Have you ever tried to entice a kid out of the water with a plea to eat some lunch? They’re not having it–they are not going to leave the magic of the ocean (or the pool or the lake) for your promise of a skinny little sandwich on soggy bread. Add ice cream to the mix? Or ice cream and cake? Still no deal, my friend. They are savvy recreationalists, and they are staying in the water.
As an adult, I am better at balancing the twin gifts of a great meal and a great time on the water (although these days I prefer a peaceful ride on the Schooner to being knocked down in the surf all afternoon). Luckily for me, St. Augustine does a bang up job combining the two–spectacular afternoons by the water, and amazing meals worth drying off for.
Here are some of our favorite restaurants with a water view. Have some favorites of your own? Share them in the comments!
(Note: Hours and menu items change; please confirm both with the restaurants before heading out hungry with anticipation).
Conch House. 57 Comares Avenue. Anastasia Island. Cross the Bridge of Lions, then turn left at their billboard (just before Lee & Cates Glass–don’t worry if you drive past the turn, even locals do that all the time). www.conch-house.com.
When we have guests from out of town, one of their first requests is to go to the Conch House. It’s not just the fact that we all love their Goombay Smashes, and their Minorcan chowder, and their friendly staff. For us, and our friends, it’s all about the tikis. The Conch House has a number of tables over the water in raised tiki huts. Some of them are raised more than others, and you feel them moving when your server climbs the stairs. But all of them offer great breezes off the Intracoastal, not to mention stunning views of the water. Plus, the tikis keep the sun off our faces. All of that childhood swimming has left us with some real sun damage, and we’re now at the age that we can’t call them freckles anymore.
Beaches. 254 Vilano Road. Vilano Beach. An easy walk from our Beachcomber Cottages–just drive past Publix and Beaches is at the end of the road, right next to the city pier and its cheerful Bluebird of Happiness. www.beachesatvilano.com.
We’re island hopping here–from Anastasia above to Vilano. Since we’ve opened our cottages on Beachcomber Way, we’ve become big fans of Vilano and its casual eateries. Beaches definitely ends up on that list. With tables in the sand, and tables on the deck, Beaches offers lots of ways to enjoy the water view. We like their fish tacos (blackened, with sweet potato fries), and their shrimp tacos (with a spicy sweet magic sauce). We also like enjoying them late in the afternoon–the sunset over the Usina Bridge is beautiful, and Beaches is the perfect perch to enjoy it.
The Reef. 4100 Coastal Highway, just a short drive up A1A from our Beachcomber Cottages. www.thereefstaugustine.com.
True confessions: The Reef has not always been one of my favorites. I think it might have been the weathered look of the building itself (sorry–I’m very visual!) The bleached untreated wood would have been fine for me as a seafood shack, but then the food inside didn’t line up with that expectation. I have evolved my thinking: I now go to the Reef with expectations of a refined meal through their humble doors. I drop my expectations of a seafood shack in their parking lot, and I’m a much happier person (and better fed) because of it.
Dinner is crowded, but you can score a waterfront table on most afternoons for lunch. We love the lunch-size servings–smaller than dinner in both size and price. I often get the crabcakes, and the hub will usually go for a blackened fish sandwich (that is often the special of the day). Plus, the chef uses a healthy dose of datil peppers throughout the menu–on seafood, in the tartar sauce, even on their thick cheeseburgers. And that alone was worth adjusting my expectations.
Aunt Kate’s and Cap’s on the Water. 612 Euclid Avenue. www.aunt-kates.com and 4325 Myrtle Avenue. www.capsonthewater.com. Both right off A1A, just a few miles from our cottages. Aunt Kate’s is a left across the street from the Reef, and Cap’s is just a tiny bit further, marked by a billboard telling you to turn.
I can hear people gasping now because I have grouped these two restaurants together. I did so because we’re talking about waterfront restaurants, and when I want an old Florida, very southern feel, I head to one of these two faves. (And when I say one of these two, I mean it–we often will drive to one, find the parking lot too crowded, and swing on over to the other).
