St. George Street is often dismissed by the locals as a tourist haunt. The downtown side streets are home to favorite restaurants and bars, but the main shopping drag is generally left to visitors. That is, until now. When the owners of the St. Augustine Seafood Company stumbled upon unused retail space outside of the Colonial Quarter, they jumped at the chance to open a place on St. George that locals could feel was their own. And they’ve done a pretty impressive job with a difficult task.
The restaurant is a rich tapestry telling the tales of the local fishing industry. It doesn’t, however, feel like another half-museum geared toward visitors who only want a cursory glance at a long and complex past. The artifacts are personal. Vintage photographs, old shrimp packaging, antique tools in display cases, and work by native photographer Sean Kelly Conway are all on display. And since they serve fresh seafood, nearly always sourced from local fishermen in Mayport, you almost feel like a part of the history that’s on the walls.
But as beautiful of work as they’ve done curating the space, we were mostly there to explore the menu. And since this is a place where “fresh” is a way of life, the prospect was promising. Chef John Whitworth himself brought out the first dish to us – Oysters on the Half Shell. The oysters are brought in from Apalachicola and served with a unique Citrus Mignonette. The mignonette is a combination of orange, lime, ginger, and brown sugar and really makes the dish something special.
The next dish brought to our table was the Chowder Fries. Now I’m a fan of New England Clam Chowder and I’m a fan of fries, but you would never have caught me considering combining the two. But Chef John did and I am forever grateful. The chowder is thick and hearty enough that the fries don’t get soggy, but are still marinated in the flavors before being topped with bacon and green onion. Forget an entree; you’ll fill up on fries.
But honestly, I don’t really mean forget an entree. Because if you do, you’ll miss out on the Fried Shrimp Basket. Now fried shrimp is a staple in this part of the world, but not all are created equal. Fried shrimp like these rise above the rest. They’re fried to a crisp, but not overly breaded. So you still get to taste the seafood freshness around the Cajun-spiced corn flour batter. Then they’re served with one of six house-made sauces.
Last – but by no means least – was the Fresh Catch Sandwich. The fish is topped with their signature John John Sauce (a sweet and spicy Korean chili aioli) and Cilantro Slaw, finished with Cilantro Crema (another signature sauce) and served on a Challah bun. The sandwich isn’t drowning in the sauces, but they add a richness and complexity to the dish that you wouldn’t expect from a humble sandwich.
Despite having only opened this past December, the St. Augustine Seafood Company is well on its way to becoming a local favorite. So take a seat in the bright white and blue dining room or slide into an emerald green booth in the lounge and experience seafood like St. George Street has never seen.