Here are some of my favorite places to dine al fresco and take advantage of the Florida sunshine (and amazing chefs here in St. Augustine):
1. Casa Maya. 22 Hypolita. This modern Mexican restaurant is the hub’s favorite any time of year–he loves the carnitas, as well as the homemade guacamole. And I can always be talked into one of their amazing grouper specials, or a big bowl of black bean soup. But when the weather warms up, the food is meant to be enjoyed in one of their many outdoor spaces. There is the very nice back patio area, complete with gardens and lanterns at night. There is a front porch that overlooks the street, and is a great place to people watch (you have a great view of Casa Maya’s original location, now home to Catch 27). There is a back porch on the second floor, overlooking the patio. Great food, combined with amazing weather? Awesome.
2. The Floridian. 39 Cordova. www.thefloridianstaug.com. This restaurant specializes in local food–and that’s a great reason to enjoy the local weather. Try the pilau (a local spanish dish with rice and tomatoes), or one of the vegetarian options. There are only a handful of outdoor tables, so go at an off hour if you want to sit outside. And fair warning to the shorties among us–they’re all high tops, so wear your heels or be prepared to ask for a boost.
3. Mojo’s BBQ. 5 Cordova Street. www.mojobbq.com. If you want to eat at a regular hour, consider Mojo’s. They have tons of outdoor seating, and umbrellas if it’s too glarey. I love the Mojo salad–but (full disclosure) I would eat a pile of wet newspaper if you put their homemade cornbread croutons on top of it with a side of their homemade honey mustard dressing.
4. Hooked on Harry’s. 46 Avenida Menendez. www.hookedonharrys.com. Harry’s is one of my favorite restaurants in town. I like the outdoor seating; I love the trees wrapped in white lights. Plus I love the redfish, the jambalaya, and the holy trinity of carb-packed sides (fried grit cake, cheesy grits and smashed potatoes–and yes I could make a meal out of just them). Most nights they have live music–slip into their courtyard and enjoy it for yourself.
5. Aunt Kate’s. 612 Euclid Avenue. www.aunt-kates.com. You’ll have to get in the car to go to Aunt Kate’s, but it’s well worth it. Located on Vilano Beach, right on the water, Aunt Kate’s feels like old Florida with its wooden pier, quirky bait shop, and Spanish moss draped trees. And it should–there’s been a restaurant in that spot for over 100 years (the story is the family first fed Flagler’s employees as they moved along the Matanzas). Get the shrimp and grits, the sweet potato casserole, or the blackened fish sandwich.
6. Cap’s on the Water. 4325 Myrtle Street. www.capsonthewater.com. Located just a few blocks north of Aunt Kate’s, Cap’s is a more elegant way to eat on the water. We like the fish specials, along with a nice bite of wine. And if you happened to catch us on the HGTV show Beachfront Bargain Hunt, you’ll spot us meeting our Realtor Ryan on the deck at Cap’s. (Thanks to the production crew, who sprang for our lunch there!)
7. A1A Aleworks. 1 King Street. www.a1aaleworks.com. There are only about 15 tables on the upstairs deck, but they’re worth waiting for. Located directly across from the Bridge of Lions, you can sit on this New Orleans style deck (the best wrought iron in town!), enjoy the ceiling fans, and sample their amazing beers. If you’re not in the mood for alcohol, ask them about their root beer–it tastes awesome on a hot day.
8. Meehan’s. 20 Avenida Menendez. www.meehansirishpub.com. Full disclosure: the hub likes to go to this restaurant more than I do. It’s not that I don’t like it, but that I can’t stop eating their battered herb-covered french fries, and I just can’t do that too often. The blackened fish sandwich is also good (but it comes with the addictive fries), and the view of the sparkling water and the fort is fab.
9. Acapulco. 12 Avenida Menendez. www.acabay.com. Speaking of a view of the fort, Acapulco is just a few doors down from Meehan’s, serving Mexican food and super big icy drinks. Their second floor deck has about 10 tables, but for some reason is often empty. Walk in the front door and head right up the stairs–all restaurant seating is done on the second floor.
10. Al’s Pizza. 1 St. George Street. www.alspizza.com. Want to grab a slab with a great view of the Mantanzas? Al’s Pizza, right next to the city gates, offers both on their narrow second floor porch. Look to see if there are any tables before you walk in–lest the waitress try to talk you into sitting inside (which is nice, but not on a beautiful spring day when the whole idea is to sit in the fresh air).
11. La Herencia. 4 Aviles Street. www.laherenciacafe.com. You don’t have to be looking at the water to enjoy eating outside, and La Herencia is a great example of that. Aviles Street is the oldest in the city (which makes it the oldest in the country), and is stunning, especially since it’s renovation in 2011. La Herencia serves breakfast all day, which is my favorite meal of the day (and seeing as we run a bed and breakfast, we don’t normally get to go out to eat during regular breakfast hours). I get the guajiro, the restaurant’s most famous dish, made of toasted cuban bread, with a fluffy omelette on top, dusted with black beans, pork, salsa, and cheese. Can you say, “Yes please!”