Located to the east of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea, the British Virgin Islands comprise four main islands—and more than 60 smaller ones. It’s no surprise then that cuisine here is seafood-centric, with Anegada in particular being known for its lobster-filled reef. What’s less expected is the delicious fusion of flavors on offer, from Caribbean, East Indian, and African to Spanish, French, Dutch, and English.
Below, we’ve rounded up the BVI’s best food and where to try it, whether you’re craving conch fritters, Caribbean lobster, or chicken roti. Whatever you order, be sure to accompany it with a Painkiller, a potent libation of local rum, fresh fruit juice, and nutmeg that was invented in the BVIs.
Locally caught lobster at the Beach Club Restaurant at Oil Nut Bay
You can only get to the Beach Club at Oil Nut Bay on Virgin Gorda by boat or helicopter, but this swanky restaurant is worth the extra effort. Here, it’s all about the views—and the lobster. Freshly caught crustaceans from neighboring Anegada feature in almost every dish: Start with the lobster poppers (a fun twist on the classic conch fritter), then move on to either the lobster roll, lobster burger, or lobster pizza (the house specialty, it comes topped with Cajun spices and lime-and-ginger oil). To drink, don’t miss the signature Sir Francis Drake cocktail, with rum, pineapple, guava, banana, lime, and the resort’s own coconut cordial.
Weekend barbecue at Foxy’s
Jost Van Dyke
In 1968, Philicianno “Foxy” Callwood opened an eponymous bar on Jost Van Dyke to cater to the yacht crowd that came for the island’s white-sand beaches. The indoor-outdoor spot was such a success that, a half-century later, it remains a favorite of the boating set, who often moor their dinghies off Foxy’s dock.
Open 365 days a year, the bar is famous for signature drinks like the Dread Fox (a blend of Foxy’s own Firewater rum, cranberry juice, and sour mix). It also serves Caribbean fare like local lobster, conch fritters, and chicken roti, but it’s the weekend barbecue you won’t want to miss. On Saturdays and Sundays, Foxy’s goes all out with multiple grills right on the beach, offering unlimited servings of barbecued ribs, chicken, and mahi mahi—plus sides like pasta salad, rice and peas, grilled vegetables, and tropical fruit—for just $35 per person.
Chicken roti at Soggy Dollar
Jost Van Dyke
You can’t visit the BVI without stopping by the Soggy Dollar. The Jost Van Dyke bar gets its name from the fact that it’s only reachable by boat and doesn’t have any docks, so guests have to swim in from their anchored yachts or ferries. Once ashore, they end up paying for their drinks with soggy dollars (or a wet credit card).
After working up an appetite on your swim, dig into the chicken roti, served with mango chutney and a garden salad. It’s one of the better examples of the East Indian food popular throughout the BVI. To drink, get a Painkiller, which was invented at the Soggy Dollar in 1970 and is still made with the same top-secret ratio of premium dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juices, and freshly grated Grenadian nutmeg.
Jerk chicken from J Blakx Jerk BBQ
The Black family has been barbecuing meat in the BVIs since 1994, earning a reputation for tender, flavorful fare. After closing their original restaurant in 2001, they reopened as a food truck in 2018 with a new concept—instead of grilling meats, they smoked them low and slow. From their truck in Road Town, Tortola, they now offer ribs, brisket, and homemade sausage, but their speciality is jerk chicken, which they season with a secret rub before cooking in the smoker. Available to order as a half chicken, chicken breast, or jerk chicken salad, it makes for the perfect aprés-beach meal, especially when paired with made-from-scratch sides like rice and peas, warm potato salad, and corn on the cob. Order your meal to go, or enjoy it at one of the umbrella-shaded picnic tables set up next to the truck.
Ital cuisine at Irie Ites Ital
Ital—derived from the English word “vital”—is the plant-based cuisine of the Rastafari movement in Jamaica. Intended to improve health and energy, the diet focuses on foods from the earth, excluding all meat and anything processed. Try it for yourself at Irie Ites Ital, located up in the mountains of Tortola. Here, Sarai and Jamal Bradshaw serve a seasonally rotating menu of Ital dishes like cassava cakes, lentil burgers, and broccoli salad alongside creative specials like carrot “hot dogs” and vegan mac-and-cheese. The only processed items on the menu are rice and pasta; everything else is made in house, much of it with ingredients from the Bradshaws’ own garden. If you can’t decide between all the delicious options, order the $12 special, which comes with a little bit of everything on the menu. And after your meal, sip some sorrel tea while wandering among the banana trees that dot the property.
Painkiller at Pusser’s Pub
Named for the officer in Great Britain’s Royal Navy who distributed supplies—including each sailor’s daily ration of rum—Pusser’s Pub pays tribute to the “British” in BVI. The Tortola bar mimics an English pub with lots of wood, stained-glass chandeliers, and Victorian-era model ships, plus its very own Pusser’s wood-distilled rum, based on the navy’s original formula. While the menu features especially good jerk chicken and pork, as well as pizza and a delicious sirloin burger, you’re really here for the Painkiller cocktail, made with Pusser’s rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juices, and nutmeg. It’s available in three different strengths, and you can order it in a take-home tin mug, emblazoned with the Crown Colony insignia. Once you’ve got one in hand, go outside to the porch, where you can join the locals enjoying views of the Road Town waterfront.
>>Next: The AFAR Guide to the British Virgin Islands
Laine Doss AFAR Contributors