Only Order a Drink Here… {where not to eat}

I don’t write bad reviews.  I know awful experiences are funny to read about but I teach my kids “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” and I’m choosing to do likewise.

Bad reviews are often funny but carelessly slandering a business could hurt another local family when I just caught them on an off day. That being said, in some instances an honest review can help you avoid salmonella or other awful stomach-twisting nights on the… err… throne.  So below, I offer a list of restaurants locals “only order drinks” from.  If you choose to eat at these anyways- well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Please don’t eat at Only Order Drinks From:

Well, folks, this list is completely unnecessary now! Santa Maria closed and Milltop was completely gutted and is being renovated… if other restaurants hit the roach report regularly, I’ll update this list. 😉

  • Santa Maria Restaurant – Yes, the only restaurant in historic St. Augustine on the water. But no, it’s not worth missing the rest of your vacation because you’re sick in the bathroom. If you’re looking for a view, try Harry’s balcony, A1A Ale House, OC White’s, Meehan’s, or Acapulco.  Not all of those are favorites, but all are better than… well, you know.
    ** update: Santa Maria Restaurant is CLOSED {<-article excerpt there}. Owners of OC Whites purchased the building- no further news yet!**
  • Milltop – It has an amazing mill wheel rotating on it’s side- certainly one of St. Augustine’s most photographed spots!!  {recognize the spot below?}  They have great live music some nights so just go for drinks.  Take it from a friend of a friend!
Photo with my hubby in front of The Milltop’s wheel.

**update – Milltop is being gutted and will reopen in late 2017. Woohoo! They always had good music… maybe they’ll have good food now, too!**

If you have had amazing experiences at these, feel free to comment telling me how wrong I am!  Or if there are other places I should add to the list, comment away.  Again, we’re not talking just bad service or bland food… although those are out there!  This list is for “I worked in the kitchen and you better never eat there” or “My mom & sister both threw up all night after dinner there” kind of places.

Those of you who are new to town & have no clue where to eat… may I suggest starting with a Foodie Tour?  I’ve been on two: Savory Faire {<- it’s all about the food} and Historic Walking Tours’ St. Augustine Food Tour {<- combines the history of the area with great food experiences}.  These will acquaint you with great local restaurants and your guide will be very knowledgeable about other local eats!!

Other food/beverage experiences I’ve blogged about:

Two facebook fans shared a great idea: When in doubt, check health inspections! These are public record and give a picture of cleanliness. Thanks, Amy & Jenny!


  1. Jim says

    I agree, wholeheartedly, in your assessment of Santa Maria’s…the view is fantastic and the kids enjoy ‘feeding the fish’, but the food, in my opinion, is worse than bad bar food! Harry’s is a favorite of my family.

  2. says

    Santa Maria is the Worst place in town! Tried it and hated it. Tried it again, just to see if it was me. Hated it then too. Never again.

    Best view in town…. Acapulco. Best food in town…tough choice, but I love Columbia/95 Cordova and Bistro de Leon.

    Favorite Locals place: Schooners/Zaharias/Acapulco

    • says

      Wayne- I haven’t made it to Schooners OR Zaharias yet. I’ll add them to my list!

      • Mary Anne K says

        We love Schooners! The food is consistently good and super friendly service! Great fried shrimp special 3-6 daily!

    • twinpop says

      Acapulco food is for those who don’t know how to eat or don’t know anything and I do mean “anything” about authentic Mexican food. There’s nothing authentic about Acapulc, not even the Flag (made in China)…want to try good Mexican food? Try Casa Maya or El Potro. …..Columbia is good place to eat? Really? S an expensive place to thats for sure if you know nothing about Cuban-Spanish cuisine you’d think is good food. Is not. Is food prepared for white american tourist who’ve never gried the real thing. Unfortunately, there are no good Spanish restauranrs in Saint Augustine. Not even El Centro.

  3. says

    There are several others, but I can’t speak of them! 😉 I will add that the Saint Augustine Independent Restaurant Association is a great place to start when looking for local restaurants … Some of my favorites are members …

  4. dennis says

    Went to Floridian last night (on Cordova). man that was good! slow cooked BBQ on Belgium waffles, black bean coconut soup, chocolate bacon cupcakes and excellent mahi mahi. Great place to freak out your taste buds!

    • says

      Wow- I haven’t tried ANY of those there!! Sounds like you had an amazimg meal- thanks for sharing… and for adding Black Bean Coconut Soup to my must try list!

  5. says

    Maybe that is why the Santa Maria has all the construction going on. Trying to cover up how bad the food is. hahaha. My mom and sister went to Harry’s when we first moved here during lunch. I dont think they waited to eat. But it was lunch….the food was okay but not mind blowing.

  6. Kelly Fay says

    Love your blog. While I don’t live in St. Augustine (god willing we will be retiring there) I do visit 2/3 times a year and we have our loves and our never again.

    Top on our never again “Borrillos Pizza”. We tried it several years ago after reading what we now know were fake reviews. It was the grossest, most vile “poor excuse for pizza” I have ever had the displeasure of paying for. The cook was hanging out of the kitchen door smoking. The sausage looked like something a rodent might poo out. The sauce was straight out of cut rate tomato can. Did I mention how horrible it was? This place was so dirty and so disgusting I went straight back to our room, created an account on yelp and submitted my 1st review ever.

    Love the view from The Milltop but will never order food again from them. Had a club there once and it was clear the meat was canned? It’s really only food to consume when really drunk, or so I’ve heard. Santa Maria was a great place to go, 20 years ago but now…

    Can I list our Top Picks? The Columbia. Scarlett O’Hara’s. The Floridian. Cruisers. Al’s Pizza. Pizzally. Mojo Old City BBQ. City Perks for Cafe’ cafe con leche. OC Whites. La Herencia Cafe. Flavors Eatery. Luli’s Cupcakes. The Bunnery Bakery & Cafe. The Spanish Bakery. Denoel French Pastry Shop. Kilwin’s Chocolate & Ice Cream.

