Island Eats – The Old St. John

Vie’s snack shack it amongst the few truly local places around.

Famous for their garlic chicken

Famous for their garlic chicken. ©2011 Carlton Grooms

A perfect day in St. John, and it has just begun. Can it get any better? After leaving Cruz Bay in your open top Jeep you took the North Shore Road past storied beaches and bays. Signs along the road mentioned names like Caneel, Trunk, Cinnamon and Maho Bays. You stopped at the old sugar mill at Annaberg and photographed white sailboats in the blue ocean with the towering green island of Tortola in the background. Now you are sipping on a cold Presidente at Vie’s Snack Shack as you wait for your lunch. Life can’t get much better.

Vie’s is one of the last and only places you can eat on St. John that can be called authentic and local. Situated in a plywood shack by the side of Route 10, thirteen miles east of Cruz Bay, it is almost as far east as you can get. Vie’s family owns the beach and a campground nearby on Hansen Bay. The drive is worth it but call ahead if you have your heart set on eating here as sometimes Vie is open, and sometimes she just doesn’t get around to it. The day I visited her daughter was minding the store. I was looking at old pictures of the shack and it had a sign on the front saying that she is open Monday thru Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. That sign is no longer there. You are on island time.

Vie's daughter serving up garlic chicken

Vie's daughter serving up garlic chicken. ©2011 Carlton Grooms

The snack shack is well known for garlic chicken. You get a large succulent half chicken portion for only $7.50 with johnny cakes (fried dough with honey) on the side. Mine came out smoldering hot and I needed an extra Presidente as I waited for it to cool. (I would have had another one anyway to be honest). Another notable dish is Vie’s conch fritters. I love conch but rarely as a fritter. As I sat waiting for my lunch people at the next table insisted I order some. I needed another beer anyway so I asked for some. Fritters that were large, plump, crispy with a lot of conch is what I was rewarded with.

Conch fritters. The best.

Conch fritters. The best. ©2011 Carlton Grooms

While you are waiting for your lunch enjoy your surroundings. The shack has been recently painted and looks pretty fancy compared to the old bare wood version that stood for years prior. The area has a lot of trees giving you nice shade. You’ll also get to see birds, chickens, goats and cats about. There is a lot to take in. Everyone is friendly and conversations between picnic tables are the norm.

After you finish devouring the moist chicken and plentiful conch fritters you must have dessert. Vie’s coconut tart is a delight and the perfect island flavor to finish this afternoon snack that has now become a feast. There is a good chance that you’ve just ruined your appetite for dinner later tonight back in Cruz Bay, but who cares? You’re in the islands and rules don’t apply down here.

Coconut Tart. Yum!

Coconut Tart. Yum! ©2011 Carlton Grooms

It is vitally important that local businesses like Vie’s are supported by travelers and locals alike. Especially on islands like St. John where the tourist industry and wealthy second home owners from the mainland are slowly pushing the old customs aside. When you visit Vie’s slow down, take a deep breath and take in your surroundings. Smell the air, listen to the conversations, feel the breeze and watch the joy of the people around you. When January rolls around and you have to shovel the snow from the driveway, reach back into your memory for this moment. I guarantee it will bring a bright ray of sunshine to your day.


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2 Responses to “Island Eats – The Old St. John”

  1. Ed Selby July 19, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    One of my FEW regrets from my first vacation to STJ was not being able to eat at Vie’s (we were there off-season, and lots of places were closed).

    Glad to know she’s still there, however. I’ll make sure that the next vacation to STJ will allow us to eat at Vie’s.

    • Carl Grooms
      Carl Grooms July 19, 2011 at 11:15 am #

      Ed, what a bummer. Great local place like I said in the article. Her daughter was super nice and we spent a lot of time hanging out just talking to the other people sitting around. Super chill, super rewarding. Drop me a line when you do get to go. Cheers.

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