In that block of businesses along lower Bay Street stretching west from ACE, sits a restaurant and bar which has been in operation for four decades.
VJâs is known among locals and visitors as a place where you can obtain a delicious meal and local drinks in a welcoming environment.
The roti has been the standard bearer for this establishment, as Manager Julia Richardson explains, âOur roti is like the backbone of the restaurant.â
However, itâs the appetizing souse that caused VJâs to be voted as having the best souse in the Best of SVG 2017 Awards.
âWe never have enough souse,â Richardson tells Searchlight.
âAs a matter of factâ¦ most Saturdays people are waiting before the souse is ready. On a Friday evening, our conch souse is also [in] great demand, so there is a big line up again on Friday evening for the conch souse,â which is served with green bananas, dumplings, breadfruit when in season and other available provision.
While conch and pigâs foot souse are the big sellers, patrons can also enjoy a âsea food comboâ souse made from shrimp, whelk, conch and fish at any time of the week – and preparation time is around 15 minutes âbecause those things are already pre-cooked and chopped.â
Walking Searchlight through the preparation in the busy kitchen, Richardson explains that they do not pressurize the pig foot and the water in which it is cooked is discarded to eliminate excess fat before the meat is frozen for use the following day.
Apart from the regular ingredients of sweet peppers, cucumbers, onions and lime, a dash of pepper sauce is added for flavor.
âThe secret is to bring the flavor up â¦so we must taste the salt and we must taste the lime – salt, lime and pepper – those are the secret ingredients.â
VJâs Restaurant offers a range of other dishes and has been involved in catering for several years now since its humble beginnings at Paulâs Avenue, when the late Veronica John, Juliaâs mom, who was then a cook at Young Island, decided to open a cook shop of her own.
âWe open for breakfast on mornings; we have a very busy lunch period, we serve lots of roti throughout the day, roti, burgers, chicken and chips, fish and chips, sandwichesâ¦ you can get a fish broth any day, anytime right up to ten o clock [when] our kitchen closes,â points out Richardson who is a qualified chef.
âWe serve an a la carte dinner menu, we offer catering – whatever size catering we do it, we deliver weâ¦ cater for parties, weddings, conferences whatever…and we also do a delivery service.â
The majority of the 24 full time staff at VJâs has been with the establishment for over 10 years – some have been employees for more than 25. Little wonder that Richardson sees the team as family who are trusted to sometimes make management decisions that are in the best interest of the establishment.
As part of the 40th anniversary celebrations this year, VJâs has offered food scholarships to two students daily, and another on Fridayâs, for the duration of their five years at secondary school as a way of giving back to the community.
No doubt, Richardson intends to also continue to please patrons with delicious fare which she says is cooked âwith a lot of loveâ- and that includes its award winning souse.