St. Augustine, Florida’s cuisine reflects the city’s diverse and colorful history. There’s no better way to get to know the oldest city in the country than to take one of the guided food tours offered by City Walks, combining food and history with the sights and sounds of the modern city.
The 2½-hour Savory Faire walking tour explores the cultures that have influenced this oldest city in the U.S. As a food lover, and someone who believes that food reveals the true soul of a culture, this was the perfect way for me to get to know St. Augustine. While the restaurants vary, each tour is similar to my experience.
I started my dining experience at La Pentola, which offers continental cuisine for lunch and dinner. The restaurant is intimate and the staff friendly. The best taste there, and probably the single best bite I had on my entire visit to St. Augustine, was the ravioli. These fresh pasta were filled with ricotta and mozzarella and served in a sherry cream sauce. It wasn’t heavy, the pasta was tender, and I was sorry I was only there for a tasting. I will return to St. Augustine if for no other reason than to enjoy a full dinner of ravioli at La Pentola. 56 Charlotte Street. 904-824-3282. http://www.lapentolarestaurant.com
After my taste of the continent, our small group ambled over to Athena Restaurant, which serves classic Greek dishes. The Chryssaidis family brings Greece to St. Augustine through such classic dishes as the Saganahi (flaming cheese) served with Pita Bread. Around the world, countries find great ways to serve cheese. The Greek version is one of the most flamboyant with the great shouts of joy as the cheese blazes with flame as it arrives table-side. In addition to the luscious oozing cheese, we tasted an array of other Greek specialties. I enjoyed watching the locals come and go before it was time to head off for the next culinary destination. 14 Cathedral Place. 904-823-9076. http://www.athenacafe.com
We made our way a short distance to the oldest street in the U.S., Aviles Street, and followed the delightful fragrance of waffles and coffee into Gaufre’s & Goods, serving up Greek and Polish food. Along with the fragrant waffles (gaufres) and a smorgasbord of toppings, this little colorful restaurant, with doors opening right onto the old street, offers soups, salads, pierogies, and an assortment of Polish specialties. The signature dish is stuffed cabbage served with tomato sauce. I braved my dislike of cabbage and found myself eating the entire helping. The dish was hearty yet delicate at the same time and so full of flavor. I really enjoyed the Pyzy, or Silesian dumplings stuffed with meat. This traditional Southern Polish dish was another treasured bite. Even on a hot summer day, it didn’t feel too heavy, although it was a complex dish. The owners, friendly and more than happy to share their stories, also serve a great selection of hot and iced coffees. 9 A & B Aviles Street. 904-829-5770.
I was so full I was certain I couldn’t eat another bite — until I discovered that the final stop was at Claude’s Chocolate. There is always room for gourmet chocolate. Chef Claude offers a huge selection of chocolates, from solid milk and dark chocolates to truffles, bonbons, bark, and a variety of novelties such as chocolate-covered popcorn, pretzels, Oreos, ginger, mango, orange, and Cheerios. I bought a 4-piece box and included two raspberry-filled chocolates in my selection. I have enjoyed chocolates around the world (literally) and those raspberry-filled chocolates from Claude’s Chocolate in St. Augustine were among the best anywhere. I intended to get back into the shop before I left town to buy more, but with so much to do, I never made it back before time to leave. Fortunately, Claude’s Chocolate also ships! 41 King Street. 904-808-8395. http://www.claudeschocolate.com
City Walks presents Savory Faire tours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1:30 p.m. They feature 5 different restaurants each weekday, offering a visitor the chance to visit 15 different restaurants during a week’s visit in town. Due to the nature of the tours, they are not able to make adjustments for food allergies or special diets. Each tour is $48, which includes tastings at 5 restaurants, tips to waiters, taxes, and a recipe to take home.
Other City Walks tours include St. Augustine Creepy Crawl; the St. Augustine Pub Crawl; History, Mystery, Mayhem, & Murder. Times vary and are listed on the website at http://www.StAugustineCityWalks.com. The City Walks ticket booth is at 23 Orange Street in St. Augustine.
23 Orange Street
St. Augustine, Florida