A Taste of Spanish Florida - Orlando / Florida Guide
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If you take a ride on one of the trolley buses that travel around the narrow streets of St Augustine, you will see much evidence of Spanish influence. Don Pedro Menendes de Aviles, the founder of St Augustine, first laid claim to the area by planting the Spanish flag way back in 1565, making St. Augustine the oldest occupied European settlement in the United States. Your journey will also take you past The Fountain of Youth, close to where the better known Jaun Ponce de Leon first set foot on the land he named ‘La Florida’ (a name which seems to have stuck! ) and past such attractions as The Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse and The Oldest Drug Store.
However, what you will not learn from the trolley ride is where are the best places to eat, and particularly how to avoid the tourist trap area around the waterfront, which is quite naturally a magnet for visitors. Look for restaurants and cafes that offer dishes that originated in Minorca; the small Spanish Island whose inhabitants many years ago brought a culinary expertise that is still in evidence today. These Minorcans arrived in 1768 to work in a plantation in the area now known as New Smyrna, but moved to St Augustine in the mid 1770s to escape their overseers.
One of the best restaurants, reputably, is O’Steens – not a particularly Spanish sounding name! Lonnie Pomar, a descendant of the Minorcans, owns the restaurant, which was originally started by Bob O’Steen in 1965. The restaurant, which is located across the Bridge of Lions, offers different dishes each day of the week. Arriving on a Friday will give you the opportunity to sample perhaps shrimp pilau, whilst chicken will be on offer on a Tuesday. But, arrive any day of the week and you will be able to order the restaurants signature dish of delicious Minorcan clam chowder. This is spicier than traditional clam chowders, due to the inclusion of Datil peppers, which have become synonymous with Minorcan style cooking in this part of America. In fact the flavour of most dishes served at this restaurant owes something to this vegetable. The good news is that you can take a reminder home with you, as the restaurant will sell you a bottle of Datil Squeezins which is a version of the pink dipping sauce that will likely have been served with your meal.
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