Dine through History: St. Augustine’s History in Food

This post is in response to Shelley, a facebook fan who needed some help enjoying St. Aug after hours during her work trip! If you have a question, feel free to ask me or post it on facebook or twitter!

St Augustine History Food Tour

Some people come to St. Augustine and never step foot in the fort, climb aboard a trolley or stroll through the Colonial Quarter. They love us for our beaches, our walkability and our local foodie scene. We’re flattered. Really. But you have to explore our history! I mean, we’re the oldest continually occupied city in the US!

{Oops. I got a little excited. Stepping off soapbox now!}

If you’re here on business and don’t have time to explore historic sites, may I present an alternative way to experience St. Augustine’s history? We’ll start with food a la Spanish explorers then move along the timeline to present day Florida. Enjoy a taste of the historic with me!

Spanish Colonial Food

Spanish Colonial History

The City of St. Augustine’s history starts with Spanish colonization. For Spanish Colonial food, head to Taberna del Caballo. Nestled between St. George Street and the Colonial Quarter, Taberna del Caballo is an open-air, candlelit restaurant with many authentic touches- including tapas on the menu. The history of tapas, or small plates served with drinks, reaches back before Pedro Menendez de Aviles set sail from Spain and continues to present day.

Order the Goat Cheese Terrine {$9} and a White Sangria {$5} or a Dark & Stormy with their house made ginger beer to enjoy tapas the Simply St. Augustine way!

Minorcan Foods

Minorcan History

Next in St. Augustine’s history comes the Minorcan chapter {Minorcan? Menorcan? I’ve seen it both ways. If anyone has a solid case for either spelling, please let me know!} Anyways, those people immigrated to Florida from the Mediterranean Islands in the mid 1700s. They were the first mass migration from Europe and most brought a strong faith and some strong peppers… the Minorcan are whom we have to thank for Datil peppers!!

The edible homage to the Minorcan people is a local favorite- Minorcan Chowder. I’m sending you to Hot Shot Bakery for owner Sherry Stoppelbein’s award winning chowder. She claims Minorcan heritage and she produces a whole line of datil pepper products. You’d better believe that her chowder has a spicy kick to it thanks to the Datil B Good hot sauces!

Order Sherry’s Minorcan Chowder for lunch on Tuesday- it’s the only day she makes it most weeks. Hot Shot Bakery is a breakfast & lunch place so if you miss your chance for a great bowl of chowder there, hit Catch 27 for a bowl for dinner any night of the week. They use Datil B Good hot sauce in their recipe, too.

British Colonial Foods

British Colonial History

The Treaty of Paris in 1763 gave Florida to the British. Many loyalists left St. Augustine for Cuba but we’ll come back to that later. For now, we look for a food that will remind you of this period and still taste good. No mushy peas will appear on my blog, thankyouverymuch. Since this is my blog, I’ll grant myself a bit of liberty here and send you to Meehan’s Irish Pub.

Now, before you get yourself all worked up that I don’t know what I’m doing picking an Irish place, I’ll walk you through my thought process. Game meats were very popular in England in the 1700’s. So to be authentic, I could send you to GAS Full Service Restaurant for their wild boar or venison. It’s delish. Really. But you don’t think of venison when I say England, do you? And you don’t want your British Colonial representative to be a gas-station-turned-diner. No matter how great the food is, it won’t feel British Colonial. You probably are expecting fish-n-chips and all that but they didn’t appear in England for another 100 years! Oysters would be a good, period appropriate choice and Johnny’s Oyster Bar {the name for upstairs at Meehan’s} serves some good ones. Aaaand, if you insist, Meehan’s has your fish-n-chips. And a great view of the river.

My order there is always Chef Paul’s curry but that’s Indian and the British Colonial expansion into India was in the 1800s and we’re not there yet so for the sake of some historical accuracy, forget I mentioned his amazing curry.

Second Spanish Period

The Second Spanish Period History

A second Treaty of Paris in 1783 returned Florida to Spain. Adios, Englishmen!

Spain no longer prospered in the colonies and life here was a bit unstable. I’d like to send you to the Spanish Bakery for this bit of history… it’s rustic and has been a local staple for decades. Order in the hut and eat on picnic tables in the courtyard. Order an empanada and add a cinnamon cookie- it’s only $0.75 and it’s a tradition.

