St. Augustine – north Florida’s quintessential beach destination – is proud to be known as America’s oldest city. And this is everywhere in evidence in the downtown area: the old-timey architecture is so quaint as to look like something from Disneyland. You’ll find plenty of blogs and guides telling you where to eat in the historic centre, but less advice on the restaurants and bars outside of that. If you drive down the A1A Florida State Road and Beach Boulevard, both of which run parallel to St. Augustine Beach as you head south along Anastasia Island, you’ll find all sorts of eateries that are a little further from the tourist centre but just as good (if not better).
A Foodie’s Guide to the Best Restaurants in St Augustine
In this Foodie Travel Guide, I’ve pulled together a shortlist of five of my favourite restaurants and cafés, all of which are conveniently close to St. Augustine Beach but off the tourist track.
Whenever I’m in the US, I always seem to gorge myself on tacos, burritos and other Mexican and Tex-Mex goodness that’s generally harder to find in Europe. So I was particularly pleased discover Burrito Works along A1A Beach Boulevard. Order the UFO for something that’s halfway between a taco and a quesadilla but considerably bigger than both – one to share is probably fine for lunch. My UFO came stuffed with green chilli pork, black beans and a range of spicy baja toppings and sauces. A tasty and filling reward after a morning spent swimming at the beach.
A few miles further south towards Crescent Beach, you’ll spot what looks like a Scandinavian chalet that in fact houses the Elkhouse Eatery. The Elkhouse’s chef tracks down some interesting local and regional ingredients – including buffalo and elk meat, as well as plenty of fish and seafood that’s presumably all caught nearby. I loved the cheese curds, which were light as air, pillow-y soft on the inside and lightly crunchy on the outside. We also tried the braised elk tips, which were delicious, as was the seared sesame-coated ahi tuna and the parmesan-crusted rainbow trout. Plus, my niece reported great things about her salted caramel cheesecake!
Service at the Elkhouse was attentive without being overbearing, and we enjoyed our waiter’s wine suggestion. We sat outside on the deck in a thunderstorm during our meal, which was every bit as atmospheric as the cosy interior… A top recommendation all round.
Terra & Acqua
Slightly inland in the diminutive Sea Grove neighbourhood, you’ll find Italian restaurant Terra & Acqua. They offer a large terrace with both sun and shade, which is great if you’re someone who (like me) freezes in American air conditioning. The fritto misto was a lightly battered and crispy range of vegetables, shrimps and calamari, while the gnocchi and ravioli dishes were full of flavour and richly sauced. We were less impressed with the fish we ate there (maybe avoid the “Acqua” half of the menu) but the rest of the food was great – as were the cocktails. Terra & Acqua is also suitable for children and dogs – as I can attest from first-hand experience with my nephew, niece and Yorkshire terrier.
Paladar Cuban Eatery
Down the same route as Elkhouse Eatery but a little further north, we were recommended by a Cuban-Floridian local to try Paladar – a Cuban café and bakery that only just opened earlier this year. It’s in an unassuming location along a strip mall, but don’t let that put you off. The Cuban sandwiches were superb, as were the yuca fries and the various sauces we dipped our sandwiches into. We were too full to try the bakery side of things, but the empanadas and cheesecakes all looked like the real deal.
Finding decent coffee can be a challenge in certain parts of the US, so I was happy to be introduced to The Kookaburra on my first day in Florida. They have four locations in St. Augustine, of which I visited the Beachside and Dondi venues. Both served up a cracking flat white, as well as all sorts of tasty iced coffees, pour-overs and other caffeinated concoctions. They also have coffee beans available for sale, for those who like to brew at home.