Lunch at Aunt Kate’s

There are so many wonderful restaurants in St. Augustine you could eat out every day for a month and still just barely scratch the surface of what’s available.

That’s why the hub and I usually eat in town…we just don’t have the opportunity to get tired of everything that’s available.

But some days, when the sun is shining, and the breeze is just right, we get a hankering to have lunch by the ocean.

Today was one of those days. My dad and stepmom are in town, and we thought it was the perfect kind of day to drive over the bridge and head to Vilano Beach. Our destination was Aunt Kate’s ( at 612 Euclid Avenue.

Once we sat down at one of the varnished picnic tables on the waterside deck, we set about the serious business of deciding what to order. I finally chose the shrimp and grits, a creamy pile of cheese grits covered with big shrimp and bacon/mushroom/onion gravy. The hub had fried shrimp (he usually gets either a blackened fish sandwich or fried shrimp when we go, so this wasn’t too surprising). Pop had crabcakes (three of ‘em) and Pat had the grilled scallops. I didn’t get the pilau (perlo), a Menorcan dish that Kate’s serves as an appetizer. The original owners of the restaurant—Catherine and Frank Usina—were Menorcan. In 1900, Henry Flagler swung by their house and asked if they would make him a dinner of roasted oysters for himself and his friends—and thus Aunt Kate’s restaurant was born.

We weren’t as famous as Mr. Flagler, but we were treated well by our young waiter who checked in often to see if there was anything else he could get us. There wasn’t: We all enjoyed our entrees, although The Old Man said that he would never order shrimp and grits after seeing it (what it lacks in pretty it makes up in yummy).

We also enjoyed the starter breadbasket, which features Johnnycakes (a cornmeal patty with molasses), datil pepper cornbread (it’s not real hot but has an interesting kick), and a sweet pumpkin bread. Matched with their honey butter, it really would have been enough for me (assuming I had a glass of wine to go with it). Of course, everything tastes just a little bit better when Dave Dowling is singing and playing guitar and harmonica on the deck.

After lunch, we tried to walk off a few of the carbs with a saunter over the restaurant’s pier. We enjoyed the beautiful sun on the water, the too-friendly pelicans, and the fishermen (women) at the end of the pier. We got some gorgeous photos, and then headed to the car to come back to town.

It’s not a surprise to me that people have been leaving downtown to come to Aunt Kate’s for over 100 years. It’s definitely worth the short trip across the bridge.