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Shoreside Review

I first discovered Mellow Moods a few years ago, before I ever moved to Tortola. My carnivorous friends from the BVI Beacon regularly order carryout from the popular vegetarian restaurant on Flemming Street, so during one of my early visits to the island, I joined them in the newsroom for this weekly deadline tradition. When my lunch container was passed to me, I could barely lift it with one hand. When it sprang open, I discovered why—brown rice, beans, tofu, vegetarian lasagne, soya chunks, salad and breadfruit stuffed the box full. Since then, I’ve eaten at the restaurant many times and have often had lunch delivered to my office.

When proprietor Art Christopher became a vegetarian and started cooking meals for himself, he received encouragement from his family members,  so he set up a booth at Christmas on Main Street. “We had a good response,” Mr. Christopher said. “From there, it was in the back of my mind. As opportunities came up to start this cafe, we took it.” He switched gears and careers—moving from working in the financial sector to opening his own restaurant. He opened Mellow Moods Café below the Virgin Queen in Road Town in 2003. “The restaurant business is challenging,” he said, “but the fact that you see something that you have a genuine interest in developing—that makes it worthwhile.”

Vegetarian barbecue in a tangy sauce. Photos courtesy of Mellow Mooods.

As a vegetarian in the BVI, I appreciate Mr. Christopher’s dedication. Most restaurant patrons, when they open a menu, have a choice of all the items listed—pastas, salads, pizzas, appetizers, entrees, side dishes and toppings minus a thing or two that they may not like. Vegetarians in the BVI typically have two or three choices on the menu—total, not in each different category. But when I visit Mellow Moods, I know I can eat everything they serve. When I attend a catered function, the same is true. I usually can only pile my plate with one or two things from a buffet or snack on salads and breads instead of the sandwich tray. The thought of having Mellow Moods cater an event at my office makes my mouth water. “We do catering, and we’re looking to expand in that area,” Art said. “We’ll cater lunches for up to 50 persons.” Past satisfied clients of Mellow Moods Café’s lunch catering service include the Department of Disaster Management, the BVI Electricity Cooperation and the Conservation and Fisheries Department.

The catering menu at Mellow Moods includes all their usual offerings—fried tofu, veggie dinner roast, veggie lasagne, ginger soy, barbecue wheat gluten, garden salad, rice and beans, wraps, veggie nuggets and veggie burgers. “We’re also introducing a homemade burger,” he said, adding that they are made from spinach, mushrooms or spicy beans. I also noticed that Mellow Moods has pizza on their menu. “We make everything from scratch—the dough and sauce, and we use only soy cheese,” he told me. Mellow Moods tries to buy local ingredients whenever possible. “I have this idea that [one day] everything that we cook, everything on your plate is locally produced, or regionally produced,” he said.  “We try to get a lot of our ingredients locally. That is one of our main goals—to really support our farmers.”

A veggie burger wrap for a healthy, hearty lunch.

My friend Charlie joined me for lunch at Mellow Moods right before the rush, and as we filled up on our $6 plates of rice and beans, salad, tofu and soy patties, we observed the line of Rastas, lawyers, retail clerks and school children extend almost out the door. “Most people that eat here are not strict vegetarians,” said Mr. Christopher. “We do have the Rastafarians and Seventh Day Adventists, and a lot of persons in the community who come just because the food is affordable.  Many are surprised that a plate of vegetarian food isn’t that bad, and they become regulars.” Mr Christopher also mentioned that many people who are on diets and are trying to lose weight are frequent customers. Women who “might have a Queen Show coming up,” he said, will incorporate Mellow Moods’ fare into their diets. “People come for all types of different reasons. We try to develop a community-type atmosphere. That allows us to introduce healthy eating to the community that will hopefully translate into healthy lifestyles along the way.” And the tasty food—with spices and sauces that surprise—keep the community coming back for more.

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