Dec. 27, 2001 – One of the problems with dining downtown is finding a restaurant open after 5 p.m. Another is finding an establishment where the focus is more on food, most of it not cooked in a deep-fryer, than on drinks, and where you and your companion(s) can talk without screaming. Others are concerns about security whether real or perceived — and, of course, parking.
From the late Trader Dans, Sparkys and Arbys to todays Tavern on the Waterfront, meeting the challenge of dining on the St. Thomas waterfront after dark has become increasingly difficult.
Tavern on the Waterfront has tried to bring to downtown a quiet, relaxing zone of sophistication with exceptional food and drink. This is obvious by the fact they automatically add a 20 percent gratuity to your bill. The question is whether the management has been able to put together a package worth the tariff.
When we enter, we are seated at a table set for four complete with clean, white tablecloth, flatware, napery, butter dishes and a silk flower. What we see is what we get. From there on out, the bell tolls.
Would you like bread? No problem; it is $2 per person for two slices of French bread with a bit of spread, garlic flavor and sprinkle of chives or something else green. Rather have pita? No problem; $4 a pocket, please.
Ice water is free. Furthermore, it is good, with no aftertaste; the ice is good, too, and the waitress will fill your glass without your doing a song and dance for her attention. You do, however, have to ask for the water to start.
Bar drinks are priced relatively well, considering some of the competition on the island. Beers cost $3 and well drinks are $5.50.
The service is good when only a couple of tables are occupied, but things could get hectic if there were ever a crowd. When my friends and I dined, the single waitress and a gentleman acting as barker, general maintenance man, bartender and waiter served us.
The appetizers are the price of a stateside meal at a medium-priced diner. The least expensive is the house salad a handful of good greens, a couple olives, half a tomato and dressing.
Some of the entrees come with vegetables; for those that do not, you can order a side dish for the price of another meal.
The entrees I observed looked quite good, and the ones I tasted were well prepared with light sauces. A friend had the Tuna Japanese that really hit the spot with our party and disappeared rapidly. The slice of tuna was seared and sliced over a bed of wild rice. Good soy-based sauce and dab of oriental hot green mush accompanied the tuna. The tempura was very well done, with a relatively dry batter which made it a pleasure to crunch into. The grouper was served in a light wine sauce which made the wild rice well worth eating and even improved the grilled broccoli, summer squash and zucchini.
Since we had all run over our budget, we passed on the dessert. As with several fine establishments on the island, we were offered an after-dinner drink. The brandy was good, but the amaretto was a generic brand that tasted watery.
The total cost? You add it up.
Before-dinner drink $5.50
House salad $9.00
Required gratuity $8.30
Which comes to $100 for a couple to have dinner.
The restrooms are well maintained, clean, well stocked, etc. Unfortunately, this is one of those establishments which have replaced paper towels with an electric machine that works sort of — after a while.
The pleasant finale was that when I got to my car at Emancipation Garden, it had not been disturbed. Overall Tavern on the Waterfront offers rather a pleasant evening, as long as you have a large limit on your charge card.
Tavern on the Waterfront
Ambience: 4 stars
Food: 4 stars
Service: 4 stars
Value: 2 stars
Charlotte Amalie waterfront between Drakes Passage and Palm Passage
Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.- Sat.
Dinner 6-10 p.m. Mon.- Sat.
Amex, MasterCard, Visa
Editor's note: The Tottering Taster is a senior citizen dedicated to enjoying good food who periodically dines in local establishments to bring Source readers unsolicited assessments biased in favor of an ultimate eating-out experience. The individual uses a pseudonym so restaurant personnel will not be able to identify the reviewer and try to influence the review.