Sure, you can bemoan how touristy the Caribbean islands are, particularly around the cruise ship terminals, where jewelry shops abut duty-free stores and tequila-soaked bars. But for food lovers who are willing to hop in a cab, there are actually great meals to be had at unforgettable restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs. Here, our chef-driven foodie bucket list for the Caribbean in 2014:
1. Fatty Crab
Chili Crab - Photo by Fatty Crab
New York-based Chef Zakary Pelaccio wows Gotham with his Malaysian dishes, and now he’s expanded his hip and playful take on Asian cuisine to the Caribbean.
How to Get There: From St. Thomas, take the short ferry ride to St. John — where the beaches are better anyway — and walk the four blocks to the restaurant.
What to Order: Look for chicken roti with green curry, the signature sliders with chili aioli, and calamansi chili-rubbed brisket with coconut rice. Order a fresh watermelon juice to go on the way out.
Dune restaurant's seaside terrace - Photo by Dune at One & Only Ocean Club
Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Dune serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so you can just go when you’re hungry. The menu focuses on local seafood and produce, and dishes are light and fresh — perfect for a day at the beach. It’s really the only food-loving destination at the resort at lunchtime, when Nobu and Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill are closed.
How to Get There: From the ship terminal in Nassau, you can take your cruise line’s transfer to the Atlantis Resort or, if you don’t want to use the beach facilities, just hop in a cab. (The restaurant is in the One & Only Ocean Club, so have your driver drop you off there — Atlantis is a huge, spread out complex, and it will save you a lot of walking.)
What to Order: At lunch, the classic Bahamian conch salad and crab salad are our picks, as well as the watermelon and goat cheese plate.
Private dining table at BLT Steak - Photo by BLT Steak at The Ritz-Carlton San Juan
New York’s Laurent Tourondel has reimagined the steakhouse as something more luxe — and less stuffy — than the steakhouses of the “Mad Men” era. Still, unless you order the grilled seafood, you can expect a heavy dinner here. Our advice: Eat light during the day so you can indulge without thinking about how you’ll look in your swimsuit the next day.
How to Get There: The restaurant is a 15-minute drive from the port.
What to Order: This is a modern take on the iconic steakhouse, so look for classics like properly charred porterhouse for two, grilled double-cut bacon — yes, as an appetizer, not a garnish — and potato skins dressed up with truffle oil.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Iberico Ham - Photo by Mi Casa at Dorado Beach
We would follow Washington, D.C.-based Spanish Chef Jose Andres just about anywhere, but it’s a real treat to be able to dine on his creative tapas in this common cruise departure port.
How to Get There: The restaurant, a 35-minute drive from the ship terminal, serves breakfast (tortilla, anyone?), but we suggest going for a long, slow dinner the night before your cruise so you can take your time with the dinner menu.
What to Order: We can’t resist Andres’ Spanish classics — such as Iberico ham, chicken croquettes, gazpacho, savory churros, and squid ink pasta with cuttlefish and shrimp — but he also offers his own take on Puerto Rican dishes, including conch fritters and taro chips.