St. Augustine eats

Everyone who lives in Jacksonville and frequents St. Augustine knows about the Columbia and Gypsy Cab Co. These are high profile places that end up on every tourista’s list of dining choices. But what about those places that aren’t so mainstream? Places mostly locals haunt? We’ve gathered a few of St. Augustine’s less spotlighted eateries for those of you looking for something new.
Casa Maya 17 Hypolita St, St. Augustine, 823-1739
If you are in the historic district of St. Augustine, you might want to eat someplace a little different than the standard tourist spots. Exploring side streets off the main drag can sometimes (but not always) lead to culinary gold. Casa Maya is one such place. If you’ve parked in the public lot off of Hypolita, you’ve probably seen it, next to a newish sushi joint. The cuisine is South American. It’s reportedly pretty authentic and made of awesome. Pepitos, quesdadillas and guacamole (not pre-made) are all on the menu.
Ned’s Southside Kitchen & Drive-Thru 2450 US1 S, St. Augustine 794-2088
Take a ride away from the historic district to Ned’s Southside Kitchen on US 1. Owned by Ned Pollack, the genius behind Gypsy Cab Co., this casual eclectic restaurant has something for everybody on the menu. Word has spread, and spread quickly, that Ned’s serves fantastic well-priced fare. You might have a wait, as it’s popular with the locals, but the food is prepared fresh and fast. While the menu does have New American fare such as Gouda cheeseburgers and BLT blackened shrimp salad, it also has a Southwestern slant- you’ll find burritos and nachos on the menu.
Present Moment Cafe 226 West King St, St Augustine, 827-4499
Pleasing to the eye, the food at this raw food vegan restaurant is also pleasing to the tongue. Whether you order a Sunlight “Burger,” a phenomenal carrot ginger juice or a delicious dessert parfait, you might be surprised at what can be done with fresh, organic, all-vegan, uncooked ingredients. While I wouldn’t take fussy eaters here, if you’re into the veggie lifestyle or you enjoy a little culinary adventure, this is the place to go for artistically presented food that you’ve never tasted before.
The Purple Olive 4255 A1A S #6, St .Augustine, 461-1250
In the realm of fine dining, seek out the Purple Olive. Chef-owned and tucked away in a strip mall on A1A, you might not realize that they serve excellently prepared Continental cuisine. They don’t take reservations (a consequence of being in a tourist-laden area) but they will do call-ahead tables. The menu includes items such as veal marsala, blackened ahi tuna, filet, herb rubbed tofu and more. If you want a deal on entrees, (all under $12) come in for their early bird special from 5- 6:30 pm. When not on the special menu, entree items are from about $16- 24, with most on the high side. Closed Sunday and Monday.
The Spanish Bakery 42 ½ St. George St, St. Augustine
Since the Spanish Bakery is near the beaten path of tourists in Old Town, you might expect to have heard of it. But many people never go exploring and the Spanish Bakery is tucked behind main buildings. If you can find the Whetstone on St. George, it’s behind that. It’s only open in the morning and early afternoon, so don’t wait ‘til after 2 pm to try and find it. Bring cash (last time I was there they didn’t accept plastic) and sit in their outdoor courtyard for a filling but affordable lunch. Two people can eat there for under $20. Savor a bowl of picadillo, eat some pork empandas or grab a loaf. Soups, sandwiches and lovely little cookies are also on the menu. For locals, it’s a source of freshly baked breads.