Aunt Kate's restaurant at the river in St. Augustine, Florida is in the North Beach neighborhood of Vilano Beach.
When we moved from Ponte Vedra to St. Augustine (North Beach) in 1998, the first night after we closed on the purchase of our new home, we went to dinner with our new neighbors. We walked a couple of blocks to Oscar's. I was in very casual clothes and had to borrow my neighbor's sandals, which were many sizes too big. But, I knew it was a casual place and would be fine. We had an enjoyable time on the back deck overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Unfortunately, a fire destroyed Oscar's in 2001. We waited many years for the Usina family to rebuild. We are glad they took the time necessary to do things right.
In March, Frank Usina and his family built a new 5,000 square foot waterfront restaurant on the former site of Oscar's. The Usina family has owned the property for more than a century and the new restaurant is named for his grandmother, Catherine ("Kate") Usina, who bought the property in 1904 and ran the restaurant for many years. With 2,000 square feet of deck outside overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway and 150 feet of floating dock, Aunt Kate's has quickly become a favorite St. Augustine dining establishment. You can visit Aunt Kate's by road or water. Many people walk or ride their bikes to this new favorite neighborhood restaurant.
Yesterday, I had visiting friends visiting. They live in Jacksonville, but were visiting St. Augustine for the day. When it came time for the dinner decision, I knew just where to go.
I have been enjoying Aunt Kate's frequently. My last visit I had the baked Rotini with fresh locally caught shrimp and had to have that again. Our waitress, Heather, said it was her favorite, too. I also recommend the baby-back ribs. I really like the fish tacos, too and my husband usually gets the pulled pork. I have enjoyed each of my meals here. During the grand opening celebration I sampled each of their soups (Minorcan Clam Chowder, New England Clam Chowder and She-Crab).They are all future award winners! Aunt Kate's is currently serving locally caught blue crabs, too.
The service at Aunt Kate's is responsive and friendly. Matthew, the general manager, checks on every table and ensures the customer's satisfaction. He told me they stage seating to make sure the kitchen doesn't get overloaded so people get their meals quickly and hot. Ours were.
Upon entering Aunt Kate's you will notice a wall of old photos portraying the history of Vilano Beach, North Beach, Porpoise Point and the restaurant.
The history provided by the restaurant says that just before the turn of the century (that being the century before this one---i.e, 1890s) Captain Frank Usina married Catherine Evans. The newlyweds moved south, just north of Miami so Frank could continue his job building railroad depots for Henry Flagler. Yellow fever struck so they moved back to St Augustine. Adolphus Pacetti (North Beach is named after this family: Pacetti North Beach) suggested they use one of the railroad houses that still stands North East of the restaurant.
When the yellow-fever epidemic was over instead of moving back to south Florida, Frank suggested they purchase the property. Her family built the current restaurant so her legacy lives on.
The restaurant is built in a low-country style with great porches for relaxing, a metal roof and a wonderful deck on the Intracoastal. The deck is built around great oak trees. Many people request the "tree" table. There are many misters installed to keep you cool.
Notice the bar. The part of the hull of the old Victory II forms the base of the bar. The Victory II was launched in 1918 and was the main mode of transportation to our area (North Beach and Vilano Beach) from St. Augustine before the bridge was put in.
Today, during my visit, I notice a new brick patio just off of the back deck being constructed. I can't wait to see the final product. This brick patio leads down to a sandy beach. Next to Aunt Kate's is a bait shop called Mike's Place, which I will blog about shortly.
The food is wonderful, the prices are affordable, the service is spot-on and all with this wonderful view:
Directions to Aunt Kate's Restaurant:
Take Scenic A1A from St. Augustine over the Usina (Vilano) Bridge over the ICW. Continue on A1A by taking a left on Coastal Highway and travel about 2.5 miles north to Euclid (by The Reef Restaurant). Take a left on Euclid as directed by this homemade sign
all the way to the Intracoastal. Aunt Kate's is on the right.
612 Euclid Ave Saint Augustine, FL 32084 (904) 829-1105
About the author:
Barbara Jenness has lived in the North Beach area since 1998 and is an active community volunteer. She is President of Friends of A1A, vice-president of the local community association North Shores Improvement Association (NSIA), Board member of Vilano Beach Main Street since 1998 and has assisted with the redevelopment of Vilano Beach since 1998. She is a member of the Porpoise Point Homeowner's Association. She was selected as Businesswoman of the Year last year by the Women's Council of REALTORS in St. Augustine because of her community involvement. She also enjoys eating out regularly!