Centro Restaurant and Piano Bar

Centro Restaurant and Piano Bar is the new St. Augustine Steakhouse.  White tablecloths, a baby grand piano and a rose on each table hint at the fine dining experience they promise.  Could they fulfill the expectations they set when I walked in the door?

Centro Restaurant and Piano Bar opens on St. Augustine's plaza.

Elegant without being stuffy... mission accomplished.

Hubby and I popped in late one evening during Centro’s 2nd week open unsure of whether they’d still seat us. Although the last diners were leaving, we were welcomed without hesitation- what hospitality!  Turns out they’re open from noon to midnight daily- it’s nice to be able to order from a full menu late at night.

That dinner menu is short… well, the menu is LONG but only because they used very large print.

Their facebook page describes their focus as a, “chef driven steak & seafood fine dining restaurant. Featuring World cuisine.”  We decided it was too late for a rich Osso Bucco meal -I’ll be back for that- and tried some of the World Cuisine flavors highlighted.

Starter ~ Argentine Empanadas

We vascillated between Argentine Empanadas ($10) and Sicilian Eggplant Caponata ($14) for our starter, finally deciding on the empanadas.  One chicken, one beef, side of chimichurri sauce.

I wasn’t thrilled with these, honestly.  They were both a bit dry.  Though the chicken empanada was more moist and the chimichurri helped in that regard, I wouldn’t order this app again.  Y’all know I hate to say that- but what good is a review if it isn’t honest?

Centro House Salad

My Centro House Salad came next and made up for the empanadas!  I loved the house dressing {can I have that recipe, please Centro!?!} and the presentation was creative- it’s served in a parmesan cheese basket.

protip: Order the Centro House Salad.  It’s tasty! But don’t eat the basket.

I found hubby’s French Onion Soup ($8) to be good but salty.  He raved over it!  He was less thrilled with his beer options.  

Centro has a bar but currently only has their beer & wine license.  They’ve applied for a liquor license and when that comes through, I can see myself relaxing in the “lounge” by the window and enjoying the view of the plaza.  Until then, stick with wine.  There are fewer than 14 beers on the list and not all were available when we were there.

Centro's bar is beer & wine only for now.

So the front of the restaurant boasts gorgeous views of the plaza and the back of the restaurant is dominated by this gorgeous baby grand.  Centro is tagged as a Restaurant & Piano Bar but I’ve been by several times and never seen anyone at the piano.  Growing pains, people.  I’m sure it will all come together… in the meanwhile, if you’re looking for a perfect meal, great service and no hiccups head over to Collage on Hypolita Street.  It remains our fave fine dining option.

When there is a pianist to tickle these ivories, it will add gorgeous ambiance!  Maybe I’ll time my drink in the lounge so I can listen to live music then, too.  Add “people watching on the plaza ” to create a trifecta = guaranteed success. :)

Speaking of people watching... hubba hubba hubby!

Centro is a beautiful restaurant in a perfect location.  It’s nice to have another special occasion restaurant in St. Augustine!  They’re still working out the kinks of a new place, and developing a reliable waitstaff but with warm hospitality and tasty food on their developing menu, I’m hopeful for their success.  We’ll be back!

Centro Restaurant and Piano Bar
17 King Street
(904) 547-2542
open noon to midnight daily 

Aviles Restaurant

The best parts of my job are meeting the locals that make St. Augustine special and discovering new gems here on the First Coast.  Aviles Restaurant, tucked away in the Bayfront Hilton, is one of those hidden gems I’m happy to recommend now.

Here are the reasons why I recommend Aviles and my few reservations as well:

Aviles Bar's Hot Dahlia is one of my favorite drinks in St. Augustine.

One reason I love Aviles is their unique offerings from the bar.  Restaurant Manager Melissa and team have brought some great flavors to St. Augustine like the Hot Dahlia- a drink I recently wrote about as the best in town for First Coast Magazine!

Why I love it: They infuse the tequila with peppers and herbs grown in their rooftop garden and the drink maintains quite a KICK!  I adore the sweet, tropical pineapple balanced by spice of this quintessentially Florida cocktail.

Spanish take on a Caesar Salad FTW!

The Spanish Caesar Salad ($9) surprised me even more than the Hot Dahlia did.  I ordered it with great hesitation… garbanzo croutons? A Latin influenced caesar dressing? I took the gamble and ordered it in spite of my reservations and am so.glad.I.did.

The tender lettuce leaves sliced easily enough but I was glad I was dining with my hubby of 15 years, not a business colleague, when one too-large bite left me with dressing smeared across my cheek!  That surprise faded once the creamy, spiced dressing, shaved manchego cheese and crispy fried garbanzos all hit my palate.  Wow!  After 12 years as a vegetarian who has munched all manner of salads, I can attest that this salad is indeed tasty!

But enough about salads and drinks… the entrees at Aviles Restaurant in St. Augustine are also pretty dog-gone good.

Aviles Fresh Catch, expertly prepared.

The Fresh Catch {locally snagged Wahoo} with haricot vert {green beans, y’all} and a poblano sauce.  Fish was fresh and well prepared, the veggies were tasty and didn’t taste like an afterthought tossed on my plate.  Thank you, chef.

Filet au Poivre

Aviles is a hotel restaurant and offers different specials throughout the week.  Thursday is all-you-can-eat pasta night, Friday and Saturday nights are Steakhouse Nights.  Guess which night this former vegetarian picked?!

My steak was perfectly cooked {I’m a medium-rare gal} but I would have liked a little more seasoning on the steak itself.  I ordered my Filet au Poivre ($29) so I’m assuming the chef intended for the sauce to be the source of any additional flavor.

For you steak purists, I know you’re thinking I’m crazy right now that I wanted anything added to my filet.  I’m sorry.

Anyways, I did want a bit of spice but I didn’t like the green peppercorn sauce.  The peppercorns were so pervasive that their texture was very distracting from the smooth, buttery feel of the filet.  Lesson learned!  I would also forego the onions I ordered on the side but don’t even think about taking away my ramekin of perfectly mashed potatoes.  Delish!

NY Strip and Lobster Mac & Cheese

The only complaint hubby had about his NY Strip was that he couldn’t finish it.  Leftovers were great the next day! The Lobster Mac & Cheese was cheesy and delish in its own right- he didn’t save any of that!

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the view…

One table kind of has a water view... we were lucky to snag it on our first visit to Aviles!

Our table offered a view of the water but also a clear view of the main hotel door into the lobby.

The dining room is comfortable and somewhat set apart from the hotel lobby {the lobby area is on the other side of those arched windows on the left, below}.  But it is in the hotel lobby.  So whether this is a good or bad depends on your table and your outlook that day- do you find it entertaining to watch newcomers roll in with their luggage?  Aviles Restaurant and Bayfront Hilton have done their best to make the ambiance enjoyable.

The cappuccino is good.

Bread Pudding is ok… it’s very, very hard to beat Harry’s Chocolate Bread Pudding!

But this flourless chocolate cake is delish!  Mmm… chocolate so dark you need fresh raspberries to cut it is amazing in my book!

We left through the Hilton Bayfront’s lobby and vowed to return to the restaurant and hotel for a local slipaway some night soon!

Aviles Restaurant and Bar
32 Avenida Menendez
(904) 829-2277

Aviles Restaurant on Urbanspoon

It’s disclosure time! I have eaten at Aviles on several occasions.  We were invited to one leisurely meal so I could photograph and share with you.  Most of these photos are from that meal and all opinions are my honest-to-goodness ones!  Bon appetit!

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