While everyone stuck at home with you (or just you) are probably enjoying your “cooped up corona” casserole cooking and your “bide your time” banana bread baking (again) while under self imposed house arrest, we have to tell you the secret to sanity:
It is Time for TAKE OUT!!!
St. Croix is blessed with a robust and diverse food culture, with many high quality restaurants and imaginative cooks. During the pandemic times, restaurants and their many employees on our island are taking a disproportionately huge hit because of COVID-19 shutdowns. They are absorbing a large portion of the economic injury, for all of our protection in the community. Despite this big downturn in business and major layoffs, our local chefs are still trying to support local farms and food producers, and make people happy with their culinary talents. Please pitch in this month: give yourself a break from the kitchen marathon, while keeping their businesses and employees (and ours) viable during this economic downturn. We urge you to order some takeout or delivery! (Some restaurants offer delivery; most otherwise, you can use Island Direct, a delivery and errand service that delivers from restaurants, supermarkets and local farms.)
Check out these genius STX Restaurant Bingo game cards as a quick and playful guide to many local restaurants and food producers that continue to find ways to supply the public with food, offer to-go or delivery (from the brilliant minds at GoToStCroix.com)!
Island food blogger Anquanette Gaspard, “Cruzan Foodie,” is continuing to update a more exhaustive list of restaurants in the USVI offering offering takeout meals during the coronavirus crisis. Send her your links, favorites, updates and omissions!
And there is now a great Facebook page called “Takeout STX” you can check for daily specials from some of these restaurants and promote your favorites!
We initially hesitated to recommend ordering takeout. Like everyone else, we were concerned about family members getting sick, about food safety, and maintaining social and physical distancing. Some early information at the beginning of the crisis gave mixed advice on the safety of ordering takeout. But as scientists have continued to learn more about novel coronavirus and we have continued to read and research, we feel confident recommending that even the most anxious people can safely enjoy meals from their favorite restaurants, by exercising an abundance of caution with the following precautions and common sense:
- Know the source of the food. Choose restaurants you trust, that are clean, with fresh food and good turnover rates. (COVID-19 is not a food-borne illness, but getting one could compromise your immune system.)
- Order and pre-pay (include generous tips!) over the phone or online if possible. (Ask for no plastic cutlery or napkins; you’ll use your own.)
- Be careful to avoid direct contact with the staff and/or delivery person. Use a mask, and have them set the item(s) down before you retrieve it, maintaining at least six feet of distance. During pickup, you can ask the staff to place your food on the back passenger seat or floor of your vehicle.
- Once home, set the food packaging temporarily on a surface that you can sanitize. Carefully unpack the food takeout containers and place the food from the container onto your own clean dish or storage container, not touching the food directly, and discard the packaging. A big spatula, tongs, or a friend with clean hands, can help.
- Take out the packaging right away and discard; sanitize the surface where you unpacked the food. Wash your hands thoroughly before enjoying your meal!
Chef Chris Booth and his co-owner/partner Kelly Booth of SALT at Great Pond, on St. Croix’s South Shore stop by the farm multiple times per week to pick up produce. We asked them how things are going in the New Normal for their restaurant, which just celebrated its first birthday. “Well, it’s tough right now for everybody in this industry. We’ve had to minimize staff,” says Chris. “Sales are down at least 50%.” We asked him about food safety in the time of coronavirus. “Restaurants are already following very strict USDA and FDA safety regulations. Our kitchens and serving surfaces are cleaned and sanitized more often than a home kitchen. We use every precaution, and can bring your order right to your vehicle.” The crew at SALT have been coming up with some inventive international special menus that change constantly, including Asian, German and Mexican. “It’s fun to do, and we are offering a ton of food for the price. Trying to make it a really good value, and keep people happy in these difficult times.” We can vouch for the generous serving sizes!
Café Christine in Christiansted Apothecary Hall courtyard had briefly reopened for takeout, offering their reknowned lunch salads and sides in family-sized half or one-pound servings and whole pies of their famous quiche and desserts. But Chef/caterer/owner Lisa Coates has decided to wait until June with a plan to roll out a formal menu for pre-orders. “The restaurant industry is changing,” she observed. Lisa has been an early-morning regular for many years at ARTfarm, stopping in before 7am in season to stock up her café on fresh organically grown ingredients. Check out and like her Facebook page for updates!
