BETTER THAN UBER

With mustard-yellow walls, teal ceilings, and purple pillars, this house-turned-restaurant is anything but ordinary. St. Augustine’s Gypsy Cab Company first opened in 1983, by founder Ned Pollack. No taxi cabs here — just delicious “urban cuisine” that’s as diverse and innovative as the décor.

I stepped into this cozy restaurant at noon and was immediately struck by the colors. After absorbing the brightness, I noticed the artwork displayed on each wall — all manner of styles and mediums. Gypsy Cab supports local artists, and is one of St. Augustine’s SAiRA restaurants — St. Augustine Independent Restaurant Association, whose mission is to encourage the city’s culinary and cultural diversity. Gypsy Cab owner Patrick Morrissey continues to support the local community, not only through the arts, but by sourcing food locally as often as possible.

The restaurant’s clientele includes tattooed grandparents and bouncy toddlers, both of whom fit in nicely in this eclectic spot. Many customers are, indeed, grandparents who ate at Gypsy Cab decades ago, and who have created a legacy of Gypsy-goers through their children and grandchildren. Not many restaurants can boast consistently loyal customers spanning three generations.

Gypsy Cab’s cuisine origins stretch from Germany to the Caribbean. The physical menu itself has been upgraded from its original index card to a standard-sized menu that changes twice daily. At 4 p.m., the kitchen is reassessed and the menu reprinted. This ensures that Gypsy Cab serves only what’s fresh and seasonally available. Jeff Holmes, catering manager, explains that he has quickly reprinted an updated menu hundreds of times. “It’s funny to look at spelling mistakes,” he jokes.

Holmes, at Gypsy Cab for six years, was quick to suggest the top menu items to my friend and me. Our meals began with a salad and the restaurant’s famous house dressing, which they bottle and sell. After one bite, I could see why. I’d been expecting a sweet vinaigrette and was surprised by the thicker, golden dressing that accompanied finely chopped cabbage, carrots, and lettuce. The dressing was simultaneously mellow and exciting, bursting with a flavor that reminded me of sunflower seeds. Usually I prefer not to saturate greens with dressing, but I was quick to douse my salad with this golden perfection.

According to Holmes, the Gypsy chicken is the restaurant’s go-to meal, a favorite for more than 30 years. Holmes also recommends blackened chicken nachos ($9). Unabashed Tex-Mex lover that I am, I ordered the nachos; my friend tried the Gypsy. I’m not sure who was happier with their meal. The nacho chips were piled high with chicken, cheese, cherry peppers, scallions, and olives. Most nachos I eat consist of 50 chips, three pieces of meat, and a pool of cheese. At Gypsy Cab, each bite I took was compact with flavor and sustenance. Chef Jeffrey Herr and his team aren’t afraid to be liberal with the toppings, and I was stuffed after clearing only a third of my plate. Good news: The leftovers taste almost as fantastic.

The Gypsy ($12) is similar to cordon bleu, only much, much better. The breaded breast is baked around Swiss cheese until it’s golden brown, and topped with a mushroom gravy. Purple cabbage, broccoli, and mashed potatoes add beautiful coloring to this savory dish.

We sealed the fate of expanding waistlines with an irresistible chocolate peanut butter pie ($5) snugged in a graham cracker crust. Imagine a giant Reese’s cup in pie form, then take away the scary ingredients and add a swirl of cream cheese filling, plus a drizzle of fudge and a few sprinkles of powdered sugar. Delicious — Gypsy’s peanut butter pie is hard to beat.

Next door to Gypsy Cab is the Corner Bar, also owned by Morrissey. Gypsy’s cooking team utilizes both restaurant’s kitchens, especially on Tuesday nights. Starting at 5 p.m., Corner Bar’s Taco Tuesdays feature $1 tacos and $3 margaritas. Customers flock back and forth from Gypsy Cab to Corner Bar — happy and well-fed.

Gypsy Cab Company isn’t afraid to be itself. The generations of satisfied customers are a testament that unconventional places are many times the best places.

About EU Jacksonville

october, 2021

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