A Dining and History Tour of St. Augustine
By Julie Deily
Almost seven years ago, Curtis and I visited St. Augustine for a long weekend. It wasn't the first time visiting for either of us, but it was our first time visiting together.
We have great memories of that trip. We didn't have a lot of money but we still had a blast. So given the opportunity years later to work with VISIT FLORIDA and return to one of our favorite cities in Florida, we jumped at the chance.
St. Augustine is one of the oldest cities in North America; it just celebrated its 450th anniversary last year. There's so much history to see and experience -- and so much good food. Every time we go, we can't wait to make it back.
Another place you can't miss is the Spanish Bakery Cafe on St. George Street. Their empanadas, soups, and pastries are amazing. This pastry has guava and cream cheese. I totally dream about these!
The Spanish Bakery Cafe has been on St. George Street for over 37 years, a favorite for locals and visitors favorite
One thing I can't resist is shrimp and grits. These actually are grit cakes from Catch 27. This place is super casual and the seafood is amazing.
The fish dishes offered are based around the freshest local fish available. The catch the day was snook and I had it picatta, which I will have to try to recreate because it was so good
We also visited the bird exhibit at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. I have never seen anything like this. With such a huge number of alligators and crocodiles on exhibit, other natural predators aren't present so there are huge numbers of rare birds reproducing and making their home at the zoological park. It's an amazing sight to behold.
The Flagler College tour, usually held twice daily, is an hour long and well worth the $10 cost. When it was over, Curtis and I both wished we had attended Flagler College because it is surrounded by so much history and beauty.
The main building of the college is the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, built by Henry Flagler. He was friends with Louis Comfort Tiffany, who did the stained glass in the dining hall.
Students dine there every day surrounded by the world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass that's still in use.
The hotel was completed in 1888 and if you wanted to stay there, you had to pay $4,000 for the entire season winter season (3 months) upon arrival. In today's money, that would be $100,000.
Across from Flagler College is Hot Shot Bakery & Cafe and it's worth a stop. Almost everything here is made from scratch, including the roast turkey for the turkey and avocado sandwich.
A benefit of traveling is finding really awesome food. A downside of traveling is finding really awesome food you can’t stop thinking about. This trip was no different. As I was enjoying my turkey sandwich, I found myself regretting that I don't live down the street from Hot Shot Bakery.
The restaurant also is known for its chocolate datil peppers (which I was too much of a wuss to try) and their cinnamon pull-a-part muffins, which I highly recommend.
Even after all that eating, we did more, taking a three-hour walking food tour put on by St. Augustine City Walks.
The pierogis and the gaufres at Gaufres and Goods are to die for. These gaufres, what we call Belgian waffles, and are quite possibly the best I have ever had.
On the walking tour, we also made it to Athena Restaurant. I want to return to both of these places next time I'm in town.
The last stop on the tour was Claude's Chocolates. Best finish to a food walking tour ever. They have soft-serve ice cream and we got a nice tasting of their chocolates.
I pushed myself to walk up the 219 steps of this lighthouse, which has been standing since 1871. When we got to the top, we thought about past lighthouse keepers and what they had to do day in day out, trudging up and down all those stairs. Worth it. The views were spectacular and we're so glad we climbed them because I now I have a thing for lighthouses!
I had to stop at each landing to catch my breath, which gave me the chance to look down see the progress of other climbers.
Time to eat again! The Cuban sandwiches at La Herencia Cafe were killer. Their roast pork is divine.
You have to hit up Castillo de San Marcos, a designated National Park, which has been here since the 17th Century. Made of coquina stone, it's the oldest masonry fortress in the U.S. and it's a must-see.
I still dream about this pork belly appetizer from The Floridian. Luckily, we had stopped by earlier in the day to check out the menu and were told they only have call-ahead seating, and don't take reservations.
When we returned for dinner, there were people everywhere waiting for a table. We're glad we made it priority to have dinner here and called ahead, even though we had just done a three-hour walking food tour!
For shopping, you have to hit up the Red Pineapple on St. George Street. So much fun stuff in there, I had to hold myself back.
We usually think of hotel restaurants as just eh, right? I was wowed by Aviles Restaurant, located at our hotel. Chef Chris really outdid himself and I can't stop thinking about the blue crab cobbler appetizer. Curtis and I both ordered steaks and couldn't stop smiling the entire night.
One night we hopped over to an old favorite from our last visit, A1A Aleworks to get dessert and drinks.
Photos by Julie Deily for VISIT FLORIDA