Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Local, Innovative Food in St. Augustine

Cornbread Panzanella
Many of my friends make fairly regular trips to St. Augustine, Fla., and are looking for new restaurants to try. I had not been there for a few years, so I also wanted to try unique restaurants that are off the beaten path. I came across one that I would highly recommend: The Floridian. It is in downtown St. Augustine, but is away from the tourist-y restaurants and shops on St. Georges.

It is a small, unassuming place, which are often the best places to eat! This place is unique because it combines Southern comfort food with healthy fare - including vegan options. What is most impressive is that the restaurant supports local farmers, ranchers, seafood suppliers, and artisans, utilizing mainly regional foods in its dishes. The fresh, local, and seasonal flavors are unmistakable when you enjoy one of The Floridian's salads or bite into the eatery's popular Dixie Burger.

Since we arrived around lunchtime on a scorching-hot day, we tried two of The Floridian's innovative salad options. I ordered the Elkton Salad, a delightful combination of local mixed greens, roasted sweet potatoes, fresh corn and chicken or the local fresh catch. I opted for the swordfish, and was so pleased that the fish was cooked perfectly - slightly pink in the middle - and was very flavorful. There is a bonus too: this salad is topped with a fried green tomato, which sports a light, cornmeal breading that is done just right.

My husband ordered the Cornbread Panzanella, which is an interesting combination of arugula and heirloom cherry tomatoes on top of made-from-scratch cornbread, topped with grilled shrimp, local cheese, and house-pickled vegetables. While the dish was tasty, it was a humongous portion for lunch and the Basil-Buttermilk dressing was just okay.

When you go, you may want to try some of the most popular dishes on the menu: Not Your Mama's Meatloaf Sandwich and Spicy Melt - a unique sandwich that can be made with the blackened fish of the day or with tofu. Prices are reasonable here: many entrees are between $8 and $13. Now, your turn: please share your favorite places to eat in the city.

Where: 39 Cordova St., St. Augustine, Fla.

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