Food prepared with a sense of dedication to the best of the local cuisine can be a moving target for visitors new to the
Fortunately for the discriminating diner,
With that in mind, my tips for enjoying the local flavors of
First, I recommend you familiarize yourself with my lexicon of
- The datil pepper is said to be grown only in
. A hot sauce is made from the peppers and is a thick, warm, and spicy condiment. Buy a bottle to take home with you and also try the relishes that made from the same pepper. St. Johns County
- A Ryder is a pita stuffed sandwich with a meat (my favorite is roast beef), lettuce, tomato, and a condiment.
- Minorcan clam chowder is a delicious favorite with an annual cook off held on
. The chowder can be distantly likened to a Manhattan clam chowder and is usually spiced with datil peppers or sauce. St. Augustine Beach
- Pilau (pronounced PURR-
LOW) is a rice dish with shrimp or chicken spiced with pepper etc.. To natives, it is the ultimate comfort food. A Sunday evening meal in the back yard with friends and a warm pot of pilau is seventh heaven for me.
Second, the following are parts of my strategy for finding the restaurants who are at the top of their form:
- If you can, avoid weekends. Too many people in too small a place. If not, try restaurants at off hours, early or late. Lunches out can be cheaper and less hectic.
- Pick restaurants where the wait staff never changes. They are happy with their work because the customers are happy with the food.
- Personally, I go for local color and there is still an ample amount to be found. Try the datil pepper sauces and signature dishes even if you have no idea what they are. You will be baptized in the spirit of
if you do. St. Augustine
- Develop a method or network of locals whom you trust so that you can learn the current state of affairs in local cuisine. Businesses are bought and sold and a restaurant that was a knock out on one visit can knock you down on the next.
- Patronize restaurants that change the oil in their fryers frequently. Fried foods will not taste greasy, but will be crisp, light, and clean. Dark colors in fried food is a sign of old oil.
For local seafood and the benchmark
O’Steen’s fried chicken is perfection on a plate. Most people never taste it because the shrimp is world-famous. My solution is to get a chicken breast on the side.
Another specialite de la restaurante is their Minorcan clam chowder. Mucho perfecto.
The desserts are fabulous, but I have never gotten that far.
Oh, oh, oh…..I almost forgot……the hushpuppies will make you crawl on your belly like a reptile.
O’steen’s has several indicators of quality that I look for and should never fail you. The oil that they use to fry their shrimp in always appears fresh and clean. The shrimp never comes out any way other than light and tasty as opposed to the dingy and greasy tastes that over-used oil produces. Second, the waitresses at O’steens almost never change. This means that they are selling a product that is consistently loved by their customers and consistently provides them and the restaurant with a very comfortable income. Service is the best that southern and
Johnnie’s [UNFORTUNATELY, JOHNNIE'S BIT THE DUST AND IS CLOSED, DARN IT]
Johnnie’s is a take out sandwich shop located at
Other choices to report on later
My favorites in town include:
Grill at South Beach Crescent Beach
- Salt Water Cowboys for dining while watching the sunset over the
- The Oasis for lunch or breakfast. Their meals are genuinely good, rich, and filling. They specialize in breakfast.
- A1A Ale House by the
– Go upstairs from the home brew bar and you will find a tropically designed restaurant with Floribbean cuisine. I have had many great meals there. Highly recommended. Bridgeof Lions
Do not fail…..I repeat…..DO NOT FAIL to go to the Trade Winds for happy hour. For decades a center of town social life, TW’s will lubricate your engine and put you in the mood for your stay there. Please put your tourist attire away and be as informal as possible. You will enjoy your stay more and be better accepted by the locals.