Emile’s Restaurant and Cantina  –  As my friends from the BVI Beacon and I shuffle up to the open-air, porch-like dining room of Emile’s Restaurant and Cantina in East End, across from Harbourview Marina, we’re fortunate enough to encounter local farmer Lion Dread dropping off organic produce to owner Jamie Schultheiss. We take this as a good sign that our food will be fresh. Photographer Todd Van Sickle chats with Lion about his plentiful harvest of tomatoes, arugula and spinach.

Though the weather is a bit drizzly this Friday evening, Emile’s is cosy. Jamie leads me, Todd and reporter Mason Marcus to a roadside alcove table in the front of the restaurant. We order beer and appetizers to start. While waiting for our starters, we hum along to the traditional Mexican tunes coming from the speakers, watch the East End traffic and gear up for the weekend.


When our first course arrives, Jamie warns us not to fill up on the Mucho Mucho Nacho Platter ($8.95), but we can’t stop snacking on the warm tortilla chips piled with homemade bean salsa, local peppers, jalapeños, black olives, onions, guacamole, sour cream and layers of cheese. I remind Mason what Jamie said as we fight over the last cheesy chip.

We order more beer, and Jamie asks how we feel about tequila. I grimace, saying that I haven’t been able to even smell tequila since I was about seventeen and a friend brought back a cheap bottle from Cancun which we polished off in one night by doing Tequila Slammers—shots of tequila mixed with Squirt, a grapefruit-flavoured soda similar to Ting. I start to sweat thinking about it.

But Jamie doesn’t take no for an answer and pours two small snifters from his collection of over 30 different tequilas. First I try the Don Julio REAL, which I pronounce surprisingly drinkable. The Beaconites finish it off with a smile. Then Jamie hands me the snifter of Don Julio 1942 which tastes nutty and sweet— dangerously similar to the almond-infused moonshine I sampled two years ago in the mountains of Tennessee. On that trip, I discovered why moonshine is illegal. It’s not because it tastes like lighter fluid, as I’d always suspected, but rather because it tastes so smooth and goes down like water. I’m hesitant to share the 1942, but I let the guys try it.


Emma Paull, manager of the Royal British Virgin Islands Yacht Club, joins us in time to sample Cantina Pie ($11.95)—peppers, onions, tomatoes, corn, feta cheese, cheddar cheese and marinated grilled chicken stacked between two corn tostadas served with rice and peas, a side salad and guacamole. Emma declares the chicken moist, well seasoned and fresh tasting. Jamie brings her a fishbowl-sized margarita and jokes, “My regulars say if you’ve had one of these, you’ve had three too many.”

Soon the main courses are served, and we all dig in. Todd bites into his eight-ounce, hand-patted Cantina burger ($11.95), crowned with mushrooms, fried onions, cheese and bacon, and declares it “the best burger on the island, hands down.” The tender prawns and Mexican rice in Mason’s enchilada ($14.95) have absorbed the complementary flavours of the creamy chipotle sauce in which Chef Paul baked it. Emma’s humongous chimichanga ($13.95), packed with beef, rice, seasoned vegetables and cheese, could feed a family of four.

My pizza arrives loaded with cherry peppers, jalapeños, pineapple and onion ($12.00). Pizza is not exactly Mexican, I know, but so few places on the island make their own hand-tossed crust that I couldn’t resist. Pizza chef Johnson offers a choice of thin, regular or thick crust. The classic crust on my pizza is chewy, flaky, crispy and buttery all at once. Seriously, this crust is so good that even after I’m way too full to eat another bite of the cheesy, peppery pizza, I cut off the edges and continue to munch on the crust.

Todd’s wife and toddler appear, and I notice children at the other tables as well. Emile’s manages to host a lively happy hour crowd while also maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere. The happy hour special, $1 off all alcoholic beverages, runs from 4:00-7:00 p.m.  I also notice the take away window has gotten busy as Todd’s wife orders a pizza to go.


As stuffed as we all are, with Todd swearing he’ll finish the last bite of burger on his plate, we manage to find room for ice cream. Each flavour of the frozen treat, imported from South Africa, is served in the rind of its fruit—orange, coconut, apple and pineapple ($5.00–$8.00). Somehow these refreshing desserts make me feel less full.

Unlike many restaurants on Tortola, Emile’s is open on Sunday. It’s a perfect place to go after a day of surfing at Josiah’s or sunbathing at any of the East End beaches. Also, before you head home to enjoy your food coma, Jamie offers a DVD exchange program: bring in an old DVD and $2, and you can exchange it for another. He uses the money from the exchange program to buy new movies. 

Emile’s is closed on Tuesdays, but open every other day from 4:00 p.m.
(284) 495-1775