Wednesday, September 16, 2009

St. Augustine Round-up Pt 1: Latino, Caribbean & Spanish dining

St. Augustine is certainly one of the gems of the South. Its colonial Spanish downtown historic district is overflowing with character, and there are plenty of outdoor activities for those who want to enjoy the beaches or parks. The large number of tourists and the students from Flagler University ensure that there are a heaps of worthy restaurants and bars, all within walking or biking distance from one another (anyone who’s familiar with Florida’s sprawling towns and strip mall paradises knows that’s no small feat). It’s no secret that this is a great place to be – this year, St. Augustine was named one of the top ten places to live by U.S. News and World Report. I’m happy to call this special city home, even if only for a short while.

This post is the first in a series of four that will outline the restaurants and bars I’ve visited over the past months. The posts will be organized by Latino, Caribbean, and Spanish dining; casual dining; casual upscale dining; and bars and breweries. I will continue to return to these posts and update them as I visit more places – there are many many more to be savored! And, I’d love if you left any recommendations you might have in the comments section.

Habana Village Café is a Cuban restaurant in the heart of the historic district. We ordered a combo appetizer plate with beef and chicken empanadas, ham croquettes, and maduros (ripe plantains). Three of my favorites.

I opted for the pernil with yellow rice and fried yucca. The pork was perfectly tender and moist. Really, you can never go wrong with this dish. It came with black beans and rice.

Also on the table was a cubano sandwich accompanied by black beans and rice. Excellent place for classic Cuban specialties. 1 King St # 108, St Augustine, FL 32084 (904) 827-1700 Habana Village Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tucked away on one of St. Augustine’s most picturesque streets, Casa Maya is a tiny Mexican café that prides itself on offering fresh and healthy meals. My bright and colorful salad with avocado, mango, tomato, and fresh cheese was a perfect example of the restaurant’s philosophy.

Phil’s chicken quesadilla was satisfying, but not as crisp on the outside as I would have liked. Perfect for a healthy, affordable lunch. 17 Hypolita St, St Augustine, FL (904) 217-3039 Casa Maya on Urbanspoon

Mango Mango’s offers a fun atmosphere right by the beach (there’s also another location on US1). We went for snacks and drinks and enjoyed a Jamaican beef patty, conch fritters, and maduros. A great casual place for lingering over a few beers after your meal. 700 A1A Beach Blvd, St Augustine, FL 32080 (904) 461-1077 Mango Mangos on Urbanspoon

Hidden behind the historic buildings on pedestrian St. George Street, The Spanish Bakery makes daily batches of soups, breads, and cookies scented with cinnamon or lemon.

You can enjoy these treats at picnic tables in the courtyard, or take them back to your home or hotel room. We shared a beef empanada and bowl of picadillo over rice, for only $3 each.

The bakery is only open for lunch until the food runs out, so be sure to get there early! Excellent spot brimming with local color (yes, that includes tourists) for a quick, cheap, and tasty outdoor lunch on a sunny day. Rear of 42 1/2 St. George St, Saint Augustine, FL 32084 (904) 471-3046

The Tasting Room Wine & Tapas is in my opinion one of the best restaurants in St. Augustine’s historic district. Unlike some of the other downtown eateries, The Tasting Room doesn’t seem to cater strictly to tourists. They offer live music every night, the staff is extremely competent and friendly, and the dining rooms and outdoor courtyard are equally atmospheric. I held my bachelorette party here.

The mini paella classica has shrimp, mussels and clams, and is a perfect single-serving portion.

I could eat the pan roasted scallops over a shaved fennel and arugula salad with citrus vinaigrette for lunch every single day. Highly recommended for tourists and locals alike! 25 Cuna St., St. Augustine, FL 32084 (904) 810-2400 Tasting Room on Urbanspoon

Later this week: St. Augustine Round-up Pt 2: Casual Dining.

1 comment:

Allie O said...

Hey Cari! I enjoyed reading your Restaurant Round-up!

We're locals & love to eat the good food St Augustine has to offer (while avoiding the not-so-palatable). You've introduced me to a couple of new spots!

If you have a min, check out my site- I've reviewed several eateries as well.