You’re in Saint Augustine and You’re Hungry: Where Should You Eat?

A simple quiz that will help you find the perfect eatery for your trip to the ancient city

As innkeepers, my husband and I often get asked for recommendations for local restaurants.

We love eating out in Saint Augustine (see the photo at left for empirical proof). St. Auggie is a restaurant lovers’ nirvana. And we love it when our guests ask us about our favorites, because there are so many great places to recommend.

To make a perfect pairing for our guests and their restaurant of choice, we ask a couple of questions to narrow down the options. We ask: what kind of food do you like? Do you want casual or fancy tonight? Do you want to walk, and are you planning on wearing really really high heels? (I’m usually the one asking that question—if your shoes are 4” high or more, you’re going to want a restaurant within a few blocks, so you can walk there and not need medical treatment).

But let’s say you can’t ask us. Let’s say you’re at home, planning a trip to Saint Augustine, and it’s midnight (if you need help before 9 pm, you can always call us at 904.824.4301). In that case, we suggest you take this short quiz then read the key to learn what restaurants are the perfect match for you.

Here goes…

Question #1: You’re in a supermarket. What section are you most likely to be in?

A. The international foods aisle (and no, that doesn’t mean Mexican). You choose a supermarket with a fancy cheeses section and a big wine selection to go with them. (In fact, last year, you sent a letter to Wegman’s begging them to open a store in your town).
B. You’re in the seafood aisle, looking for appetizers for your next party. Can they make those pre-cooked crabcakes in a small popper size? On the way out, grab a bag of ice…you’ll need it for the beverage tub.
C. You head to the flower section first. Your honey would love to see a single rose in a vase, no matter what you’re making for dinner tonight. (Does takeout count as cooking? What if you put it on a pretty plate?)
D. Supermarket? That’s where you buy raw sugar and whole wheat flour. You buy most of your items from a farmer’s market, or at a local fruit and vegetable stand. If you must hit a supermarket, you head straight to the organically grown fruit.
E. Can you say “ready to cook entrees”? Why heat up the kitchen when that already-marinated beef skewer can just be thrown on the grill?
F. In the pop tart and hot dog aisles. No, they’re not good for you, and no, they’re not your ideal choice, but they’re the only things that your kids will eat this week. Sigh.

Question #2: You just redecorated your kitchen. What purchase are you the most excited about?

A. Your new gas stove. Things really do taste better when they’re cooked on gas.
B. Your new margarita machine (you literally had the contractor hang your cabinets two inches higher so that it would fit on the countertop). Let the party begin!
C. The granite countertops. You and your mate picked them out together, and you both knew they were “the one” the second that you saw them.
D. Your gorgeous sparkly backsplash, made out of recycled glass.
E. The airy French door that opens directly to your new deck, with your fancy new barbecue station.
F. The breakfast bar and barstools. Finally, the kids can sit down for breakfast all at the same time. And all within your sight…Bristol, stop taking your brother’s fruit loops!!

Question #3: You’re in a mall. Where do you shop the longest?

A. In the designer purse section. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s nice to see what colors Coach is using this season.
B. Party store, baby. They now have a section of games to play at grown-up gatherings (because everyone was getting too good at Pictionary, anyway).
C. Victoria’s Secret. For a different kind of grown-up gathering.
D. You spend 20 minutes in front of the mall map, trying to figure out if they have a Naot store. Or any t-shirts made of hemp. Or a Starbucks.
E. It’s not technically shopping, but if there’s an L.L. Bean store around, and if they have outdoor furniture on display, you’re more than happy to plop yourself down in one of their Adirondacks and chill for a bit.
F. Toys R Us. Or any other toy store (including the Apple store, if the teens have lowered themselves to join you on the trip to the mall).

Last question: Your dream getaway is:

A. Cooking lessons with a French chef. Preferably in France.
B. A girls’ weekend at the beach. Or inland. Wherever, really, as long as someone brings the chardonnay.
C. A romantic resort somewhere balmy. With a couples’ massage scheduled for Tuesday.
D. A trip to Yosemite, with a book full of hiking trails, and a backpack full of dried fruit.
E. A week’s stay in Maine…with just t-shirts, shorts and a pair of flip flops. And a plan to have fresh lobster every night.
F. Hello, Magic Kingdom!! It’s where dreams come true, after all.

I have programmed the computer to now tabulate your answers. What? It’s not doing anything? Well, then count them up yourself, and find your perfect match.

If you answered mostly A’s:
You’re a foodie. No one needs to tell you that you love food. You enjoy a great meal out, with exceptional service, exquisite food, and that little extra that makes a spot unique (and is something you can brag about to your equally foodie friends).