We also checked in with owner Frank Duggan at Duggan’s Reef on St. Croix’s East End, celebrating their 37th year as one of the longest-running, top seafood and fine dining joints in the territory. “We were closed for nine and a half months after Hurricane Maria,” reflected Frank. “We then had a great eighteen months, before this crisis happened. We’re working with our landlord and doing what we can to stay alive. We’re hoping, if safety precautions allow, to reopen June 1st, with a reduced number of tables spaced further apart, with staff wearing masks, and continuing strict sanitation and lots of extra handwashing.” Currently the Duggan’s Reef crew has been reduced from 17 employees to five, operating a full menu takeout service six nights per week. Frank reports that they are often doing less than a third of their regular sales – only 15 to 55 dinners served per night instead of 75 to 90. “But some customers are taking care of our waitstaff with big tips right now,” Frank said gratefully. “We will remember those folks when we are able to open again.” Check out their online menu, call to place your order, then enjoy the scenery and make a roadtrip out to Duggan’s – maybe pack some picnicking supplies, and stop and enjoy your meal at Cramers Park!
In addition to purchasing our ingredients regularly and making delicious meals with our food, the following rockstar chefs and their teams get extra stars, because they also help ARTfarm make highly effective carbon neutral soil amendments with essential organic compounds and trace minerals for our gardens. They do this by reserving clean fresh fish and lobster carcasses from their kitchens that go into making our compost – and inspire Farmer Luca to make paintings. These chefs are reducing the load on our landfill and making something beautiful two times over. Special shout out to these composting superstars:
- Chef Ken Biggs of Galangal* – has been regularly delivering fish carcasses to the farm for YEARS.
- Chef Joe Stedman and owner Frank Duggan at online menu – save us bins and bins of lobster parts, (special thanks to ARTfarm volunteer Don Brown who puts these stinky bins in his truck and delivers them to us!) Check Duggan’s Facebook page for the daily takeout menu.
- Chef Chris Booth at SALT at Great Pond – picks up ARTfarm produce multiple times per week, and hooks us up with fish carcasses when the fish are running!
- Chef Ralph Motta of Motta Cuisine – continually innovating with farm ingredients, regaling us with stories of his goats, and bringing lobster carcasses from catering gigs.
More ARTfarm takeout recommendations:
- Chef Digby Stridiron and his staff from AMA at Cane Bay and Breakers Roar Tiki Bar have also been regulars at the farm since long before the shutdown and are continuing to make great meals with local produce. Chef Digby is also preparing meals for My Brother’s Workshop during the crisis.
- Chef Joe Smith at his famed Frederiksted BBQ joint Smoke STX is a former ARTfarm employee and farmer, and scrupulous about buying local meats and produce whenever possible. His food is off the chain. Take a leisurely drive out to Frederiksted and get some takeout!
- Chef Isumyah and family at Vegetarian Creations put so much love in their food. Located in the Barron Spot Mall, Isumyah sources just about every possible ingredient locally and serves up amazing homestyle vegetarian/vegan fare including veggie lasagna, amazing fried cauliflower, and an array of handmade fresh local juices and health tonics.
- Yonka and Damon at Café Fresco in Christiansted are doing socially distanced takeout. Farmer Luca’s favorite is a classic on the menu, the Phatty burrito. Yonka also makes delicious soups, and her flaky crust breakfast quiches-for-one are not to be missed! Check out their international dinner takeout specials, too!
- One of our customers treated our family to Un Amore‘s family sized meatloaf dinner from Chef Frank Pugliese and it was AWESOME! And a good value, we got more than one meal out of it! Frank and Kat have been huge supporters and drivers of our island’s local farm to table movement since way before it was trendy.
- Chef Jamey Hughson at Zalatina Foods is another local-food chef who has been offering pre-prepared family meals this year. Just heat and serve!
- Joe at Joe’s Bar and Grille in Sunny Isle next to WAPA employs 18 people, serving amazing comfort foods in large portions. We love his eggplant parmesan, his mashed potatoes and his garlicky cooked greens. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed he and other small local businesses can get in on the next round of PPP relief loans!
Please support these talented artists and their employees, (and the many other chefs we have on the island who are scrambling to stay open,) and give yourself a little staycation in the kitchen!
ETA: *Galangal has decided to close for takeout and plans to reopen when they can safely offer dining in. Zion Modern Kitchen has decided to close for now. 😦
Stay home, stay healthy and be a helper.