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Foodie bound for St. Augustine

Hope you chow hounders can help us!
We are balto/dc foodies visiting family in St Augustine, all I've found off the travel websites are: Denny's and a Cuban place (Columbia).
Can anyone recommend anywhere else? We are adventureous eaters, love seafood and ethnic cuisine. We detest chains and fast food, so any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
My bf has a penchant for ribs @ the moment, so any good rib places? We'll have a car, but would much prefer to be able to walk - but we might be pushing it given it's a big 'driving town'.

thanks!

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  1. There are no good places for ribs in St Augustine's, so don't even consider Sonny's on US Rte 1. The best seafood you'll get is at Osteen's, which is just over the Bridge of Lions going onto Anastasia Island from downtown.

    You might try Harry's for a pleasant courtyard experience, St Augustine's answer to New Orleans cuisine. Locals will recommend eating at the Casa Monica Hotel downtown, and it's certainly OK and expensive. But instead of that, consider going next door to the Old City House, better food, and much better service.

    La Parisienne on Hypolita Street is passable French food served inside a dreary restaurant. And do avoid the Santa Maria Restaurant located out on the pier downtown, it's really not a good place to eat.

    Old City may require reservations for dinner. Osteen's is very casual, lots like a New England seafood spot. Harry's is better for lunch on a nice day, rather than dinner.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mardy

      thanks for the suggestions. we've got a couple of weeks yet, so will keep checking back in. in the meantime, if someone thinks of a good rib place between Jacksonville Airport and St. Auggie, please let me know. The poor boy is salivating!

      And, if I was to do just one 'special' dinner, should that be Opas 39? - i read the reviews in previous boards but is it REALLY THAT good, of late?
      thanks

      1. re: aussiewonder

        if you're looking for excellent ribs / Q in STaug, good luck.

        if you're open to the whole foodie scene between the jax airport and STaug -- interesting request. +smile+ that's a large area.

        1. re: aussiewonder

          Well now, that's different. I hate to pull in a chain at this point, but if ribs is your quest, my current choice is at a regional chain called Sticky Fingers. Don't know what their secret is, but they've got the rib thing absolutely down. The sides and the rest are basically unremarkable, but the Memphis style dry-rub ribs are clearly the best fall-off-the-bone succulent finger licking yummy experience currently going. Check their web site for the Jacksonville location (at Fla. Hwy 9A and Baymeadows - it's likely the closest to your path.)

          AND, while you're headed to and from the Jacksonville airport, let me point you to Jax's leading chowish experience. Check the board for Blue Boy sandwich shop - in a 'non-upscale' area in North Jacksonville (find Blue Boy Norwood Ave.), these guys don't even have a sign over the door right now, but I guarantee an experience you'll not soon forget. Open only from breakfast thru lunch, if you pull in here on your way to or from the Jax airport (it's only about two minutes off I-95) you'll thank me. It's really about the bread (baked in-house) and the skill of a grill crew that's been in the same shop for 15-20 years now. I have reviews available on this board, just look at my archives here. Drop in and meet a few of Jax's finest - they're always in here eating something. Don't miss it if you get the chance.

          re: Opus 39, in my opinion, yes. Terrific stuff. Not chowish, but fine dining at its best.

          Good luck and happy chowing!!

          1. re: aussiewonder

            BBQ joint between the JAX airport and St. Auggie? Thats easy. Mojos BBQ off University and San Jose in Jacksonville. One of the best 'cue joints in town, in my opinion.

            1. re: TexSkills

              PLEASE do not eat at MOJO's! The meat is tender enough, but there is zero flavor. I have lived in Jax for 3 years and a Kansas City native. I've eaten at Mojos and Sticky Fingers, both to the point of requesting a refund. When in FL, eat what's local...seafood! The most for your $ are fish shacks.

        2. You might want to try this link:http://www.therestauranttimes.net/din...
          On a drive south from DC, we stopped in St. Augustine to see the sights. I had originally wanted to go to Saltwater Cowboys, but it was not open for lunch, so ended up at a beach bar, Mangos or Panama Hatties, I think, for a fun beach lunch.

          1. Read through this recent thread - it should be of value... I won't repeat the contents, but you get some good tips here.

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/378577

            1. I had a few great meals at La Parisienne. Barnacle Bill's was decent but not especially inspiring.

              1. The Columbia is not a cuban restaurant, but a spanish restaraunt, It is outstanding. It started in Tampa, Florida in 1905. The stories I could tell you....LOL It is as good as the original, while there pick up a copy of the Book Richard Gonzmarts mother wrote. Abdella and Cesar started the retaurant in Ybor City in 1905. Another fave. of mine is A1A it is outstanding as well. You must try the key lime lobster pasta. It is out of this world. We go over once a year just for that. It is on the corner of A1A and I want to say King street. It is right across from the Bridge of Lions, on the second floor. Well worth the trip. The columbia is at the corner of George and Hypolita streets. In the old part of the city.

                3 Replies
                1. re: cookiewiz

                  If you have one evening for dinner in St Augustine, try getting into Opus 39--it's easier said than done. Failing that, try the aforementioned Old City House--reservations also required.

