As Christopher and Lisa Binns walk from their hilltop home to greet guests, two eager puppies barrel down the path, wagging their tails. It’s a friendly welcome to their restaurant (and home), Stush in the Bush. The vegetarian restaurant on Zionites Farm has created a major buzz since it opened in April 2014. The food is crazy-delicious, for one thing, with grilled pizzas, just-picked salads and flavorful, vegetable-forward plates. But the experience is about so much more than the food. Visitors reserve space ahead of time, and they are often the only guests eating on the long table (which Chris built himself). It feels much more like a dinner party than a restaurant, and so much of the intimate experience is about getting to know the Binns.
“Mr. Binns, come over here now,” says Lisa, using her favorite term of endearment. “It’s time for you to chat.” And then the love story begins.
In 2009 Lisa was in Jamaica, on vacation from a busy life as a teacher in New York City. While at the Fi Wi Sinting Festival in Portland, Jamaica, she spotted a slim Rasta standing on the other side of the room. The moment was electric for them both. “I looked up from what I was doing, and I saw Lisa,” says Chris. “I had tunnel vision.” They met, exchanged a few words, but he was busy bartending, so they parted ways.
Luckily, a week later they attended a dinner with mutual friends.“We were so wrapped up in each other,” says Chris. They took a walk and ended up on the beach, standing on an inlet above the ocean, with the night sky glimmering from the moon and the water gently lapping against the rocks below. Taken aback by the romance of the moment, Lisa thought, I can’t believe this is happening to me. When Chris told Lisa that he works as a farmer, all she could say was, “Oh, so you grow things?” A “mighty stupid” thing to say, she admits. Chris told Lisa that the first thing they’ll grow together will be tomatoes. “He held my hand and gave me a kiss on the head. It was just lovely.”
After returning to New York City the next day, Lisa couldn’t get Chris out of her mind. She told her mother about him, and her mother was delighted to hear her daughter so happy. A few days later, Lisa’s mother passed away. Chris flew to Barbados (where Lisa is originally from) to attend the funeral. He met the family, who unanimously approved of him—after a little interrogation from Lisa’s protective aunt. Though aware that making life choices after experiencing a tragedy is not the best idea, Lisa decided to make the rashest decision of all: “I married the man two months later.”
That was six years ago. Today, they’ve translated their passions for organic farming and good eating into Stush in the Bush. The name comes from Lisa’s self-described “stush” disposition—that’s Jamaican slang for someone who is excessively prim and proper—and Chris’s love for nature—aka “the bush.” Chris gives visitors a walking tour of the 15-acre farm overlooking the small community of Free Hill, and their octagon-shaped, solar-powered wooden home (“where all the magic happens,” says Lisa).
In the yard under a tin canopy stretches a long wooden table where Chris and Lisa seat their guests, who choose between a five-course menu starring grilled pizza—a recent pie came topped with the odd-sounding but delicious combo of cherry tomatoes, basil, plantains, pineapple and roasted eggplant—or the full spread. That option includes appetizers (such as coconut-crusted yam-and-pineapple croquettes); soup and salad courses (think chilled avocado and basil soup, and peppery greens with mango-lime-ginger vinaigrette); Lisa’s vegetable-heavy entrees, which look a little like this; something fresh and sweet, like key lime pie or passionfruit cheesecake, and just-squeezed juice (ginger and lemongrass, or watermelon and lime). The Binns grow what they can, and source the rest from small organic farms nearby.
Three times a year during a full moon, the couple hosts Moonlight at Zionites Farm—a dinner for around 70 people, held outdoors under naseberry and eucalyptus trees. The next one will be held in early January 2016. We suggest you sign-up for the newsletter to be in-the-know on all the upcoming details. Being in the bush “doesn’t mean you have to dress like it,” says Lisa—who’s all about being glamorous and who recommends a look she calls #BushGlam.
The husband and wife produce a line of popular Stush in the Bush bottled products, including chimichurri, passionfruit butter, mango-lime-ginger vinaigrette and a peppery hot sauce called blow fyah. The sweet, tangy, fruity and spicy sauces make perfect souvenirs and are sold all over the island: at Stush in the Bush, in hotel gift shops (including Island Outpost properties), and at local markets. When you find yourself scraping the sides of the bottle in a few months (or weeks!), it’s time for a trip back to
your new best friend’s home Stush in the Bush.