For you, I recommend the following restaurants in Saint Augustine: Collage (lots of cache), Bistro de Leon (where the chef and his wife speak French as well as food), and La Pentola (where the bread alone can make a great meal). Each one of them has been on multiple “Best of “ lists…and each one has a waiting list most nights, so be sure you make a reservation. If you’re a modern foodie, and dig sleek, high end design, try Spy for sushi and sake. (They have over 50 varieties of the latter, so you can find the perfect sake for you).

If you answered mostly B’s:
You’re a social eater and greeter. You love food (and drink), but you love it
as a backdrop to a great conversation and lots of stories and laughter. When someone
asks you about a restaurant, your highest compliment is: “We had a great time there!”

You would enjoy the following restaurants (and yes, they all have tables large enough to seat you and all of your friends): the Columbia (a couple of pitchers of their tableside sangria will get the party started), or the Tasting Room (enjoy cushy couches with plates of tapas to share). You’ll also love Meehan’s Irish Pub, just off of St. George Street, no one does social better than the Irish!

If you answered mostly C’s:
Awww….You’re in love! And looking for dinner for two. Head out to some of the most romantic places in Saint Augustine—the Raintree (where you’ll find great food in an old Victorian house), the Conch House (reserve one of the tiki huts—the tallest is thirty feet above the water—and sit on the same side of the bench with your baby. While the Conch House is the Caribbean, Athena’s is pure Greece—from the amazing spanikopita to the romantic murals on the walls. Grab a back table, and feed each other baklava.

If you can pull yourself out of bed, head to the Alcazar for lunch—it’s located in the deep end of a now-dry indoor swimming pool at the Lightner Museum. With its yummy menu, and its grand piano, it’s the perfect place to celebrate the fact that you “took the plunge” and your union is already going “swimmingly”! (Sorry, a blog without a bad pun or two is like a day without sunshine for me).

If you answered mostly D’s:
You’re an earth eater. You ate local before local was cool. You search out places with artisanal breads, close relationships with farmers, and in-house bakeries. You also like restaurants with beautiful, outdoor spaces…preferably with a soothing singer playing (not too loudly).

You’ll love the Floridian restaurant (they list the farms where they buy their ingredients), the harder-to-find Tasting Room to Go (with homemade breads and sandwiches for lunch), Hooked on Harry’s (and their beautiful outdoor courtyard and fresh salads and Cajun foods), and Caps on the Water (with its amazing tree-covered outdoor spaces and locally sourced fish).

If you answered mostly E’s:
You’re a laid back Larry. You don’t sweat where you’re going to eat. But you love a casual, interesting place with yummy food where you can relax.

(I should warn you…the hub falls into this category most nights. So I have a long list of recommendations).

I’m going to start with A1A Aleworks, a brewery with great views of the Bridge of Lions. Ask for a beer sampler, and see which brew you like the best. Speaking of the bridge, drive across it to the Gypsy Cab Company, a cute place with the heart of a diner but the soul of chef.

You also like laid-back ethnic foods, like Casa Maya (love the black chips), Habana Village (mmm…ropa vieja), La Herencia, whose Mexican-style breakfast (Cuban bread with an egg, black beans, salsa, and farmer’s cheese) has won numerous awards, and Gaufre’s and Goods, which mixes a laid-back style with Greek and Polish delicacies. Want seafood? Head to Creekside Dinery (or their sister property, Saltwater Cowboys), and enjoy a plank-grilled fish and the best key lime cheesecake this side of Key West. Great eats, and you’re still in your flip-flops. Finally, if you’re hungry in between meals, try the Hot Shot Bakery, and ask for something made with their famous Datil Pepper sauce.

If you answered mostly F’s:
You’re a generational eater—and your kids call the shots (mostly). If you bring your child to Saint Augustine (the Bayfront Marin House is a beautiful bed and breakfast, but it’s also kid friendly with two suites, kid-friendly breakfasts and bikes you can borrow for the day to tire those little darlings out), there are plenty of choices for you. Florida Cracker Café, right on St. George, is both kid-and pet-friendly. You should also try Pizzalley’s, which of course serves great pizza, but if you walk through the front dining room you’ll find The Chianti Room, which also makes some great grown up Italian dishes; O.C. White’s (they make a mean hamburger just right for junior, and great sweet potato fries if senior wants one too), and the amazing Kilwin’s (okay, they serve chocolate treats and ice cream…but let the kids live a little too!)

If you answered a variety of different letters, then I offer the following advice: ask us about multiple night discounts, because you’re going to have to stay a week or two.

See you at the hostess stand!!