St. Thomas covers all the culinary bases for travelers seeking a good meal and a good time. You'll find great pizza joints, beach bars, seafood joints, and of course fine dining with classic and Caribbean influences. Here are some of the best restaurants on St. Thomas, most of which are located in or near the capital of Charlotte Amalie, its Frenchtown suburb, or the eastern port town of Red Hook.
Frenchtown, a fishing port on the edge of downtown Charlotte Amalie, has become something of a local culinary mecca. The restaurants here range from delis to pizza joints to upscale dining, with Bella Blu occupying the upper strata. If you've got a craving for authentic Austrian wiener schnitzel (and who doesn't when vacationing in the Caribbean?), this is your place; there's also a variety of Mediterranean dishes on the menu and an extensive wine list.
Painted in bright blue and yellow, and adorned with bright and whimsical artwork, Bella Blu is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. It looks new and trendy, but is actually one of the island's oldest restaurants, in business for more than 30 years.
Beer and pizza -- what's not to like? In St. Thomas' Frenchtown suburb (walking distance from downtown Charlotte Amalie), Pie Whole stands out from the slice-and-suds crowd with its excellent, thin-crust brick-oven pies and the best selection of premium brews on the island. Start with the freschetta, Pie Whole's take on bruschetta served on flatbread and topped with diced tomatoes (local and organically grown), red onion, basil, and mozzarella. The 13-inch pizzas come with a variety of toppings, with a much-appreciated dedication to fresh and house-made ingredients -- even the sausage is homemade. The basic pie is the cheese-lover, with a blend of mozzarella, pecorino romano, parmesan reggiano, asiago, and provolone over a base of San Marzano tomato sauce (or extra virgin olive oil if you don't want the red sauce).
Pie Whole has a full bar and about a dozen wines by the glass, which is impressive for a small place like this. The beer drinkers in your party will feel like they've found heaven in the tropics with so many amazing labels on tap and in bottles, including multiple trappist ales, imperial stouts, and so much more from Belgium, Germany and beyond. La Trappe Dubbel, anyone?
The Old Stone Farmhouse
If you're celebrating a special occasion on your visit to St. Thomas (or just want to impress a new friend you met on the beach), make reservations at the Old Stone Farmhouse, located in the hills above Charlotte Amalie. A AAA four-diamond award winner, this upscale restaurant sits near the Mahogany Run Golf Course in a restored 18th-century plantation stable and field house. The candlelight, fireplace and massive stone walls in the dining room provide a sense of elegant intimacy, but as with any proper Caribbean restaurant, there's an open wall to let the cool evening breeze blow through.
Executive chef Greg Engelhardt likes to bring diners into the kitchen -- you're led down a long hallway inked with notes and names of past guests to a table where you can hand-select your entree from the chef's Butcher Block. If you want a very French experience, start with the escargot or frogs legs. Want to go island-style? Try the curried goat as an entree or the wok-seared West Indian pumpkin.
After you've visited the kitchen and enjoyed your dinner, you can relocate to the courtyard for dessert, served under the stars from a satellite pastry kitchen and rum bar.
For drinks, dinner or tapas, beachfront dining on St. Thomas doesn't get any lovelier than Havana Blue, located directly on the sand at Morningstar Beach, near the Marriott hotel complex. The restaurant looks like a big, beautiful beach cabana, with open walls, sensuous blue lighting, and sheer white curtains shifting in the sea breeze. The beach level is dominated by a large, square bar, where you can relax over cocktails mixed with premium Caribbean rum or a variety of other top-shelf liquors and nibble on sweet or savory tapas. Upstairs, the main dining room features a menu with Latin (especially Cuban) and eastern influences. If you're in the mood to indulge, the chef's seven-course tasting menu will have you nibbling and sipping for hours.
In my mind, no visit to the Caribbean is complete without a few hours spent liming at a beach bar, but casual, surf side watering holes are surprisingly rare in St. Thomas. So thank goodness for Iggies, which is hands-down the best beach bar on the island and still going strong after 20 years.
Located adjacent to the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, Iggies has it all -- good food in generous portions, tables in the sand, a big, friendly bar with lots of beer and rum choices (happy hour is 4-6 p.m. daily), and live entertainment at night. I'm also a big fan of their special events: Iggies serves a great West Indian buffet dinner on Wednesdays, which is also Carnival night with limbo, fire-eaters, and a visit from stilt-walking moko jumbies). Iggies offers all-you-can-eat crab legs on Tuesdays and all-you-can-eat barbecue on Sundays, accompanied by live music. You can play some beach volleyball while you wait for your table, then belt out some karaoke tunes after dinner. Or just chill out and watch the sunset with your toes in the sand and a drink in your hand.