the longboard caribbean restaurant

The surfer chic Longboard restaurant is known for its poke bowls. (Photo: Longboard)

Eat + Drink

Where to Eat Well (With a View!) in the Caribbean

Jamaican jerk chicken is the Caribbean’s most famous food, but a melting pot of African, Creole, Cajun, Amerindian, European, and Latin American influences makes Caribbean dining an international adventure that runs the table from humble fish frys to white tablecloth restaurants serving the latest concepts in fusion food.

Read on to find out about the dishes you shouldn’t miss on your next visit to the smaller Caribbean islands.

From Cliff to Fish in Barbados

Barbados is a perfect example of this culinary diversity. The only island in the Caribbean with its own Zagat’s dining guide, Barbados is home to The Cliff, consistently rated one of the top fine-dining restaurants in the world and known for its dramatic clifftop location, impeccable service, and meals exquisitely prepared and plated by Chef Paul Owens.

The Cliff is perfect for a special occasion or a romantic dinner for two, but Bajans are far more likely to be found at the Friday night fish fry in the village of Oistins. The name of this popular outdoor food event is a little misleading: you can order your off-the-boat marlin, mahi mahi, kingfish, or flying fish fried or grilled, and some vendors also serve grilled chicken and local dishes like macaroni pie.

But it’s a great communal experience where Bajans and island visitors share a meal around picnic tables while live bands play reggae music, dancers gyrate, and shoppers mill around vendors selling locally-made jewelry and other crafts.

Go Local in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Ask residents of St. Croix what their favorite restaurant is and you might be surprised that the answer isn’t a place selling typically Caribbean food, but rather the Latin flavored La Reine Chicken Shack, an unpretentious roadside spot that serves secret-spiced roasted chicken hot off the rotisserie alongside local favorites like fried dough “festivals.”

Elsewhere, top U.S. Virgin Islands chef Digby Stridiron pays homage to indigenous ingredients and St. Croix cooking traditions at restaurants like Braata and the new Ama at Cane Bay.

Some of St. Thomas’s best restaurants are found in unusual places: Bella Blu, which surprises with German food alongside more traditional island fare, is tucked away in the Frenchtown neighborhood, while Gladys’ Cafe serves authentic Caribbean dishes like curried goat and conch fritters from an alleyway location in the most touristy part of Charlotte Amalie.

For fine dining on St. Thomas, the Old Stone Farmhouse has a beautiful location on a former Danish plantation; meals start with diners choosing their own cuts of meat and fish. On neighboring St. John, just a quick ferry ride away, you’ll find the surfer chic Longboard restaurant serving Caribbean spiced tacos and poke bowls and the legendary Skinny Legs beach bar, unpretentious despite its reputation for serving St. John’s best burger.

Yacht to Table in the BVI

wontons cocomaya caribbean restaurant
Have a drink and some wontons with your toes in the sand at CocoMaya. (Photo: CocoMaya)

From Skinny Legs’ beachfront location on Coral Bay you can look across the water to Norman Island, part of the British Virgin Islands and home to Pirate’s Bight—half beach bar, half restaurant, and always a fun place to drink and dine with local boaters and yachties.

The BVI is known for its lively beach bars, especially on the island of Jost Van Dyke, but you can also find more sedate spots to have a drink and a meal with toes in the sand, like the elegant CocoMaya on Virgin Gorda.

Tortola, the largest island in the chain, keeps it local at Stoutt’s Lookout—a burger and rib joint with a million-dollar view—but also offers the option of fixed-price dining at the Sugar Mill.

A typical three-course Sugar Mill dinner with escargot as an appetizer, an entree of jerk-seasoned pork belly, and local bananas flambeed in rum for dessert checks all the boxes for a meal that mixes classic preparations and island influences found nowhere else but the Caribbean.

St. Kitts and Nevis: Beach Bars and Barbecue

The blend of informal and refined dining, each with its unique appeal, is also common elsewhere in the Leeward Islands. On St. Kitts, for example, the rustic beach bars on Frigate Bay grill up spiny lobster and serve strong rum drinks, while just down the shore you’ll find the Carambola Beach Club serving delicately prepared sushi, Wagyu beef, and Osso Bucco.

On the sister island of Nevis, it’s a short bar hop between Sunshine’s beach bar, famous for its potent Killer Bee rum punch and barbecued ribs, and the lobster and filet mignon presented at the Gin Trap, which has exquisite desserts and craft cocktails showcasing the 101 gins behind the bar. (Can’t choose? Spin the wheel on the wall and taste something new!)