Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Floridian - St. Augustine

While visiting St. Augustine, Florida I stumbled on a great restaurant by accident and liked it so much I went back a second time on the same day. I was walking through St. Augustine, seeing the sights and wanted to eat something healthy for lunch. I saw this nondescript restaurant in a small house 

and walked up to the front door and looked at the menu. It had some items that looked healthy, so I went in. It was The Floridian located at 39 Cordova Street in St. Augustine (904-829-0655). 
I heard the waiter talking to some people at a nearby table about their local specialty soft drinks. So I ordered a creamy red birch beer by Boylan's and enjoyed it very much. 
I ordered another one for dinner that evening. The Floridian touts itself as emphasizing Southern comfort foods, using healthier dishes, with many vegetarian options, using local and sustainably produced foods, including vegetables and artisanal breads. One of the specials was bean and winter vegetable soup. 
It was fantastic, some of the best soup I've ever head. It was loaded with various beans and chunks of yellow squash. It was almost more of a stew than soup, 
with a hint of sweetness from the squash. Then I had their autumn salad with blackened tempeh over local lettuces, topped with butternut squash, quinoa, pickled beets, shredded carrots, spiced garbanzo beans and a cashew yeast dressing (which I ate very little of). 
I had them hold the cheese which also came with it. The vegetables were nice quality and extremely fresh. The pickled beats were the best I've ever eaten, a little crispy and full of flavor. The lettuce was fresh, leafy and green. Everything I'd had so far was so good, that I decided to go for some desert, a satsuma orange bundt cake. It was moist, a little syrupy and full of fresh orange flavor. A very nice dessert. I felt like a really lucked out. 
Toward evening, as I was considering leaving St. Augustine and traveling to Orlando, I decided to eat before hitting the road. I thought of going back to The Floridian but was concerned about finding parking. So I looked at the Yelp app on my phone and was a little surprised to find that The Floridian was one of the top rated restaurants in St. Augustine and I'd had the good fortune to stumble on it earlier. That sealed it, I decided to go back. It was crowded for dinner, but I found a place to sit in the bar. I ordered the house-pickled veggies with fried green tomatoes as an appetizer. The veggies included beets, onions and peppers. 
It was good, but not over-the-top good like my dishes for lunch. I was not impressed with the fried green tomatoes. 
I've always wanted to try them, and although the texture was fun, pretty firm, I found them rather bland and flavorless. Certainly not worth the calories. For the main course I got the season's bounty fresh catch, but had them substitute the blackened tempeh for the blackened fish. The dish included butternut and Brussels spiked aromatic rice, topped with a beet-citrus sauce, which was very good, and served with shaved rainbow carrot, fennel and grapefruit slaw tossed with pecans in a rosemary-dijon vinaigrette. 
The blackened tempeh was okay, I'm not a major fan of tempeh, but the beet sauce was great. It came with two balls of what seemed like dumplings and don't reflect the menu description. Perhaps they were out of rice. The fresh slaw was good, but I was disappointed there was not more quantity. It was good, but not the same jump-at-you fresh that I'd experienced earlier. A woman who was waiting to be seated noticed that I was nearly finished and asked if she could sit at my table. She mentioned that she'd driven up from Orlando just to eat at this restaurant. On whatever site she was looking at, it was rated as the best restaurant in the whole area. I was going to leave without a dessert, but the waitress tempted me with a vegan cupcake and I yielded. I was glad I did. It was the best part of dinner. Nice, moist and sweet. 
The Floridian does use first class, fresh, ingredients and the dishes are creative and tasty. If I were to go back to St. Augustine, I would make another stop there. 

1 comment:

  1. It all looks delicious, but I have my eye on that soup. I like the idea of butternut squash and beans together.