10 Must-Try Food and Drinks in St. Thomas

In this article:

The restaurant scene in St. Thomas is evenly balanced between local Caribbean eateries and American/international establishments. Some menus are similar to what you might find in Barbados; others have more in common with Key West. Local cuisine here comes down to the use of local ingredients and preparations. Here is what you should try and where to find it.

Conch in Butter Sauce
Conch with butter dish in St. Thomas
Credit: Petite Pump Room

Conch comes many ways, but this dish is absolutely delicious and not overly exotic (i.e., not spicy, not served raw). The mollusk is cut into bite-size pieces, simmered in a sauce of butter, onions and garlic, and typically served with a side of rice. It’s firm, chewy and tastes mildly of the sea—comparable to calamari with a hint of mussel/shellfish flavor. It’s typically available only in season (July 1-September 30).

Where to try it:

Insiders recommend Cuzzin’s for this dish (and its three sides) and other great island eats. If you’re feeling spicy, the restaurant also does conch Creole.

Whelks and Rice

This sea snail is harvested by pulling it off the rocks. Whelks are one-quarter the size of conch and have a similar texture to mussels. They, too, are usually cooked up with white rice. Whelk season starts earlier in the year than conch (April 1-September 30).

Where to try it:

Shellfish lovers, give whelks a try in season at Petite Pump Room on Charlotte Amalie Harbor.

Potfish and Fungi
Potfish and Fungi in St. Thomas
Credit: Kevin Cox

To be clear, “potfish” doesn’t refer to a specific fish or to a preparation. It’s any reef fish caught in a fish pot. The popular way to cook it is to pan-fry it, then stew it in garlic, onions and peppers. Traditionally it’s served with fungi, which actually has nothing to do with mushrooms. Pronounced foon-jee, it’s a cornmeal porridge similar to polenta. To make it, you boil water with okra, then pour in salted cornmeal and stir until it reaches a polenta consistency and forms into a ball; the okra adds texture.

Where to try it:

Gladys’ Café at the Royal Dane Mall is a go-to option for this and other quintessential local dishes.

Sugar Cakes

Available year-round, this quintessential St. Thomas sweet is like a macaroon — made of coconut prepared in sugar, oftentimes tinted with food coloring. Pink is decorative; brown means it’s ginger-flavored. These tooth-achingly sweet little morsels can be a great gift, because they’re often available packaged. A seasonal bite that’s more tart than sweet is tamarind balls, which are made from local fruits.

Where to try it:

Diamond Barrel Restaurant and Daylight Bakery in downtown Charlotte Amalie (at 18 Norre Gade) serves fresh sugar cakes, local pastries such as guava tarts and even tamarind stew.

Caribbean Lobster
Lobster tails in St. Thomas
Credit: Laura Gilmore/ flickr

Warm-water lobsters can be found all over the Caribbean, and the lobster tails you get in island restaurants are generally larger than the ones served on your cruise ship. They’re most often grilled, although some places stuff them.

Where to try it:

The Greenhouse Restaurant offers a range of lobster sizes and your choice of (American) sides. (Veteran Caribbean cruisers, in case you’re wondering, yes, this is the sister restaurant to The Greenhouse in St. Maarten.)

Pate dish in St. Thomas
Credit: Kevin Cox

These tasty treats taste like Jamaican patties but are pronounced like French pâté. Spiced ground beef, ground chicken, saltfish or conch is stuffed into pastry dough, which is folded over and deep-fried. The final product looks like a fried pie, but it’s savory. A perfect on-the-go bite.

Where to try it:

Forgo sit-down restaurants and look for the Carol and Paul food truck — aka C&P Mobile. It’s based at Sugar Estate on Seventh Street near the Schneider Regional Medical Center, and it serves pates from morning through lunch. Since the truck moves around, it’s best to check the location before you head out by calling 340-771-8663. You might ask a local shop in port if they can call for you.

Guavaberry bottles in St. Thomas
Credit: Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism

St. Maarten has laid claim to this island-grown red fruit, but the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands, which includes St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, just to name a few, think of it as their own too. It has a similar look to sorrel, but the drink is richer and best served cold. It can be a juice or a liqueur. Locals traditionally drink it at Christmas, but tourists love it so much they often take a bottle home.

Where to try it:

Cuzzin’s has a guavaberry colada on the cocktail menu.

Ground Provision (or Just Provision)
Provisions in St. Thomas
Credit: Meng He/ flickr

This is the Caribbean name for a seasonal veggie medley—mainly root vegetables, but not exclusively. Not only do the U.S. Virgin Islands use it, but Barbados and the British Virgin Islands do as well. Provision usually goes into soups and stews. Produce typically included under the “provision” general term: sweet potato, yam, cassava (yuca), dasheen (taro), breadfruit and/or chayote (aka christophene), a small, pale-green squash that looks a bit like a pear or a strange melon.

Where to try it:

If you order the Bullfoot Soup at Gladys’, you’re eating provision — and a lot of it. This hearty and inexpensive vegetable mix was traditionally used to create filling meals on a budget—a common way of doing so was to add them to a soup.

Caribbean Pumpkin Soup
Caribbean pumpkin in St. Thomas
Credit: Kevin Cox

A Caribbean pumpkin is not the typical pumpkin we carve on Halloween; it’s what you may know as a calabaza squash. It has a green shell, and some say it’s sweeter in flavor than mainland pumpkin. It’s used to make a pureed soup or as a provision ingredient in other soups/stews.

Where to try it:

Thirteen Restaurant, which is about five miles inland and north from the cruise port, does a Thai-inspired pumpkin soup. The cab ride to the restaurant (at 13 Estate Dorothea) may be worthwhile if you have a few hours to get a great meal. Locals in the know say it’s among the best restaurants on the island.

Bullfoot Soup
Bullfoot soup in St. Thomas
Credit: Ochocheese/ flickr

This is exactly what it sounds like: the feet of a bull (or alternatively, feet of a cow, in which case it’s “cowfoot”), cooked with provision veggies. It’s a hearty comfort-food soup, often served from food trucks.

Where to try it:

Gladys’ Cafe often has bullfoot soup on the menu, as do some of the local food trucks.

Are you going on a cruise?
Sign up for SailAway and receive free tips and reminders to help you prepare.
Have you booked a cruise?
Tell us when you're cruising and we'll send you everything you need to prepare.
1. Select your cruise line
2. Select your cruise ship
3. Select your departure date