For us in Jacksonville, St. Augustine feels like a get-away, even though its just right next door. DJ Snuggle Monster and I have been remiss in exploring our neighboring town.We finally made it over there one long weekend, with the Ice Plant on the top of our priority list for the trip.
Naturally, we also had a design to tour the St. Augustine Distillery, which is attached to the Ice Plant. While the tour was fascinating and the Vodka/Gin are delicious, their rolling out of their new dark rum at over $40 a bottle is a bit outrageous if you ask me – even if it has one a crap ton of awards. To me, if you ask your waiter if any of the Ice Plant’s specialty cocktails use their own rum, and he tells you that it’s too expensive to do so, you know there’s an issue with the price point.
Both the Distillery and the Ice Plant have a decidedly retro-feel, which is masterfully accomplished. They are located in the town’s old ice plant, and the owners have done everything they can to try to preserve as much of the old building as possible. It also make for great architectural design. Yes, even their bathroom maintains the throw-back feel (the toilets have pull chains from a ceiling tank), and yes, I took a picture of the bathroom. Even the waiters wear bowties and suspenders.The restaurant is super small, with very few tables. As most new restaurants are trying to do, they don’t take reservations, so try to get there early or be prepared to belly up to the bar or shop around the Distillery’s gift shop for awhile. We got there right as they opened, after our Distillery tour, so we were lucky enough to find a table right away.
DJSM started with the Soup of the Season, which was flavored with vegetables and chorizo, because of course, the man cannot pass up chorizo. The soup was fresh and bright, and a perfect start to a meal. We also tried the Devils on Horseback, which are bacon wrapped dates in a sticky sauce and a buttermilk blue cheese puree. The texture had a great chewy mouth-feel, and had a great combination of tart blue cheese/buttermilk with the sweet and salty bacon and dates. As a cheesehead, I would have liked to have more of the buttermilk blue cheese pureee because I am a glutton, but for most people, I am sure they felt it sufficiently balanced.
As DJSM and I had toured the San Sebastian Winery prior to touring the St. Augustine Distillery in the same day, right before dinner, we were, needless to say, a bit full. So we opted to share their special of the day, which was a whole-fried bass with chorizo broth and asparagus. Yes, the fish came complete with eyeballs and tail. The broth was unctuous and salty, and the fish was fried to a perfect crispiness. The fish was more than enough for the two of us to share, especially with the appetizers. All of the entrees, however, sound amazing, and any person you ask who has been will recommend it five times over.
The great thing about the Ice Plant is that, unlike some of the other establishments in St. Augustine, this place is stand-alone and authentic (and far from touristy). While its a bit on the pricey side, you get what you’re paying for, both in the experience and the food. Service is amazing, the ambiance is magical, and the food is outstanding. It’s a definite go-to.