in the Indian subcontinent. However, unlike the modern-day restaurant style of serving roti separately from the curry, this Caribbean style serves the roti in its original form as a container for holding warm, spiced curries made with goat, chicken, or vegetables. The edges of the roti are folded up above the curry, making the end result resemble a burrito. But don’t try to lift the entire roti and eat it burrito style. The roti is best enjoyed by delicately unwrapping the top edges, one side at a time. Then use your fingers to break a piece of the roti and scoop a morsel of the curry inside. Keep working your way around and then towards the center of the roti. My husband and I tried the chicken and vegetable rotis and it was one of our favorite meals on the island.
Abdue Hill may be the king of rotis but that isn’t the only outstanding item on the menu. He also makes sumptuous patés and johnnycakes which are flavorful, filling and budget-friendly. Johnnycakes are palm-sided flatbreads usually made with cornmeal and usually deep-fried. They are crispy on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside. Patés are fillings of spiced chicken, meat, fish, or vegetables stuffed in dough pockets and deep-fried. They are crispy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside. I still dream about the salt fish paté that I had here on my last morning on St. John and it reminded me of fish preparations back in India in my coastal city of Mumbai.
While most people choose to take the food to go, you can actually enjoy the meal right there under the sizeable tent attached to the front of the truck. There is a beautiful view of the bay, mountains, and Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center from this parking lot vantage point.
3. The Tap Room – St. John Brewers
Looking for a place that serves great food as well as local craft beer? Head over to The Tap Room located on the second floor of Mongoose Junction shopping center. The Tap Room is the flagship brewpub of St. John Brewers.
The tall cathedral ceiling venue immediately puts you in a relaxed tropical vibe as you take a seat indoors or head to the outdoor patio at the back. Above the hustle and bustle of the bar, you can see the stainless steel barrels of beer in the making through tall glass windows. All the varieties of the St. John Brewers’ local, craft beers are brewed on-site here for diners. Try the original Tropical Mango Ale that owners Chirag Vyas and Kevin Chipman brewed at the beginning of their journey together more than 18 years ago. Or opt for the 5 oz sampler size for just $2 – $3 each and try a mix of flavors like the light Island Summer Ale and fruity Juicy Booty IPA.
The food here definitely matches up to the high-quality craft beers. The Jerk Carib-Vegan stone oven pizza topped with cauliflower and mango was one of the best vegetarian pizzas I’ve ever tasted! There are also a variety of burgers, sandwiches, shareables, and more.
The daily happy hour here from 4 pm – 6 pm is not to be missed. It offers one of the best deals on St. John with $5 off dine-in pizzas and $1 off draft beers.
4. Hercules Paté Delight
The early bird gets the worm or the paté in this case. There’s a solid reason why the sign at Hercules Paté Delight lists the hours as Open Daily 5 am – until. This cheerful yellow spot with green trimming across the street from the lumberyard remains open until all is sold out. And these items sell out like hotcakes.
The place specializes in all varieties of paté like beef, chicken, and salt fish filled in dough and deep-fried. It also carries johnnycakes and simple yet tasty fried fish. The prices are unbeatable for a hearty meal. I scored a beef paté, a johnnycake, and a fried fish pictured above for just under $10.
The owners Hercules and Letitia are as delightful as the food. I had such a great time chatting with Hercules and felt so welcome not just at the restaurant but also on the island. Make this one of your first stops on St. John and you’ll definitely be coming back for more.
In the evenings, the restaurant is closed but you will hear sounds of laughter as locals gather for games and conversation around the tables.
5. Cruz Bay Landing
Cruz Bay Landing right opposite the ferry dock is a great first stop when you arrive on St. John. It often is the scene for arriving passengers as they start off their island explorations or the last stop as they pause and enjoy one final meal on the island with promises to return.
It is a convenient one-stop for all your food and drinks needs as it serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day from 7 am to 9 pm and features live music every night starting at 6 pm. There’s something for everyone in this laidback, family-owned restaurant.
Start your day with eggs, omelets, pancakes, and sandwiches. Lunch and dinner are a variety of sandwiches, tacos, ribs, salads, and more. I highly recommend the vegetarian roti which includes curried chickpea and butternut squash alongside two rotis and mango chutney. This will give you a memorable taste of traditional Caribbean fare that you may not find back home.
Pair your meal with one of the craft cocktails, beers, and wines. Pictured above is the creamy painkiller, the island’s favored drink.
