Finding restaurants at which to enjoy great meatless meals when I’m traveling is always a challenge.
I’m thankful that this is a not a problem on St. John.
St. John is the least populated of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the most beautiful. We’ve been to all three (St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John) and need to cast our vote for St. John as the best of three fantastic islands.
Although I am a “situational pescatarian” (which means if there is nothing else I can eat, I will eat sustainable fish or seafood), I would always prefer to eat vegetarian or vegan meals when I’m traveling.
Here is my report of where to get the best vegetarian and vegan options on St. John. I know that this is a huge departure from my usual blog posts, but the audience for my reviews on Trip Advisor is growing and I thought it might be helpful to fellow travelers who are lucky enough to venture to this gorgeous island.
Waterfront Bistro – Waterfront Bistro is a lively restaurant in the heart of Cruz Bay’s Wharfside Village that will definitely please the carnivores in your party. However, I was able to get a wonderful vegan meal by pairing the Local Green Papaya Salad (incredibly refreshing with shredded green papaya, glass noodles, cabbage, picked carrots, japaleno, and lime vinaigrette) and the Vietnamese Crispy Rice Flour Crepes (stuffed with sprouts, smoked tofu, avocado, and a delicious citrus vinaigrette). Both dishes were ample and what a great combo! The two courses filled me up and cost only $22 making this my top choice for vegans on a budget in St. John.
In addition to my two selections, Waterfront Bistro’s eclectic menu offered other vegetarian options, including a chilled Vichyssoise, a Mozzarella Ratatouille Timbale, several delightful salads, and handmade Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi in a red pepper broth with sautéed leeks and greens. I have had the Ratatouille Timbale and the Gnocchi on a previous visit and can testify that both of them are delicious.
Now, if you’re not on a budget, check out these fantastic options:
Zozo’s – Zozo’s is without question the best restaurant on the island. But can vegetarians find meatless options here that will satisfy as well as Zozo’s impeccable meat and seafood dishes?
After eating here twice during our week, I can recommend the following without hesitation:
- Beet and Goat Cheese Ravioli (with a generous amount of gently massaged Tuscan kale, slivered beets, and a rich fresh sage butter)
- Mushroom Papparedelle (made with wild mushrooms, thinly shaved Pecorino Romano, and a creamy white truffle sauce)
- Orange Salad (with fresh baby greens, toasted walnuts, Gorgonzola, and a raspberry vinaigrette)
- Watermelon Salad (with local pineapple, very fresh arugula, thinly shaved fennel, cucumbers, feta, and a basil vanilla vinaigrette)
Alas, none of these are vegan, but all are delicious. My favorite was the watermelon salad. It’s a substantial salad and could easily be shared if you are having multiple courses. However, I devoured the whole salad myself – not once, but twice! Zozo’s chef will also prepare a fabulous vegetable plate which can be completely vegan. Zozo’s is pricey – but you won’t be disappointed!
My three best tips for Zozo’s:
- Zozo’s makes its own pasta and ravioli, and is willing to substitute gluten-free pasta at no additional charge.
- Call and make reservations four to six weeks before you plan to dine if you have a large party and at least two to three weeks if you have a smaller party. It is a spacious, open, and beautifully appointed restaurant, but it fills up very quickly. I always think that calling works better than sending an email.
- If the restaurant is fully committed, call and ask Ben or John if you can be seated at the bar. Eating at the bar as a couple – or even as a single diner – is a lot of fun. Degory and Sean are terrific bartenders, you can still enjoy the stunning view, and you feel as though you are right in the beating heart of the restaurant. We were served promptly for each course, socialized with charming Degory and the folks around us, and honestly didn’t mind not having our “own table”.
Asolare – Asolare is a far more intimate restaurant than Zozo’s with a view that is different but equally stunning. Instead of a sunset over Caneel Bay’s impeccably manicured golf course and beach, Asolare boasts incredible views of both Cruz Bay and St. Thomas. We chose a later seating (8 pm) and were seated outside to soak in the breathtaking view. By the way, according to its website, Asolare (pronounced as-o-lair) means “the purposeless, leisurely, and agreeable passing of time.” Isn’t that what vacations are all about!
Veggie options were numerous at Asolare. I enjoyed Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Thai peanut sauce and a lovely, very fresh Sesame-Encrusted Goat Cheese Salad made with organic baby greens, a miso vinaigrette, and a generous piece of sesame crusted goat cheese. There was also miso soup with edamame, diced tofu, and truffle oil, and Thai vegetable curry for vegans. And for dairy-lovers (we had two new friends from cheese-loving Wisconsin in our party), there was a fantastic special appetizer called Burrata. Burrata is a ball of mozzerella that is hollowed out and filled with fresh mozzarella and cream. Roasted tomatoes and a delectable honey jam provided a lovely contrast to the richness of the burrato.
We were delighted to meet Asolare’s Chef, Matt Kidd, a Greensboro, North Carolina native who has also cooked at Kiawah Island Resort in South Carolina. Since Asolare can only seat 50 people, my advice is to make your reservations early.
The Terrace – The Terrace was the other restaurant that won our hearts enough to eat there twice. My husband adored the Oysters Rockefeller, Mahi (with a wild rice, pea, almond and preserved lemon salad), and the Caribbean Lobster and Shrimp, – and I found enough interesting non-meat dishes to keep my veggie palate satisfied. The Terrace is right in the heart of Cruz Bay and has a lovely, elevated view of the waterfront.
Consider the following meatless gems:
- Josephine’s Greens & Roasted Beets (local fresh greens with roasted golden beets, pomegranate seeds, mildly spiced walnuts, Roquefort, and a honey-walnut vinaigrette)
- Fennel, Leek, and Mushroom Strudel (with steamed kale and carrots, in a lovely presentation)
- Vegetable Herb Risotto (with asparagus, green beans, grape tomatoes, baby carrots, shiitake mushrooms, and which can be made with or without Parmesan cheese)
I also feel confident that classically trained Chef Erica Miner can put together delicious alternatives if you have special dietary needs. Erica was formerly at La Tapa and Waterfront Bistro, and she and her husband Robin opened The Terrace to rave reviews in October, 2012. Note to Chef Erica: There were a number of grain and vegetable accompaniments to your meat and fish entrees that I would have enjoyed as a seperate meal. Please consider expanding your non-meat offerings to include them as separate vegetarian or vegan dinners!
Well, I guess I’m back to cooking my own food. What a treat it was to sample delicious meatless meals on such a beautiful island!