If I was a restaurant I’d be The Floridian.
As soon as we walked through the homey brick patio and in the front door I felt this click of satisfaction, and a wash of warm familiarity. Happiness? Honestly, at first I thought I was just hungry and hot, but after we sat down I had a good look around.
Rarely have I walked into a place of business and felt my sensibilities aligning with theirs like that. There’s not a lot of fanfare or anything, nothing to indicate I had found my “Restaurant Soulmate”. The thing is, this place is kind of a sleeper. I found it just by googling “Lunch St Augustine” and we were really just looking for a quick bite.
Here’s the deal: You have to sit down, take it in, and go through the experience. It kind of like…DAWNS on you.
First of all the decor is perfectperfectperfect. This is because they have pulled off the neat trick of being both fresh-and-modern and sly-and-kitschy at the same time. Hip, but without a trace of irony. My first clue was the striking floor-to-ceiling print of a wide-open alligator’s mouth, seemingly about to chomp down on the unsuspecting diner seated below.
Taking a fuller look around the dining room I saw that everything was definitely Vintage Florida Thrift Store. One of my favorite genres! But this DECOR is special, and carefully curated.
And that’s not all: in the next room is a bar that can only be described as Down Home Luau. In a good way! I wanted to sit there and have a cherry red cocktail made with that St Augustine New World Gin, which is actually on display. (I thought immediately of my jaunty friend Al, who has been known to go quite a long way for a good Tiki Bar.)
And in case you’re wondering whether this is a case of style over substance, have no fear: Describing themselves as “a synthesis of Down-home Southern Comfort Foods, and lighter, healthier, vibrant and creative dishes–with many vegetarian options.” Well…they could use a punchier description because the food is AMAZINGLY good!
I had just come from a lengthy visit with my stepdaughter who is a vegan…
(I just typed that sentence fragment like it was nothing…but on a personal note: I NEVER thought I would ever ever use either of the words STEPDAUGHTER or VEGAN in a sentence that pertained to MY life! Isn’t it funny, that life thing?)….
Anyway. I ordered a black bean sweet potato veggie burger. Perfect consistency with slightly crispy edges, savory and well-seasoned, served with chipotle mayo and the lightest homemade potato chips I have ever eaten. (My only quibble is that it was served on toasted bread instead of a ciabatta bun as advertised, and the burger needed a more substantial bun.)
My husband, who consistently out-orders me, pulled another fast one and opted for a beautiful salad with shrimp, mango, strawberries, and it was so good I wanted to eat HIS lunch as well as mine. And we drank this all-natural root beer made with cane sugar…whoo-ee! I just wanted to move into this place and call it home.
Oh. Do I sound a bit dramatic? Listen, I WORKED in restaurants for 25 years, so these observations and critiques are hard-won. You can drop me down anywhere, in any food establishment, and I will tell you What’s What. And if I tell you the Floridian is a sure thing, well…you better hightail it over there.
Don’t miss it.