By Samantha Crespo
If the fastest way to the heart is through the stomach, you’re bound to fall in love with St. Augustine. Whether you’re craving contemporary cuisine or a side of history served with your meal, you’ll find the perfect match for any appetite along the streets of this Old City.
Prepare for an active day of sightseeing with your sweetheart by eating a hearty breakfast. My favorite way to start the day in St. Augustine is to savor a signature breakfast item from the bed and breakfast inn I’ve stayed at the night before. On our honeymoon, my husband and I took breakfast every morning on the shady courtyard of the Agustin Inn (29 Cuna St.). With the menu changing daily, we delighted in a different delectable each morning, from Belgian waffles to French toast. For a morning meal on the go, the Bunnery Bakery & Café (121 St. George St.) bakes breakfast goodies on site each morning and prepares favorites like pancakes and egg dishes. It’s a great send-off to your stroll down St. George Street past shops and historic stops like the 18th-century Peña-Peck House (143 St. George St.) and the St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine (41 St. George St.).
If you find yourself seeking a sweet snack later, stop by the Whetstone Chocolates store (42 St. George St.), where chocolate infused with Florida flavors like orange and lime will tempt you. Behind Whetstone, the Spanish Bakery simmers with the smells of the Spanish colonial period, complementing the architecture and history these old streets are steeped in. Choose from almond, lemon and cinnamon cookies baked by the Salcedo family using recipes from the past. Lunch on picadillo (a chili served over rice), empanadas (meat pies) and the fresh bread that brings the locals back every day. The Columbia Restaurant (98 St. George St.) also celebrates St. Augustine’s Spanish heritage, serving "the original Cuban sandwich" at lunch and for dinner, paella, Spain’s national dish that combines seafood, chicken and pork with rice. Work up your appetite (or walk it off) at the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse in the USA, both within walking distance of the restaurant and related in heritage.
Take St. George south to King Street for a meeting with St. Augustine’s more modern history. Start at Flagler College (74 King St.), a fixture on the National Register of Historic Places. The tour through the former Hotel Ponce de Leon transports you to the opulent age of the late 19th-century, detailed in carved oak, Tiffany glass and marble. Across King Street, the Lightner Museum displays Victorian-era artifacts in the former Alcazar Hotel. The setting for lunch is as important as what’s on the menu – the museum’s Café Alcazar serves sandwiches, salads and daily specials in the hotel’s (former) indoor swimming pool. The elegance of this era finds a contemporary counterpart in Cortesse’s Bistro and Flamingo Room (172 San Marco Ave.), where New Zealand lamb and a mighty martini menu will prompt a toast to experiencing St. Augustine with all of your senses.