Good Morning and a happy Friday to you! I hope that all of you are wrapping up your work week with a smile on your face and ready to get into some fun this weekend. I’m excited to be revisiting the Local Livin’ series this morning with a highlighted local business that offers amazing food, weekend specialties and really, really good company.
Island Breeze opened on November 1, 2020 and is located on Centerline Road just past Paradise Lumber. The simple red and white building at the entrance to the Susannaberg ruins offers locally inspired food that is anything but simple and is rarely without a car or two parked in front. We frequent this place on Saturdays for their Goat Water, an island delicacy of a hearty stew made with the rich meat of goats, vegetables, warm spices and, in this instance, dumplings. I stopped by this week to chat with the owner and get a bit more info on the restaurant…And some of his story.
Alvis Smith, known lovingly as “Smitty,” was born in Nevis and arrived on St. John in 1984. He learned to cook the cuisine of his home from his grandmother who is now a young and vibrant 104 years old! She still resides in Nevis but, in a normal year, Smitty goes to visit her four or five times. He said her birthday is on November 1 and usually he would go and cook a huge feast for her anniversary. This year, due to COVID, he was not able to make the trip. So he did something else in honor of her name day. He opened his own restaurant.
From his childhood in the kitchen of his grandmother and years of more formal training and experience in the kitchens of St. John, Smitty has everything it takes to run a successful kitchen in his own spot in the country.
“It was something I dreamed about for a very long time,” he told me while sitting at a little wooden table he had kindly pulled into the shade. “I was encouraged by a lot of people. It was not a hard transition.”
To his point, we were briefly interrupted by an elderly gentleman who pulled into the open parking space out front and hollered at Smitty from his car window. Smitty waved and gestured him on and smiled behind his mask. Later in our conversation he told me that gentleman was his 79-year old father. He stops by every day to check in on his son 🙂
Smitty worked as a chef in ALL of the kitchens at Caneel Bay over the course of a 29-year tenure with the infamous resort. He rattled off an expansive resume to me including Miss Lucy’s, Aqua Bistro and eight years at High Tide. He says that his experience in these kitchens have made it pretty easy for him to adapt to the volume they have experienced at Island Breeze. And to keep all of his local food fresh and made to order. He just installed a new fryer this week in order to keep up with the hunger of the masses and continue to cook his pates and johnny cakes to order so that every one is hot, fresh and delicious.
Despite his knowledge of international foods, acquired from working in the restaurants of St. John, Smitty opted to stick to his roots and produce local cuisine in his new spot. The food he produces are those he learned from his grandmother and enjoys around the table with his family both on the island of St. John and back home in Nevis.
While I was visiting with him, he had an order for a Bull Foot plate. He served up hearty helpings of steamed vegetables with Caribbean spice, Fungi, plantains and vibrantly colored Bull Foot Soup. His Fungi, he explained, is made from corn meal and okra. It is a Caribbean style of polenta and creamy like mashed potatoes. The stew is made with love, vegetables, spices and, yes, cow hooves. It is cooked slowly for the hooves to become tender and release their juices into the broth.
At Island Breeze you will find many island delicacies on the daily menu including curried goat or chicken, chicken pelau (warm spiced chicken with rice and red peas or lentils), ox tail, stewed pork chops, fried chicken wings and Johnny Cakes and beef or saltfish Pates made to order. They also make fresh juices from local fruits with a rotating selection of sour sop, passion fruit, sorrel and lemonade. He also makes his own ginger beer which he said is very popular. I was unable to try it myself because they were (Again, to his point) sold out at the time.
On the weekends Smitty hosts a barbecue. On Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons Smitty busts out the grill in front of the modest space and cooks up some incredible chicken, pork chops and corn on the cob. He mentioned that they had toyed with the notion of staying closed on Sundays. But, his regulars wanted a place to hang and eat. So, he keeps the regular menu off the table for the day and grills and hangs with his guests.
When I asked about the hours, he said they open at 7am each day. But the closing time is a bit, um, loose.
“As long as they are here and they want service,” was his response 🙂
And, the price tag on all of this home cooked island deliciousness won’t break the bank! The pork and chicken at the BBQ go for $4-5 a piece and you wont find much on the menu for over $15! We have eaten at Island Breeze on several occasions and generally spend less than $30 for delicious food and drinks for the two of us.
I want to extend a big thanks to Smitty for taking the time out of his busy day to chat with me this week. And for letting me film him creating a pate for my lunch. I hope that you all stop by to say hello and try some of his amazing food and drinks the next time you are visiting. Have a great weekend!