The views are very similar–Spanish moss laced trees overlooking the river–but the food and atmosphere is very different.
Want a casual, family reunion feel? Head to Aunt Kates, and enjoy a meal at one of their picnic tables. You don’t need to order a lot of food–every meal comes with a bread basket filled with lovely carbohydrates…datil cornbread muffins, johnny cakes, banana bread. Their shrimp and grits is dark and messy with lots of gravy, just like it should be, and their fried seafood will fill the hungriest diner. The grilled fish sandwich is good too–and they usually have a fresh grouper to make it even better. Most dishes come with a side or two–order the sweet potato casserole, and consider it your dessert.
Looking for a more romantic, upscale experience? Head to Cap’s, and pull up a chair underneath their huge lighted oak trees. Make sure you look at the list of today’s fish as you enter the building–you can order any of the fish served in a variety of preparations (blackened, grilled, pan seared, crusted, etc). I’ve loved everything I’ve ever had here except the vanilla grouper (no fault of the chef’s, I’m sure; I just learned that day that I don’t enjoy sweet sauce on a fish). Order a palmetto rose martini (made with St. Augustine distillery vodka), the fried green tomato caprese salad, and enjoy the view of the water.
Harry’s. Easy walk from the Bayfront Marin at 46 Avenida Menendez. www.hookedonharrys.com.
We know a lot of people whose trip to St. Augustine is not complete without a visit to Harry’s courtyard. Tables are under a canopy of graceful trees, all wrapped with white lights to up the romance factor. The food is great too–we like the jambalaya (way too much for one person–so plan on sharing or ask for a box), the chicken blonde, and the salmon (when we feel like being healthy). If you eat the virtuous salmon for dinner, you’ve earned the oreo beignets for dessert. That’s how it works, right?
Meehan’s on Matanzas. 20 Avenida Menedez. www.meehansirishpub.com.
If you like Irish pubs, you’ll love Meehan’s. Plenty of beer options, as well as shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, and steak & stout pie. My favorite meal is not the Irish fare, but rather their catch of the day fish sandwich, with a great sauce and brioche roll. Not that it’s the only reason I order it (okay, sometimes it’s the only reason I order it), but sandwiches and burgers are served with Meehan’s signature chips–long freshly fried potatoes with parmesan and parsley. Sprinkle them with the malt vinegar at every table, and ask for another pint while you enjoy the boats bobbing on the bay.
South Beach Grill. 45 Cubbage Road. Anastasia Island, Crescent Beach. You’ll need a car to get here: cross the Bridge of Lions, and then follow A1A. When you go about 10 miles–and think you must surely have missed it–you will turn left into a beach parking lot. If you see the Beacher’s Lodge, you have gone too far.
We love the beach shack feel of the South Beach Grill. In keeping with that image, we love their seafood–their grilled fish sandwich, their blackened shrimp, their fresh salads topped with blackened mahi. If we’re not in a fish mood (that doesn’t often happen–but every now and again…) we love their Portabello Mushroom sandwich. We’ve heard that their burgers are quite good too–but we can’t bring ourselves to eat beef on the sand.
Hurricane Patty’s. 69 Lewis Street. You’ll need a car for this one: go back out of town via King Street, then take a left on Route 1. Drive about .3 miles then take a LEFT on West Street (right before Denture Designs). Take a LEFT on Lewis Street, and Patty’s is the second driveway. www.hurricane-pattys.com
There are so many waterways in St. Augustine…but we want to make sure you get a view of all of them! Hurricane Patty’s is outside of town, located on Oyster Creek, but the seafood makes the short drive worth it. We like to order from their Low Country Seafood Platters–four varieties big enough to share with a Superbowl party crowd. Order the traditional low country boil, a fried platter, a blackened platter, or Patty’s Famous Everything Platter. Platters are priced “for some” and “for more”; prices range from $29.99 to $74.99, and each platter comes with four sides of your choice. Not that hungry? Get their Hurricane Seafood Chowder–a rich blend of New England chowder and Minorcan clam chowder, with lots and lots of seafood.