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O'Steen's Restaurant

205 Anastasia Boulevard, St. Augustine, FL - (904) 829-6974
Posted By Michael Stern on 10/2/2008 9:10:00 AM
I came to O'Steen's on an expedition to find St. Augustine's best Minorcan chowder; and sure enough, this is where it is. Similar in appearance to Manhattan clam chowder, it radiates the fruity potency of the locally-grown datil pepper which, like its botanical cousin the habanero, delivers its heat in a slow-rolling but inexorable wave of exhilaration. That datil punch is only a prelude to the main attraction here: fried shrimp. Florida's north coast claims to be the birthplace of the shrimping industry; and while the shrimp around here aren't the biggest, and their nature varies from season to season and depending on what exact variety you are eating, these are shrimp to remember. Available in orders of 9, 12, 18, or 24, they are each butterflied to resemble the lines inside the circle of a peace symbol. Sheathed in a crunchy veil, their pink flesh packs snap and nutty luxury.

The shrimp are served atop a pile of French fries and they are accompanied by a ramekin of the kitchen's special pink sauce for dipping. To give the sauce an extra charge, O'Steen's datil pepper sauce is set out on tables and at the counter in Grolsch beer bottles. While my waitress suggested I mix it with the pink sauce, I loved the unadulterated hot sauce so much that I poured a puddle of it on the plate and used it as a dip for everything I could find: the shrimp, of course, plus the French fries as well as hushpuppies, corn bread, and biscuits.

O'Steen's is a small cafe with a sign on the wall that warns, "If you have reservations, you are in the wrong place." It takes no credit cards, has no tablecloths, and serves no liquor. It is so immensely popular that there always is a wait, even at 11:30am and 5pm. An antiques mall on the other side of the parking lot invites O'Steen's customers to shop until their place becomes available, a small sign outside its door promising, "Hear names on the speaker inside … Enjoy the shrimp."

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
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A culinary anthropologist could pinpoint the precise location of this dish. The hushpuppies and blackeyed peas are a sure sign of the South in general. The elegant shrimp say Florida's north coast. The pink dipping sauce with a datil pepper punch is St. Augustine's
"A culinary anthropologist could pinpoint the precise location of this dish. The hushpuppies and blackeyed peas are a sure sign of the South in general. The elegant shrimp say Florida's north coast. The pink dipping sauce with a datil pepper punch is St. Augustine's"
Michael Stern





The menu warns of a 30 minute wait for O'Steen's fried chicken. It is cooked to order and very good, but still not good enough to dissuade me from getting the justly-famous fried shrimp.
"The menu warns of a 30 minute wait for O'Steen's fried chicken. It is cooked to order and very good, but still not good enough to dissuade me from getting the justly-famous fried shrimp."
Michael Stern


The signature dish of St. Augustine: clam chowder supercharged with datil peppers.
"The signature dish of St. Augustine: clam chowder supercharged with datil peppers."
Michael Stern


O'steen's is the place in St. Augustine for fried shrimp.
"O'steen's is the place in St. Augustine for fried shrimp."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


This style of butterflying a shrimp is typical of the Florida north coast.
"This style of butterflying a shrimp is typical of the Florida north coast."
Michael Stern


You may have to wait in a long line at O'Steen's for your shrimp fix (and a delicious fix it is!), but here's a tip: ask for takeout, get your food in 10 minutes or so, and head for a picnic lunch at the gorgeous Anastasia State Park a few miles down the road.
"You may have to wait in a long line at O'Steen's for your shrimp fix (and a delicious fix it is!), but here's a tip: ask for takeout, get your food in 10 minutes or so, and head for a picnic lunch at the gorgeous Anastasia State Park a few miles down the road."
Susanne Hupfer


Here is the magic of St. Augustine, in the form of datil pepper. In the foreground: peppers in vinegar, well-suited for dressing vegetables. In the background: datil pepper sauce, a fiery potion that would make a piece of cardboard taste great.
"Here is the magic of St. Augustine, in the form of datil pepper. In the foreground: peppers in vinegar, well-suited for dressing vegetables. In the background: datil pepper sauce, a fiery potion that would make a piece of cardboard taste great."
Michael Stern


A cool dessert after a hot meal: banana cream pie.
"A cool dessert after a hot meal: banana cream pie."
Michael Stern


Meals are accompanied by a biscuit and a square of cornbread, both of which are excellent vehicles for conveying datil pepper sauce from plate to mouth.
"Meals are accompanied by a biscuit and a square of cornbread, both of which are excellent vehicles for conveying datil pepper sauce from plate to mouth."
Michael Stern


This sign is posted on the door of the antiques store on the other side of O'Steen's parking lot. It is reassurance that you won't miss your name being called if you are inside browsing among the nick-nacks.
"This sign is posted on the door of the antiques store on the other side of O'Steen's parking lot. It is reassurance that you won't miss your name being called if you are inside browsing among the nick-nacks."
Michael Stern


O'Steen's is not a large restaurant, and is very popular locally.  Expect to wait (you might be able to shorten the wait if you're willing to sit at the counter).
"O'Steen's is not a large restaurant, and is very popular locally. Expect to wait (you might be able to shorten the wait if you're willing to sit at the counter)."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


A Florida landmark for fried shrimp - O'Steen's.
"A Florida landmark for fried shrimp - O'Steen's."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


The roadside sign is a good sign indeed of something special inside.
"The roadside sign is a good sign indeed of something special inside."
Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle


Be sure to try the signature fried shrimp, coated in a light, crispy batter and butterflied in a unique way.
"Be sure to try the signature fried shrimp, coated in a light, crispy batter and butterflied in a unique way."
Susanne Hupfer



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