According to proprietor Brian Cox, the name RooT 42 Bar & Grill is more than a twist on its location on Route 42.
“It’s an acronym for the restaurant’s post-hurricane Caribbean roots: Risen Out Of Tragedy,” he said.
Situated on the grounds of Flamboyan on the Bay Resort & Villas, the eatery opened in 2017, just a few weeks after the property had been ravaged by Hurricane Irma.
Eager to provide storm-weary St. Thomas residents with a place to enjoy reasonably priced meals, Cox acquired the battered structure and went to work with a small, hand-picked team. As restoration projects progressed at the resort, Cox made steady improvements to the restaurant.
“We started out with makeshift seating on the patio, a limited Magic Marker menu and just kept going,” he said.
A native of the Maryland/Washington D.C. area, Cox has been immersed in the hospitality business from an early age. His mother operated a restaurant as well as a bed and breakfast. Additionally, both his grandfather and uncle were chefs who influenced his career choice.
Graduating from North Carolina Central University, Cox spent a full decade working in a fine dining establishment.
After moving to the territory in 2014, he found employment at Simply Italian – the current location of RooT 42, while also doing post-graduate studies at the University of the Virgin Islands.
A firm believer in giving back to the community, once he took on the role of proprietor Cox commissioned solid wood tabletops for RooT 42 to be custom built by vocational trainees at My Brother’s Workshop nonprofit organization.
Three years and two temporary COVID-19 shutdowns later, RooT 42 now boasts a sports lounge with multiple TVs, as well as patio seating around the resort’s pool and cascading waterfall. Patrons can reserve tables in the newly refurbished air-conditioned wine room.
Menu selections include fresh salads, burgers, sandwiches, paninis, flatbread pizza, chicken parmesan, country fried meatloaf, jerk chicken and pasta dishes. Nightly specials feature chef’s choice tacos plus a meat and seafood entree. Sunday brunch offers eggs Benny, the omelet of the day, Baileys French toast and chocolate chip pancakes. For frozen drink fans, blender concoctions were recently added to the beverage menu.
Mother Nature provides the restaurant with a panoramic view of Magens Bay. Adding to the ambiance, RooT 42 showcases an ever-changing display of original paintings by local artist Megan Lyn McHugh. Each canvas bears her distinctive ‘M Lyn’ signature.
Creative influences reflected in McHugh’s work range from celebrated British street artist, Banksy, to St. Thomas’ own Amy Gibbs.
McHugh said, “I have more than one style. You might call it ‘reality meets the abstract.’” The expansive range of subject matter includes orchids, butterflies and her favorite sea critter – the octopus.
With the exception of murals commissioned by local businesses and homeowners – including an iconic Bob Marley image on the east end – the only place to view M Lyn artwork in person is at RooT 42.
“My art is very reasonably priced,” she said. “I want to see it go home with someone who appreciates it.”
One of the many M Lyn art fans, Tracy Wayman spoke about her first purchase.
“Growing up in upstate New York, we kept cocoons in fish tanks. I have great memories of caterpillars morphing into monarch butterflies. When I saw the monarch butterfly painting at RooT 42, I had to have it,” Wayman said.
The artist said, “I made an agreement not to showcase my work anywhere else except RooT 42.” Cox added, “That’s right, and we only display local art from M Lyn.”
Asked how he discovered her talents, Cox said his restaurant manager, Jamie Walthall, came across the artist’s Facebook page by chance.
“Jamie purchased a painting and brought it by the office. I was really taken with it. I had been looking for local art for the restaurant and one thing led to another.”
Born and raised in New Jersey, McHugh moved to territory permanently in 2012 but had been a frequent visitor since her early childhood.
“Back in 1985, my grandparents were on their way to St. Maarten for their first Caribbean vacation,” McHugh said. “They ended up with an unscheduled overnight stay on St. Thomas. When my grandfather asked a taxi driver to take them to the island’s most beautiful beach, they were driven to Sapphire and fell in love with it.”
As the story goes, her grandparents never made it to their intended destination, instead opting to stay at the resort. Shortly thereafter, the couple purchased property at Sapphire, eventually buying a home. Their talented granddaughter became a regular summertime visitor.
“As a kid, I dreamed of moving to the islands and making my living as an artist,” she said.
In addition to enjoying original art, customers can meet the artist each Tuesday and Wednesday at RooT 42, where she works part-time. McHugh also is available to discuss commission work.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. RooT 42 is on Facebook and information is available by calling 340-513-1688.