Florida Cracker Food

Enter the Florida Cracker History

By now you see how control of St. Augustine has been a bit topsy-turvy. No one has ever defeated the city through a military campaign and our beloved Castillo de San Marcos remains unconquered. We’re proud of that. There were other settlements in America but no other city has been continuously occupied and thrived like St. Augustine has. Just sayin!

By 1821, St. Augustine joined the rest of la Florida as a US Territory but we weren’t an actual state until 1845. Lots of crazy happened including the Second Seminole War & the War Between the States {aka Civil War}.

A Florida Cracker was originally a hard-working Floridian who collected and drove cattle to ports. The term came to be broadly applied to Floridians who lived off the land and, more recently, anyone whose family has lived in Florida for several generations. The Floridian Restaurant serves up Florida Cracker style foods with a hat tip to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling & Cross Creek {Those are affiliate links, by the way. Thanks for paying for 1/500th of a cup of coffee!}. Her cookbook, Cross Creek Cookery, has preserved the flavors of Florida Cracker cookin’. {You cannot say cookING when speaking of Florida crackers. Drawl yer werds out a bit and don’ en’ much wita hard sound.}

At The Floridian, you should try the Fried Green Tomatoes if you’ve never had them. Then have fun with their menu!

Flagler Era Food

The Flagler Era History

Of course an edible history of St. Augustine wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Cafe Alcazar, the lunch-only restaurant in The Lightner Museum {once the Alcazar Hotel}. Henry Flagler linked St. Augustine to other Eastern states by railroad in the late 1800s and it was a glittery time for our city. When you dine at the Alcazar, you’ll be eating in the deep end of what was the world’s largest indoor pool! Set aside time for the museum as well if you can- I’m always floored by the opulence – no, extravagance! – of this time period.

20th Century

1905 History

The Columbia Restaurant opened in Ybor City in 1905. Founded by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez Sr {I told you we’d come back to Cuba!}, it is a Florida institution! I love their Snapper Adelita and their sweet plantains. Their Cuban sandwich is spot-on and the bread, baked daily in Tampa to this day, is legendary.

pre prohibition foods

Pre Prohibition History

Moving forward in history, you’ll want to visit the Ice Plant for pre-prohibition drinks. If you can make time for a tour of the St. Augustine Distillery, you’ll get a glimpse of history in the early 1900s {prohibition started in 1919}. Now don’t waltz up to the bar and order a Rum Runner or a Hurricane. You’ll get the full-on hipster glare from the barkeep in suspenders and tight-rolled slacks. Let the menu be your guide… the Ice Plant makes uh-ma-zing drinks that will make your tastebuds sing! If you have a reserved palate, ask your server to guide you. Even a rum-and-coke is different here, made from small batch rum and house made cola! Both drink & dinner menus change seasonally but we’ve never had anything we don’t like there! Even the burger is crazy good.

1950s era foods

1950s History

No town is complete without a diner… and Georgie’s Diner is a St. Augustine staple. I always order breakfast when we go (I’ve had a bad experience with dinner a couple of times). My fave thing in this old-school diner is the Greek Omelette, my kids always to for pancakes or french toast.

I wish the old Woolworth’s was still around so I could point out that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited St. Augustine. We also have the, umm, distinction of being the only place in Florida Dr. King was arrested. His peaceful protests did eventually shift the tide in the civil rights movement as you know. As a mamma, I’m often asked by a little one, “If you could go anywhere in time and meet anyone, who would you meet?” Dr. King is a man I would have loved to visit with. I have so much respect for the way he coupled passion with respectful action all motivated by his faith in God.

Local Food St Augustine

St Augustine Today

While it’s next to impossible to select one place to encompass St. Augustine today, I’ve forced my own hand by way of this “dine through the decades centuries” post. If you want to experience St. Augustine life in one restaurant, Cap’s on the Water is my choice. Go expecting a wait {because tourists} and a casually paced dinner {because locals} with fresh seafood {because Florida} with a great sunset {because God}.

