Friday, August 27, 2010

Eating in the Caribbean - St. Thomas, Dominica & Barbados

Happy Cow is a great website for finding veg friendly restaurants in areas that you're unfamiliar with. I like it better than just doing a Google search, because Google doesn't have filters to realize that a sushi restaurant isn't veg friendly just because they have avocado rolls. I was happy to see that they have a section for the Caribbean, and had quite a few entries for the islands I'd be traveling to.

St. Thomas
I was really excited to try out Rootsie's Ital. Jeff and I were supposed to go SCUBA in the morning, but unfortunately our excursion was canceled, so we figured we'd take a leisurely walk to Charlotte Amalie, which is St. Thomas's downtown. While we wound up taking a taxi (asking for directions is moot, the taxi drivers will tell you that it's in a different direction than it is, or that it's too far to walk, because they want your business) we did wind up walking for quite a way trying to find Rootsie's, which is off the tourist map.

Jeff and I found Rootsie's, and saw that it didn't open until 11, giving us about an hour to kill. We went to a smoothie shop and got smoothies and chatted with the waiter about the oil spill, Arizona's ridiculous immigration law, and other news. I was mildly surprised that the smoothies were made from frozen fruit, given the fact that we were in the home of fresh mangos, bananas and other tropical fruits. St. Thomas is a small island, and I'm not sure how much food they grow, much less how much food they grow that doesn't get exported.

Unfortunately, we found out from a local on our walk back to Rootsie's that it's closed on Mondays... and our ship was only in the harbor for that one Monday. Giant bummer! We were 0 for 1 but determined not to let that get us down. Plenty more islands to come!

(Just a note, on our taxi to Megan's Bay later in the day we did notice a possibly veggie place called Natural Livity but it was too late for us to try it out.)

Our next port of call was Dominica, an island totally unspoiled by 5 star hotels, casinos and endless duty free diamond shops. Dominica is very mountainous and lush, and is great for people who enjoy hiking. Jeff and I got to experience the rain forest as it is at its most unforgiving, as we got thoroughly soaked from head to toe on our hike to Middleham Falls in Morne Trois Pitons National Park.

Back downtown in Roseau, we were hoping to check out Natural Livity but the address brought us to a large, closed wooden door labeled cafeteria or some such. (Is this related to the place in St. Thomas? Not sure!) We were really disappointed, now being 0 for 2, and anticipating greasy veggie burgers back on the ship. But we managed to run into my sister, brother in law and parents, and wound up getting 3 dollar rum punches that made us forget all of our worries. We also checked out the marketplace and I bought a few jars of my favorite hot sauce, which I'd been looking to restock since my last trip to the Caribbean in 2008.

Cutting Barbados is probably the polar opposite of Dominica. It's flat, it's covered with commercial outlets and it was bone dry the day we docked. According to Happy Cow, we had a lot of options in Bridgetown, but we managed to actually find Pure Food Vegetarian Cafe, so that's where we went.

Pure Food is very humble inside, with a very short cafeteria-style line. You can pick what you want to eat, it's served up on a plate, and you pay and eat. I was somewhat unsure of how much food we could get away with packing on our plates, and no prices were listed anywhere, but Jeff and I were determined to eat a hearty vegan meal. I got the rice and beans (no pork bones to worry about here!), and Jeff got the gluten (we would call them seitan cutlets), chickpeas and roasted veggies. We shared some mango lemonade.

Rice and Beans The food was delicious! And the two people working there were quite friendly as well. I'm not sure how many tourists they get in their restaurant but we were the only two there at the time. While our plates weren't "full" by US restaurant standards, we were very satisfied at the end of our meals. The gluten was very well flavored, and my rice and beans were savory and delicious. I was very excited to finally get to eat real rice and beans in the Caribbean.

I will definitely go to Pure Food Vegetarian Cafe again if I ever return to Barbados.

Stay tuned next time for the rest of the islands, a look at Caribbean beers and breweries, and a Carnival Cruise survival guide. Go read part one where I write about eating in Puerto Rico.

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