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St. Augustine - help, please

I'll be traveling to St. Augustine by car from Miami Beach this Sunday and returning on Wed.
I'm accompanying someone who'll be there for business and I'll have plenty of free time on my hands. I'm looking for great places to eat and any interesting food markets and bakeries. The car is available to me the entire time and I'm willing to drive a distance for a unique experience.

I dislike chain restaurants. Other than this, I'm willing to give anything a try - cheap or expensive, small or large. We are staying at Casa Monica and will probably eat there at least once. Any tips for dining at Cordova 95?

Please help. Thanks.

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  1. Since you have a car, two places I like that are away from the historic downtown section

    1) Cap's On the Water (http://www.capsonthewater.com/) in Villano Beach - sit out back and relax - this is a place not as filled with tourists, more old florida, no frills.
    2) Saltwater Cowboy (http://www.saltwatercowboys.com/) - try their punch while you wait for a table, florida cracker style food, also no frills. Do you detect a trend yet? :


    In the historic downtown area, Harry's isn't bad (sit out in the garden/courtyard), A1A Brewery is ok, not great either, Columbia is ok (but one of their weaker if not weakest locations food/service wise IMO), the Cordova at the Casa Monica we did one day for lunch and found average. A lot of people are fans of Gypsy Cab, we didn't have a good experience there. The little Mexican place along the Matanzas (down by the fort) I wouldn't try again. Mill top tavern is a good place to grab drinks (one of only places open late, they roll up the sidewalks early in st. augustine), also Stogie's - cigar bar obviously, good drink, good cigars, relaxing atmosphere. Conch House is fun with its little tree houses and atmosphere, but food isn't much. Cap's and Saltwater Cowboy are my faves.

    The only "chains" above would be Harry's and the Columbia, pls post when you get back!


    2 Replies
    1. re: tastetampabay

      Also on the beach not too far from the bridge is "Steen's" (not positive on the name but look for lines of folks sitting or standing outside waiting for the great shrimp (and other good seafood selections too).

      1. re: feelinpeckish

        It's O'Steens! Don't be fooled by their appearance. Their shrimp is among the best in town. O'Steens is best known to locals.

    2. I still salivate when I recall my fish dish from A1A. I love the upstairs balcony. Saltwater is nice, low-key, good location. There's a fried fish place across the bridge that people stand in line for. Mac-somethings. Dunno caps. what a wonderful city it is. cheers.

      1. There are several restaurants that have been left out. First, the best restaurant in St. Augustine is Opus 39 and I'm not the only one to say that. Then if you want tapas go to The Tasting Room. Those two are both downtown. Caps is good too. I'll second that notion but Saltwater is mediorce at best.

          1. If you're staying at the Casa Monica, you are very reasonable walking distance away from Opus 39. 95 Cordova is a good hotel restaurant, but there is no comparison with the kind of cooking you'll find at Opus 39. Search this board and read the reviews - highly recommended - one of the best restaurants in the state, I think. Get reservations and make an evening of it. St. Augustine is full of good places to eat, but this is by far the best.

            The Columbia was better the last time I was there than I remember it being earlier- worth a visit and also walking distance. A1A is also good and close - find a nice day and sit on the verandah upstairs and enjoy some beer and a nice piece of fish to go with the view. I am blanking on the name of the French place between Opus 39 and the Columbia - hopefully someone will add it. We've eaten well there more than once.

            If you have a fetish for memorable fried shrimp, you must try OSteens - talk to the locals and they'll explain how it works, it will be good advice. Don't go before you get the briefing from an experienced OSteens customer, though.

            1. Let us in on the secret Mezz...last time the wait was unbearable! We left, then came back just as they had called our name! We almost missed our seating assignment!!!

              1 Reply
              1. re: netmover

                It's a dynamic process, as far as I can tell. It mainly involves picking your time and getting off-cycle for the rush - you have to push your eating schedule way up or way back depending on which day of the week and what time of year you're going. Best to ask a day or two before you go for your shrimp fix. Like the shrimp, the best advice is fresh.

              2. There is a really good fish taco stand over the bridge on the way to st. augustine beach. Ask a local for exact directions, but it was really good.

                1. Thanks for all the advice. I've been doing some research and wonder if anyone has comments on Collage (formerly La Parisienne), The Tasting Room and Zhanras.

                  Does OSteen's serve anything besides shrimp? If so, what do you recommend?

                  Also, does anyone know of any good mom-and-pop bakeries or artisanal bread makers?


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jacopopoli

                    sorry, no comment on those three places -- i'm always on a fried shrimp mission when i'm in st augie so i either hit south seas (kind of a dive but killer fried shrimp), barnacle bills, or cowboys/fiddlers. i've never actually been to osteens, and i was raised in st augustine. go figure. (too many tourists and always a line) i suppose i'll have to resign myself to ordering take out or waiting someday when we're back in town. ;)

                    conch hut is really fun for drinks if it's still around....i heard the ponce's had sold the property and it was getting torn down for condos or something.

                    i second harry's, A1A aleworks, and also rec OC whites and the white lion. (all of these are within walking distance of st george street and the bridge of lions)

                    you have to walk up and down st. george street - there are several little cookie/candy stores, a couple of restaurants (including columbia) and bakeries.

                    go to google maps, type in st. augustine FL. zoom in on the historic area and type in bakery, you'll get at least 3 on st george st!

                  2. O'Steens is good, closed on Sundays and I believe they only take cash, so be ready for that. They do have other items on the menue but as a first time visitor, go for the signature menu item, Shrimp. Not aware of any great bakery places in St Aug but if you venture north to JAX then you must stop at the French Pantry on Powers Ave. Its a commercial bakery that sells to the hotel and upscale restaurants here in NE Fla. They have incredible rolls, breads and pastries for sale and are open for lunch everyday during the week. The salads and sanwhiches are to die for. Well worth the 45 min drive from St Augustine! I wish they had spell check on here! LOL

                    1. Opus 39 is only open for dinner, as far as I understand. I agree, the best place in town.

                      Bigbob had a great idea to head up to Jacksonville to the French Pantry for bakery and a fantastic lunch! Make sure you get there by 11:30 or prepare to wait in a long line. Have lunch and order pastry to go. They have the best breads, cakes, pastry, muffins etc. A main supplier to several high end restaurants. The daily lunch menu is posted on a chalk board with a variety of salad and sandwich options. Everything here is to die for. It is just a few blocks off I-95 and located in a warehouse district. Mapquest it and don't think you have gotten lost...look for the green awning in the midst of warehouses.

                      Try out Manatee Cafe for a fun breakfast in St. Augustine...not destination dining...a bit of a dive in a strip mall. http://www.manateecafe.com/

                      Send us a report!

                      1. Thanks all for the tips on O'Steens and Opus 39.

                        Will add to the list for a future visit.

                        1. Nobody has mentioned a place in Vilano Beach called Fiddler's Green. The atmosphere is great and the food is really good. It's one of our favorite places near St. Augustine. Also, Raintree is sort of pricey, but the service and food were excellent. We also love Gypsy Cab Company - we've been there 5 or 6 times and always had good food and service.

                          1. A1A Aleworks is VERY inconsistent. I'd avoid it. Had tuna once there that was either bonita or a week old, non-sushi grade. For the classic fried shrimp it's Schooner's, O'Steens or Barnacle Bills. We alternated between the three every time we came in from a day offshore fishing when we had the boat there. With a cold brew you can't go wrong at any of them.