 

There are so.many.more… what time period would you add to my little history summary? What restaurant would you choose to represent it? We’re fortunate that there are so many! Viva #Florida! Viva #StAugustine!

Comments

  1. Shelley says

    Thank you so much! I can’t wait to try every one of these restaurants!

    • says

      You’re very welcome! 🙂 Thanks for being the inspiration for a fun post.

  2. Kelly Keitzer says

    Caps is by far my favorite seafood place in St Augustine. You really can’t beat the atmosphere. The Floridian is great too. As a lifer in St Augustine and the surrounding areas, I completely agree with all of your restaurants. So many great options!

    • says

      Isn’t Cap’s great? The view is so relaxing. I’m glad I hit some of your favorites! 🙂 ~Allie O.

  3. says

    Thank you so much for this fun and delicious tour! It was a pleasure to read your post, you made me smile and laugh a lot while giving me much needed information. I’m here for two months and I’m planing to start this tour ASAP! Im moving to your city in three months aproximately and this was very encouraging!
    Awesome!

    • says

      I’m so glad I could help you become acquainted with St. Augustine before you arrive! 🙂 And thanks for giggling at my sometimes dry humor. LOL Viva St. Augustine! ~Allie O

  4. Karen Schoel says

    What a delightful read and interesting history, too! And the bit of humor makes the article so enjoyable! Well written. I am also a foodie and will remember this post when we prepare to make it down to SA next month. Can’t wait. BTW- ALL of your posts are wonderful!

    • says

      Thanks for your kind words, Karen! 🙂 Enjoy your visit!! ~Allie O.

  5. Cathy says

    I love the theme of this blog and agree with a lot of it but, after hearing all this hoopla, I tried the Floridian and found it highly overrated. How can anyone screw up a simple shrimp and sausage boil? In my opinion, overcooked or (possibly) frozen shrimp and non-existent sausage is not worth the primo price. I have yet to try Caps but am hesitant because it is one of those places everyone raves over. The one time we started to eat there the hostess was so rude we left and went to Aunt Kate’s. I like Kingfish Grill, great view, nice people, great seafood boil, and you don’t have to drive 10 miles.

    • says

      I’ve never tried Floridian’s shrimp & sausage boil- thanks for alerting me not to bother! I’m so sorry for your poor experience. It’s not our family’s go-to but we have had many solid meals there. For a Florida Cracker place, I still think it’s the best fit.

      As for Cap’s- this blog may shed some light on what to expect: http://www.simplystaugustine.com/dining/caps-on-the-water/ In a nutshell, the service is ok and the food is good but the view is amazing! 🙂 It encompasses St. Augustine Life well, IMO.

      Aunt Kate’s is a solid option, too! More amazing views and their blackened fish is great. Keep the comments coming! It’s super helpful to know when readers love something I suggest AND when something is a flop so I can adjust suggestions in the future. ~Allie O

  6. deb says

    lived here from ’83 to ’90….regretably moved away. BUT moved back ’12….most of the resturants you mentioned have been around since then, which is a testiment to their success.
    I am sharing this on FB for my friends who dont live here and wonder why I love it so much.
    Thanks…well done.

  7. Kelly says

    I’ve lived on the suncoast (Pinellas County) for about 9 years and have never made it over to St. Augustine’s since I have moved to Florida. We have been to the Colombia and Ybor and love the 1905 salad! My husband and I are planning our first visit sans children late July. I know your a local but would you have any recommendations for accommodations near/around historic area. While I love the beach i’m about 2 miles away from the Gulf and get my fix quite often, we are looking for a different experience!

    • says

      I love staycationing in St. Augustine and have stayed in several local hotels & B&B’s! Your budget can be your guide… here are a few choices:
      $$$ = Casa Monica – located in the heart of historic St. Augustine, 4 star hotel, finely appointed
      $$$ = Doubletree Hotel – located across from the Mission of Nombre de Dios in uptown St. Augustine, it’s a little cheaper but brand new. Quite a walk from there to St. George Street but it’s close to trolley stops & you can hop right on!
      $$ = Best Western has 2 downtown locations. They’re amazing location-wise but only pretty nice. Clean enough but I’ve never stayed there… definitely not posh but fits the bill.

      Have fun! ~Allie O.

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