There’s also a coffee shop and creamery right next door. So you can grab your caffeine fix on the way to the beach or wrap up your perfect day with ice cream.
6. The Beach Bar
The Beach Bar is so much more than a bar on the beach. It is a place of gathering for locals and visitors to enjoy the soft sands of Cruz Bay, celebrate New Year’s eve, listen to local musicians play rock, island music, bluegrass, and more.
The day starts early here at 7 am with breakfast bowls, tacos, and popular johnnycakes. If you’re arriving in the afternoon or evening, you can opt for the fried seafood and chicken baskets or delish handhelds like veggie burger and grilled Mahi sandwich. The Beach Bar runs one of the longest happy hours from 3 pm to 7 pm daily with $5 painkillers plus $4 well drink and beers.
They even have a Beach Bar Radio that you can tune in to for your island music fix. There are two webcams that live stream the easy comings and goings of Cruz Bay and folks enjoying the spacious, outdoorsy restaurant on Youtube so you can vicariously indulge in St. John’s pleasures even after you’ve left the island.
7. North Shore Deli
St. John is blessed with picturesque beaches sprinkled with powder-white sands and turquoise-blue waters. Part of the charm of many of these beaches is the absence of commercialization, which means a lack of dining facilities. But thanks to places like North Shore Deli, you don’t have to spend your day hangry on the beach or worry about prepping lunches in the morning.
Swing by this family-run establishment for sandwiches with in-house slow-roasted meats, and appetizing vegetarian and vegan options that you can carry along easily. The high-quality ingredients and preparation mean that you’re not compromising on quality, convenience, or price. Breakfast is also on the menu so you can refuel while your lunch is getting packed.
Healthy smoothies and a bar menu with all the staples take care of the beverage department. A grab-n-go section with salads, dips, and desserts is great for the mornings when you’re running late for the beach.
8. St John Provisions
St. John Provisions is a highly functional and adorable cafe for a pit stop in the mornings. Get your caffeine fix or opt for one of the healthy smoothies like the sunshine with mango, pineapple, and strawberry.
There are breakfast croissant sandwiches and bagels with spreads for a light meal to start the day. You can also pick up a variety of delicious baked treats like donuts and banana bread at reasonable prices to carry along on your beach or hiking day. I got a slice of banana bread, a small donut, and an almond croissant all for under $9.
This cafe is only open in the mornings from 6 am to 1 pm so get there early for an energizing start to your day.
9. Woody’s Seafood Saloon
Seafood and alcohol lovers will enjoy this chill roadside saloon in Cruz Bay. There are three large tables outside by the road and a handful inside. Stick with the classic painkiller or try another island favorite – the frozen Bushwacker. This drink, aptly dubbed the adult milkshake, is a smooth and creamy mixture of rum, vodka, baileys, coffee, and amaretto. The drinks are best paired with the blackened and grilled shark bites.
There are seafood or meat-based sandwiches and tacos if you’re looking for something substantial. I did find our fish and shrimp tacos to be on the saltier side but they were flavorful nevertheless.
They have a popular happy hour from 3 pm to 6 pm every day with $2 Coors Light and $3 wells, captain, and bombs!
That concludes my roundup of the best restaurants in St. John with a focus on Cruz Bay. Be sure to check out this link for more information about how to get to and around the island, food costs, and other FAQs before heading to the island. Note that some of the restaurants only take cash or have a surcharge for card payments. So plan on carrying sufficient cash depending on where you’re headed.
Most importantly, remember to slow down and enjoy the meals and drinks on island time. Service in many places may be slower than what you’re accustomed to at home. Relaxing with a cocktail in hand, lingering in conversation with your companions, and relishing the natural beauty of the island is what the island vacation is all about!
Which of these spots are you looking to try during your next trip? If you’ve been to St. John, I’d love to hear what’s your favorite restaurant on the island. Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks Jon for the suggestions!
For a ridiculously inexpensive meal, you can’t beat Tap and Still, 420 to Center or Uncle Joes bbq. Dining in St John can get really expensive. (I noticed you didn’t mention the high dollar places like Extra Virgin or the Terrace.) But you can’t beat the 3 I mentioned for great burgers or bbq. I highly recommend all of them.
Thanks a lot David for the great suggestions! Will definitely plan on trying them next time.
And you’re absolutely right, I did intentionally focus more on the mid to lower budget places for this blog. I’ve generally found the most satisfying and best value meals in low-key settings so that’s become my default eating style 🙂