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O'Steen's Restaurant

205 Anastasia Boulevard, St. Augustine, FL - (904) 829-6974
Posted By Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle on 2/13/2009 1:07:00 PM
The northeast coast of Florida is one of the country's great shrimping regions, and it's said to be the birthplace of the commercial shrimping industry. The variety of shrimp pulled from the sea varies with the time of year, and we won't pretend to understand all the differences between them. What we found during our March trip through the region were shrimp that were uniformly soft and dry, with fugitive flavor. Not among our favorites, though they are much loved by others. The best we found were served at O'Steen's in St. Augustine.

A squat box of a building, O'Steen's doesn't appear promising at first glance, but there are a couple of clues that something special is going on inside. First of all, there's the sign, a shrimp dressed in hat and cane. Anthropomorphized food outside a restaurant is reason to be hopeful for good food within. Secondly, virtually any time of day that O'Steen's is open you'll see people gathered outside, some sitting on benches, waiting for their turn at a table (leave your name at the window). What makes their wait worthwhile is the expertly fried O'Steen's shrimp. The frying, and breading, is done with a lighter hand at O'Steen's than at most other local eateries, resulting in shrimp that, while paler of crust, have better texture. They are served with that ubiquitous local dip that resembles Russian dressing made with Dat'l Do It hot sauce. These shrimp don't need the sauce.

We also found our favorite version of the local red Minorcan clam chowder, along with some fine Southern-styled side dishes, including rice with a sweet and chunky tomato gravy and good hush pups. Lots of other good homestyle cooking is available besides the shrimp, and some say the fried chicken is a winner. All priced to attract a local clientele.

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4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
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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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