                  Forget the Columbia, there are several around Florida and this is not one of the better ones. Looks inviting from the outside, but that's where it ends....

                  The A1A Alehouse can serve up a decent meal, but it wouldn't be your choice for one special night. And you will have a challenge finding decent ribs in northeast Florida, they just don't prepare them properly like in the midwest......

                    1. re: mardy

                      My husband and I were in S.A. last August to celebrate our 3rd anniversary and being the foodie that I am, I traveled to all the web sites trying to see what we would enjoy the most. We had two evenings and wen to Opus 39 and to Old City House. OCH we went to on Friday night and two good friends of us joined us from Jascksonville. We had a great evening, haveing a bottle of wine and other drinks. I don't remember what we had, we actually had two bottles of wine, but I remember that everyone was happy with what they ordered. We were kind of the rowdy table, with the rest of the tables being two tops, and even then we weren't really that loud.
                      http://www.oldcityhouse.com/restauran...

                      In my eyes Opus wasn't worth it. Don't get me wrong the food was good, I guess it was just with all the walking around we did all day I needed more to fill me up. Definitely head back to the wine room and let them help you choose something you like.
                      http://www.opus39.com/

                      Let us know where you went when you get back!

                  1. Saltwater Cowboys for bbq without a doubt. I don't even like bbq but I eat the ribs everytime there!!! The restaurant is located on the marsh and has fabulous atmosphere in addition to the great food. But, be warned, either get there as soon as they open (which I think is 5pm, 4pm on holidays) or plan to wait for a good hour or two outside in the heat and with the buggies. The bugs are so bad the restaurant gives out skin so soft so that you aren't eaten alive while you wait.

                    I second Osteens. Small restaurant, no real atmosphere (except to herd the masses in and out as quickly as possible) to speak of, but great seafood and yummy sides. While you wait (which again, could be an hour or two depending on the time of day) you can go to the antique shop across the parking lot. The names for the restaurant are called out inside the shop.

                    I also like Gypsy Cab Company a lot. Everything is made fresh daily including the desserts and the menu changes every day based on what is fresh.

                    Good luck!
                    Chris

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chriscinfl

                      IMHO, Osteens is a tourist nightmare. People line up around the building to wait in line for average food. Try Creekside or Saltwater Cowboys. They both have a nice atmosphere and good food.One of my most memorable meals was at Opus 39, just a few weeks ago. Great food, service and a pleasant experience. Mangos is a nice relaxed beachy type restaurant. The Purple Olive is another one of my favorites.
                      Let us know where you decided to venture.

                    2. one of my Favorites is Cafe A1A. The Columbia is also great. It is a little more upscale than most. Saltwater cowboys is also great. If you do go to the Columbia, the 1905 salad is wonderful. The original Columbia restaurant was founded in Ybor City in 1905. It is the same salad they have made since then. I think Casey Gonsmart runs the one in St. Augustine. My husbands went to school with he and his brother Richard. They also have a couple books out, they are worth the price. I love mine. Richards mom signed mine before she passed away. She was an amazing Lady!

                      1. A nice thing about St. Augustine is that there a lot of owner owned restaurants and you can go a long time and avoid chains. Opus 39 is the best gourmet food- pre fixe 5 course, fun wine experience. The Casa Monica Hotel food is good, nice atmosphere and good martini's. I eat a Gypsy Cab at least 2x week- its my comfort spot, come as you are, - and has good fish specials (like sesame crusted grouper with wasabi sauce) to great lamb shank.Their salad dressing- tamari, garlic, nutritional yeast, tates creamy bur no dairy is addictive. Good key lime or pnut butter pie. Noisey and nice. Oh always get the mashed potatoes if you can- they are really good. Good casual, low cost brunch at the beach is Cafe 11, omelets to order, yummy baked french toast and salad too-great coffee- I think its less than $10. Very casual, I think its on Sat. and Sunday- call for hours. I could go on- but that its for starters!

                        1. chriscinfl is right on the money about good ribs at Saltwater Cowboys. I have been dining there for 17 years, and they have truly excellent ribs. When I am there, I usually order the chicken & ribs combo with upgrade to house salad & 2 sides.

                          I also agree with mardy about the Columbia. Their food is good, definitely not great, and you can do much better if you venture outside the historic area. Why so many people are enamored with it, I don't know. It is a chain (albeit a small chain) and not the strongest one in the organization.

                          Also agree with cathi50 regarding Gypsy Cab Co. Brunch there is an excellent value considering food quality and price. I have never had a bad dinner there either.

                          1. i would recommend Gypsy Cab, Columbia, Raintree, Fiddlers at Vilano Beach, A1A Alehouse. There's also the Creekside Dinery off U.S. 1.

                            Second the caution about Santa Maria.

                            1. Creekside is awesome, but you will definitely need to drive to get there. Also, if you're walking on Georgesreet, the Florida Craker is pretty good for a fish sandwich. You also must try the pralines at Savannah Sweets infront of the Cracker.