Sometimes Jacksonville folks end up touristing in St. Augustine, if only for a weekend or because the inevitable out-of-state relative makes it their vacation destination. And the question always comes up: where to eat? While places such as the Columbia or Gypsy Cab Company end up on every tourist’s list, there are a few places that you can try which make for a great visitor’s experience, but should be on your own list the next time you day-trip to the Oldest City. Everything on this list is on the casual side, so any tourist in flip-flops and ragged shorts can walk in without judgement.
If you haven’t been, the Floridian 39 Cordova Street St. Augustine, FL 32084 (904) 829-0655 is a must-try, and it’s located in the historic district. Their menu features some lovely local sourcing with farm providers such as the CartWheel Ranch out of St. Johns County and Wainwright Dairy from Live Oak, Florida, among others. They feature Southern dishes with hip, fresh twists and vegetarian options. Currently you’ll find them at 39 Cordova, but they will be moved to 72 Spanish Street by mid-September. Hours are a little odd–they’re closed on Tuesdays, but are open 11am-3pm for lunch and open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
At the Floridan, you’ll be surrounded by well-curated Florida kitsch and served by contented hipsters who seem super-happy to work there. Like the Columbia House, it’s touristy enough for out-of-towners, but they do more than their share of local trade.
Although menu does change with the seasons, you can always find the ‘N Grits entree on the Floridan menu. Their ‘N Grits menu item comes with your choice of tofu, shrimp or fish. We recommend classic shrimp remoulade instead of the blackened or grilled. The unlikely flavor combination of salsa, feta, and remoulade makes this dish unique and will keep you coming back.
The Spanish Bakery 42 1/2 St George St, St. Augustine, FL 32084 (904) 342-7859 is the kind of place that makes out-towners feel as though they’re in on a local secret. Since being bought by the folks at Whetstone, they’ve extended their hours and now can run cards (the old owners are still involved, so the food has largely stayed the same). But even though they have extended their hours, we still highly recommend getting there earlier in the day because they do tend to run out of baked goods and all the dining is done outdoors at picnic tables. Empanadas, sugar cookies, and apple turnovers are the big sellers. For the best value, get one of their combos for $6.50, which includes a drink, cookie, and a main item, such as an empanada, soup or sandwich.
The Florida Cracker fixins at Saltwater Cowboy’s 299 Dondanville Rd, St. Augustine, FL 32080 (904) 471-2332 has drawn tourists from all over the country as well as local devotees. Try the Florida Combo for triple threat: gator tail, frog legs, and catfish. They’re also known for their barbecue. In the end, it’s the view of the marsh and gator tail that sells Saltwater Cowboy’s as a genuine Florida experience in St. Augustine.
A newer place on this list, Gas Full Service Restaurant 9 Anastasia Blvd, St. Augustine, FL 32080 (904) 217-0326 is for those with a wider palate, who love Southern and diner-style fare but also crave nouveaux cuisine. That’s what makes it good for parties that contain both adventurous folk and those with a tamer tastes, because there are delicious classics (burgers) alongside more interesting items (like the eggroll reuben). Since it’s actually inside a gas station, the ambiance is super-casual. The burgers earn high praise as some of the best on the First Coast. Their burgers were recently featured on the Cooking Channel in June on the program Junk Food Flip.
If you happen to be out on The Island, you can get a full casual lunch at the Hyppo Cafe (1765 Tree Blvd #5, St. Augustine, FL 32084, (904) 342-7816) but if you’re in the Historic District, their pops are a perfect and delicious cure for the heat of St. Augustine. In the Downtown location of The Hyppo 48 Charlotte St, St. Augustine, FL 32084 (904) 217-7853 it’s all about the sweeter things. Flavors such as mango pineapple or a chocolate dipped coconut pop may attract you, but for real St. Augustine flavor we always recommend the dat’l pepper strawberry, as long as you can take the heat!
The highest quality chocolates in North Florida don’t come from a Kilwin’s. Seeking out Claude’s Chocolates 6 Granada Street St Augustine, FL 32084 (904) 808-8395 will be well worth it for a chocolate connoisseur. You can find them in a charming strip next to the front of the Lightner Museum, across from Flagler College. For those of you who may become addicted to Claude’s and don’t want to drive to St. Augustine for your fix, you can find their stuff at the Green Man Gourmet in Avondale.
Wherever you decide to eat in St. Augustine, whether it be on the Island or in the Historic District, there are many great choices, both for the discerning foodie and the casual tourist.