June 7, 2005 Sogo's Restaurant dishes up tasty international cuisine with a strong Caribbean slant.
"Curry goat, conch, jerk chicken, mahi mahi with Creole sauce food that people can't get elsewhere," owner Alfred Augustine said in a recent interview.
Of course, the coconut tarts and banana cake made at Sogo's Restaurant keep people coming back.
It's no wonder he favors local fare. Augustine was born in Dominica, where he learned to cook at age 14 because he needed a job. He says he owned a Sogo's Restaurant in Roseau, Dominica before moving to St. John in 1972.
He worked for 17 years as a chef at Caneel Bay Resort before deciding that since he had gone as high as he could go in the resort's kitchens and couldn't jump over the chef who was ahead of him, it was time to strike out on his own. Augustine first operated a catering company, but said Hurricane Hugo in 1989 put the lid on St. John's need for caterers.
So, in 1991, he opened Sogo's Restaurant at what is now Miss Lucy's Restaurant. In 1997, he moved Sogo's Restaurant to its current location in the heart of Cruz Bay near Lemon Tree Mall.
"It's a very tough business," he says.
Because there are now so many restaurants on St. John, and in particular in Cruz Bay, Augustine says that the pie is split very fine and it become harder and harder to make a living.
"Especially if you're not financially well-equipped," he says.
However, getting supplies has gotten easier. He depends on Prime Foods and Merchant's Market, both on St. Thomas, to deliver and often buys produce from Nature's Nook in Cruz Bay.
"It's the modern way of cooking," he says.
He came by the name Sogo in an unusual way. Augustine said that when he decided to open a restaurant in Dominica, he asked an Indian friend for suggestions for a name.
"In Indian, it means beautiful," he said, noting that he wanted a simple name.
Laughing, Augustine says he's met a lot of Indians, but has yet to determine in what dialect the word Sogo is found.
Augustine, 57, runs the restaurant with his wife, Velth, 53. The couple raised three daughters, Elina, 36, Blanche, 34, and Moriah, 26, and a son, McAnthony, 32.
So, who cooks at home?
"My wife does most of it, but I chip in," he says, adding that he doesn't have much free time.
"I have Sunday off, and sometimes I do nothing."
He doesn't get off island much, but allowed that he made a trip to his native Dominica four years ago.
"But it was for a funeral," he notes.
Sogo's Restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
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