OK, so the good that came out of the St. Croix adventure (first time) was I met my wife and made a lot of great friends…and found one of the neatest lil’ places in the Caribbean – if ya like cheeseburgers, a tropical breeze and drinking!
I lived on the East End of the island and would pass by a little place that had an old condo sales office with picnic tables scattered around and a $100 gas grill, and it was called Cheeseburgers in Paradise. I think they had some legal issues with the name and changed it to American Chesseburgers (or something similar) after a while. Anyway, it was obviously named after the song made famous by Jimmy Buffett, and was operated by a local woman who started it up with a few dollars and a prayer. Nothing fancy either. No lush tropical tree’s, no ocean view either, but it was the place to be.
Her idea was to sell burgers and alcohol only. She offered the burgers with or without cheese, a side of Lay’s chips and that was it. Of course, you had to have a beer or cocktail, or three. The concept was simple – keep the overhead low, minimal training for cooks, keep the operational headaches to a minimum and focus on providing the best damn burgers possible – with all the alcohol you can possibly drink. She didn’t try to be everything to everybody and believed in the idea of doing one thing well, and doing it right. Her attitude was, “if you wanted a great burger, this was it, if you wanted something else, go somewhere else, and when you are ready for a great burger, you knew where to go”. It worked flawlessly.
The atmosphere was relaxing, but nothing fancy – actually, its location was right in the sunset, so it would heat up pretty well…but there was nice tropical music and a live band on the weekends. We missed this the most of anything in the Caribbean.
So, after a few years later, and traveling throughout many of the Caribbean islands, we never could find anything like it. I always tried as I am a Cheeseburger fanatic. We always seemed to be searching for that Cheeseburger in Paradise – but NOT the over-commercialized restaurant, one that filled our expectations of a lush, tropical escape on a breezy tropical island. You know the type, Jimmy Buffett, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney all sing about these places…and this seems weird as the songs have created visions of what we “thought” would be scattered throughout the entire Caribbean. But they are not, at least in the down islands!
We have found quite a few local down island style rum shops or rum shacks throughout the Caribbean…and although we enjoy most of them, they don’t offer a real Cheeseburger, or even the proverbial atmosphere. All the restaurants want you to eat their “local” creole type food. And if they do have a burger, or what they may refer to as a burger, its some ole frozen thing that’s been there for quite some time…and after its cooked, on a griddle, it can really be a little scary.
Also, most local places can look rough (in appearance) and they tend to be operated at a very local level. Yes, they want visitors, and they get the hardcore travelers who somehow find them. The prices are usually fair and the food is good (if you want creole food), but the local’s mindset is definitely very different. They look at everything from their point of view, and just don’t have the outsider point-of-view, experience or the vision of how a lot of people “think” an island style bar and grill should/could be. For me, I see island tee’ shirts and know what I am looking for.
But where are they?
There are the resorts with the ‘all inclusive” packages that cater to every whim of their guests. These places are upscale, have some really wild drinks, exotic foods and a lot of what I view as “over commercialization”, almost fake in a way…but very nice without a doubt. Also, the Resorts are not open to the locals, or any other visitors. Very expensive to say the least, but super beautiful for those who like to be pampered!
And in the middle, sometimes you’ll find a bar and grill that try’s to cater ONLY to the visitors (tourists bring money to spend). They offer fancy drinks, so-so foods, and typically located in the heart of the tourist areas…but they are not local-friendly, meaning, they are intimidating to the local people and typically too expensive as all they want is the tourism dollars. And that’s OK, but it can be cyclical and once you alienate the locals, things can get tough.
In our minds, it seems that there is no real middle ground that appeals to both locals and tourists. Many visitors say they would like to socialize with the local islanders and seek out the proverbial tropical bar that’s reminiscent of the Caribbean culture. A place with a lush tropical environment, hand crafted bamboo, palm fronds, hammocks, and all the things one might expect if they could magically walk into a Jimmy Buffett song. Basically, a real “local style” down island rum shop that is kicked up a notch and is just a little more comfortable, fun and accommodating to all.
THAT’S OUR CONCEPT AND WE’RE CALLING IT SKEETERZ RUM BAR…yup that’s it. A place where EVERYONE is welcome – the people from the all-inclusive resorts who want to take off and visit something local, where the tourists would want to visit and the locals would be right at home…that’s’ exactly what is needed.