    • says

      Mmm… I like your top picks! It’s a good thing I just ate dinner or I’d be getting hungry just reading the list!

      • Jill says

        Sent back our burnt ends, all fat.

  7. Bethany says

    Never again would be Athena. Yuck.

    Top picks? Pizzally’s, Chianti Room, Florida Cracker Cafe, O.C. White, Kingfisher Grille and Prince of Wales pub. For quick snack items: Kilwin’s and French Fry Heaven. British fries with black truffle sea salt, For The Win!

  8. David Vincent says

    St. Augustine has become more of a tourist rip off than ever. Most Restaurants are overpriced in many aspects. I dont mind paying $$$$ for fine dinning but because something cost allot doesnt make it FINE. A1A Ale House is overpriced gouge the tourist, O.C White a better Value and NO ONE compares to the Columbia for price , quality and service.

    • Anthony LaFountain says

      I echo Columbia House, always a great time and food. There is a small English Pub on the main stretch where they do the Famer’s Market that is also great if you want something lighter and quick.

  9. Monica says

    The Absolute Worst Restaurant Experience I have ever encountered anywhere in the world occurred sadly in my own backyard – Fratelli’s Italian Restaurant.
    Two of our wine glasses had old lipstick on them, the bread was stale, the chicken parmigiana was pink in the middle and cold. When we asked the waitress to return the dish the Manager came to our table and actually Yelled at us. While waiting 45 minutes for our wine order we noticed the Manager was yelling at another table for sending their food back as well. Needless to say this Restaurant needs lessons in Customer Service, Food Preparation and a Better Qualified Manager.

    Many local Favorites abound here in St. Augustine who get it “Right” every time – Columbia House, OC White’s, Mango Mango, Harry’s, Cordova 95..just to name a few…

  10. Anthony LaFountain says

    Odd. My wife and I have gone to Santa Maria nearly every time we have gone to St. Augustine. There was a point when we went ever 6 months. Neither one of us has ever gotten sick and the wait staff has always been helpful, friendly, and enjoyable.

    • says

      Count yourself lucky! Illness is a common side effect there- glad you’ve escaped “the plague” thus far! 🙂

  11. Tina says

    Ate at Millhouse with my son several years ago. No illness, but no thrills either. I’ve been to Athena multiple times, always enjoyed it.

  12. Brian Druggan says

    I have seen no one has mentioned Catch 27 on Hypolita. Fantastic food with a very small yet intimate and friendly dining room. Others have already mentioned my other favorites. Harry’s didn’t leave me with a sick stomach. No, instead I left with a pearl I found in my oyster po boy. The staff was worried but I told them it’s a natural event and a potentially valuable one too. 🙂

    I have never heard anyone say much that was positive about Santa Maria. We have been warned, however, to avoid it. It’s a shame because it’s such valuable real estate. How do they stay open?

  13. Jill says

    The hut downtown has their own vege garden which the rats love!

  14. Kendra Campbell says

    Got food poisoning from The Reef. Most disgusting place ever!

  15. Shannon says

    I agree about Santa Maria’s!! My daughter loved feeding the fish. However, the food was TERRIBLE!!! My daughter wouldn’t even touch hers. I had the coconut shrimp and it was inedible! The staff was not so friendly either! And lets not mention the ancient decor…. After paying for the overpriced garbage we ended up going to Barnacle Bill’s. The food was amazing!! The shrimp were huge and delish!! My kids love Pizzalley’s Chianti room to eat pizza and crabcakes!! Yummy!!

  16. says

    Great post Allie O! I have never eaten at either place. As someone that eats no meat or dairy and looks for “slow food” restaurants that feature fresh and local foods, I like Casa Maya and LOVE the Floridian. A note to the comment about Zhanras-that closed a while back and is now the Black Fly owned by a group, including the artist Vaughn Cochran and the owner of Collage.

    • lovelylotus says

      if you don’t eat meat OR dairy, you really need to try Present Moment Cafe. It’s all-vegan-all-raw.
      It ranks near the top of trip advisor for st aug.

      • says

        I completely agree, LovelyLotus! Present Moment is a must-experience local spot worth traveling for!!

  17. Kristin says

    No one has mentioned Pizza Time! I promise its so much better than any other pizza in town! I agree with everyone else so far. 🙂

  18. lovelylotus says

    I don’t know if my “never again” will surprise you or not, but there is a little place on the island called “Saigon” and it has bit bowls of pho soup for cheap. My husband and I ate there several times in 2014, and all was well. Then we ate there for lunch in November 2014 and that night I got sick. He didn’t and we had the same food. I don’t know if that means he’s just got a better stomach because I only get throw-up sick once in several years.
    I could have just caught a bug, totally unrelated to the place. But I could have caught a bug because someone in the kitchen didn’t clean my bowl well enough? I thought I saw a hint of something on the rim that didn’t get washed off properly. Shrugged it off. Really shouldn’t have. Couldn’t go to work the next day because too sick.
    I probably won’t go back, even if it wasn’t their fault (there was a bug going around), the thought of the food makes me nauseous now because you know that whole “the last thing you ate will not sound appetizing anymore” concept?

  19. Nick says

    I worked for the Santa maria for years, it breaks my heart to see what the kids who inherited It have done to it. Most of the employees have worked their for decades and I still have much love for them. However me and my ex where in there two years ago when we visited my family and it was a Friday night the place was all but empty prices where through the roof and the food was sickening… So sad to see its gone so far downhill.

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