The most underrated part of America’s oldest city may just be its mouthwatering food scene.
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Chuck’s Big Adventure is traveling to Florida. His adventure will take him to some amazing beaches, beautiful homes, mermaid encounters and the fountain of youth.
The Tasting Tours
For all of St. Augustine’s allure — the Spanish history, the Fountain of Youth and the incredible downtown light displays — the most underrated part of America’s oldest city may just be its mouthwatering food scene.
Before we arrived here, I had heard that this town was a foodie’s delight, but honestly, my impression was that a city of just under 15,000 residents was simply too small to host a number of world-class restaurants. I could not have been more wrong.
Laura Morey, a North Florida restaurant insider, knows the secret hideaways, gourmet chefs and delectable dishes that make this town a destination for the gastro-inspired visitor.
Many dining establishments — no matter what they serve — will make way for the food staple of St. Augustine: the datil pepper. Morey loves the way it adds zest to any dish.
“This came here is 1777, along with the Minorcans. They had a colony that failed south of here,” Morey said. “They moved here, 600 of them, and they literally doubled the size of our community, and they brought the datil pepper.”
Morey takes guests on any number of different types of food tours, from breakfasts to multi-restaurant samplings to romantic carriage-drawn experiences. Our Chuck’s Big Adventure team traveled with her to three different spots, including one of the most memorable places I have ever dined.
Cafe Alcazar is located in the Lightner Museum. Just sitting in the main dining area is a lifetime memory. It sits in what was at one time the largest indoor swimming pool in, again, what was one of the South’s great hotels.
Pictures of the hotel in the early 1900s line the hallways, and the appeal to me was — besides the setting — the fact that this is a lunch-only restaurant, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“This is the place to come on a super hot day. If it’s hot and humid, you come in here. It’s cool, it’s low humidity and it’s perfect,” Morey said. “People would come here, and women and men would come together. Women came in the morning, men in the afternoon, and they rented their wool bathing suits.”
They swam in sulfur water. That was not a pleasant smell, but there is no trace of that smell here now — just the aroma of great food.
Most restaurants have reopened since the COVID-19 pandemic shut most of them down, and they are enjoying a wide variety of visitors. It is an open invitation to people from around the world to come back to St. Augustine. Laura says their tours are full.
“We have international (visitors), which is great fun to have, but we also have locals who have lived here a long time and have never really done a good tour,” Morey said.
Want to celebrate a birthday? The Tasting Tours can do that. How about with a group of fellow tourists or a specially-crafted tasting experience? Just ask!
The Tasting Tours in St. Augustine
Our tastings included Italian — veal meatloaf at the Old City House — and some dishes unique to north Florida.
I would never have imagined going on a food tour in a town this small. Now, I can’t imagine a visit to St. Augustine without a tasting evening in America’s oldest city.
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