We’re still a couple of weeks (like two) away from our high season, and a lot of the people enjoying the town are locals. Yes, we do exist–and we love walking through our old streets as much as our visitors do!
We also like going out to eat. Which brings me to a question that I get asked more than any other: where do the locals eat?
Well, here’s my list. Check them out if you want to view us in our natural habitat. But be careful if you do see us, we tend to bite when startled.
Back 40 Urban Cafe. It’s an old Victorian cottage, and cute as a button (especially since they painted out the fish scale shingles a couple of years ago). They show student artists’ work (there are often a lot of students there because the food is good, and it’s reasonably priced)–this is the kind of place that people like to call “quirky”.
When we go, Mike gets the wet burrito–and he gets it almost every time. It’s about the size of a yule log, so he always has leftovers. I dance around the menu more than he does…I’ve enjoyed their vegetarian chili, fish tacos, and my all time favorite (in cool weather)–their upside down chicken pot pie. It’s made in puff pastry, and creamy with a nice mix of veggies. (And I also always have leftovers). www.back40cafe.com.
Black Molly. If we drive to the Back 40 (see above), and its two parking lots are full (there is parking on both sides of the building, as well as across the street), we drive a little further to the Publix Shopping Center and go to Black Molly. The food is exceptional here. Mike ALWAYS gets the flamingo pasta (which is a creamy pink sauce) with seafood. I either get the datil chicken (datil peppers are indigenous to St. Augustine–and this is just a little spicy) with mashed potatoes, or I order a fish (they usually have 5 or so) with a sauce (when you sit down, they hand you a list of the evening’s fish and sauces–yummy toppings like dried tomatoes and olives and capers, or creamier sauces for heavier fish). If you get the pasta, be prepared–it comes in a bowl the size of a horse trough! www.blackmollygrill.com
O’Steens. If you ask most locals for the local fave, this is the restaurant they mention. It’s mostly fried seafood, and if you like that, it’s great. (Mike often gets this when I’m out of town since I don’t like fried seafood as much as he does). It’s right across the bridge of lions, and there is always a line (but they’re fast). Mike says the shrimp is the best. Of note: they don’t take credit cards, so make sure you hit the ATM before you go. www.osteensrestaurant.com.
Mango Mangos. Speaking of over the bridge, Mango Mangos is further down A1A. I usually get their coconut shrimp appetizer, because the rum sauce they serve it with is amazing. They have yucca fries as a side which also comes with that sauce. Mike gets a shrimp bowl, which is also good. They have a caribbean theme–they’re on the beach block. Sit in the back room (closest to the parking lot), because the middle room is really loud from the bar. Unless, of course, you like that kind of thing. www.mangomangos.com.
Aunt Kate’s. Have you gone to Vilano Beach to eat? A lot of people go to Cap’s, which is amazing, but Aunt Kate’s is more casual (think picnic benches on the pier) and more inexpensive. Their shrimp and grits are good, and their fish sandwich is great (I get shrimp and grits when I don’t care about eating healthy and I’m feeling sorry for myself–the fish sandwich when I’m on a “let’s eat healthy” kick). Their sweet potato casserole is one of my favorite sides….assuming I’m not on that healthy kick. I also love their Minorcan specialties–pilau (pronounced per-low), a rice-based dish with tomatoes, onions and a choice of meats, and their Minorcan chowder, a red seafood stew. www.aunt-kates.com.
180 Grill. Speaking of Vilano Beach, we eat at the 180 Grill a least a few times a week. They have good pizza, but we’re just enamored of their blackened fish sandwich, served with a fried dill pickle skewered into the top of the bun. You order all the sides separately; we like the always fresh but simple side salad, as well as the Cari-bean salad. If you don’t feel hungry for fish, their hamburger is our very favorite in town (we get ours with sautéed onions, sautéed mushroom, mustard, and ketchup), and I like their blackened chicken sandwich too, served with their mango coleslaw (I’ve never seen it anywhere else, and it’s awesome). www.180vilanogrill.com.
Now don’t think that the locals here don’t love all the tourist favorites, too–you’ll see us at the Ice Plant, and Columbia, and OC White’s, and Harry’s. But when we want to escape the crowds, we’ll sneak out to one of the restaurants above. If you see us while we’re out, come on over and say hello!