You’ve gotta figure that if a town has been around for 451 years, as St. Augustine has been, there’s an awful lot there you need, and want, to see, explore and experience when you visit the oldest town in America. Remember your elementary school days and those social studies classes where you spent time learning about Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth? It’s there. Yep, right there in St. Augustine. And you can taste it (no, it doesn’t taste like chicken). Got a thing for railroads and old forts? This country’s first are in St. Augustine.
But this charming Florida town isn’t just about the history you studied in school. St. Augustine, with its blend of Spanish influenced architecture, is exceptionally well laid out for walking and exploring. It boasts Flagler College, one of the most beautiful settings you could imagine for expanding your mind and a dining hall like no other, Victorian houses, a relaxing waterfront that warrants a stroll, pirate ships, a craft distillery (more on that in a moment), 100+ year old trees, the World Golf & Hall of Fame Museum, a schooner for twilight sails, and Florida’s oldest planned cemetery with plots dating back to 1565.
Lodging, drinking and dining options are plenty but the best way to take advantage of St. Augustine is to book into one of the charming B&B’s like the Bayfront Marin House (below) where you’ll take your breakfast facing the water, or in a hammock.
Whatever seat you choose you’ll want to make it home base for the duration of your stay, especially when your stay involves checking out the newly launched Florida Citrus cocktail trail.
Here’s what the locals hope you’ll enjoy:
Philip McDaniel – Owner & Distiller at St.
Augustine Distillery suggests you try:
Owned by husband and wife, Genie and Jeff McNally, The Floridian is a
two-story eclectic eatery featuring Southern comfort food. The restaurant’s
menu changes based on the seasons and what ingredients can be attained from
local purveyors including CartWheel Ranch Meats, Sweet Grass Dairy, tempeh,
local shrimp and fish, and produce such as strawberries, blueberries and
greens. Personal favorites include Fried Green Tomato Bruschetta, Cornbread
Stack, Shrimp ‘N Grits and anything with their pimento cheese.
Ice Plant Bar
Housed in a renovated ice plant from the turn-of-the-century, next door to
St. Augustine Distillery, is Ice Plant Bar. Established a little over two
years ago, Ice Plant features one of the top craft cocktail bar programs in
the Southeast. They also make all of their own ice by freezing purified
water in large blocks and cutting it into six different formats. The drink
and food menus change seasonally, but some tried and true favorites include
their smoked fish dip with grilled sourdough bread and pickled okra, soft
pretzel bread with beer cheese fondue and dijonnaise, half-pound burger with
hand cut fries, and roasted local beet salad.
The Present Moment Café
An organic, vegetarian café that specializes in the preparation of
unprocessed living gourmet food, Present Moment has become one of the
preeminent raw restaurants in the country. Owned by Yvette and Nathan
Schindler, try the eatery’s Tacos of Life with pine nut and walnut pate,
Sunlight Burger topped with caramelized onions, and Pad Thai with sweet and
spicy Asian vegetables served over kelp noodles.
Other notable restaurants include:
St. Augustine institution that always has a line out the door. Known for
their fried shrimp. They only take cash.
The Back 40 Urban Café
Where the locals eat. Located off the beaten path, Back 40 has an acclaimed
taco happy hour. Check out their wet burrito, which equates to two to three
meals in one.
Since man doesn’t live on delicious hot breakfasts and afternoon wine & cheese hours at a B&B Sandy Wieber, Owner, Bayfront Marin House, likes to send her guests to:
Cap’s on the Water
Most people don’t find Cap’s on their first visit, but
it’s well worth seeking out. Located just a few miles outside of the
historic district, on Vilano Beach, Cap’s is old Florida-from their live
oaks to their private dock, perfect for accessing the restaurant from the
water. Sit on the waterfront deck and ask about the fresh catch, which is
usually served in a variety of preparations. Open for dinner every night,
and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. Call for directions-it can be tricky! 4325
Myrtle Street, St. Augustine. (904) 824-8794. www. capsonthewater.com
Café Alcazar. Located in the center of town, Café Alcazar is not so much on
the water as it’s in it. The restaurant is in the deep end of a historic
indoor swimming pool, at one time the largest in Florida, and the center of
Henry Flagler’s lovely Alcazar Hotel. Today live music, not water, fills the pool, and
guests enjoy a casual lunchtime menu of sandwiches and soups. Order any of
the paninis with sweet purple onions-they will send you off the deep end.
Open for lunch daily, and a monthly dinner service on First Fridays. 25
Granada Street, St. Augustine (inside the Lightner Museum). (904)825-9948.
The Ice Plant
Climb the stairs to this bar/restaurant, and you will feel
like you’re going back in time. Back to a time when the men wore suspenders,
and the smooth frozen water was cut or chipped by hand. Enjoy the craft
cocktails, but don’t drink too much-you’ll want to save room for the
restaurant’s fine local fare, like the ½ pound meatloaf sandwich made from
grass-fed Georgia beef, and the bacon fat braised meatballs, with tomato jam
and balsamic onions. Located next to the St. Augustine distillery, which
offers free tours and samples throughout the day. The bar is open every day
from 11:30 til late night. 100 Riberia Street, St. Augustine. (904)829-6553.
www.iceplantbar.com and www.staugustinedistillery.com.
If you prefer your water with beans, stop by this little
wooden building right across from the fort. Try the smooth brewed coffee, a
fancier macchiato, or the even fancier desserts in their glass case. Wait
for your favorite cup in the adjoining garden area-it’s the perfect place to
slow down in St. Augustine and enjoy the breeze off the water. Open daily.
26 Charlotte Street, St. Augustine. (904)810-2080.
And, for more about that cocktail trail…