The St. Augustine Issue

The Floridian

Jeff & Genie McNally Matt Titone

Jeff and Genie McNally source food from fifteen local vendors. The only produce that doesn’t come from the immediate area is vegetables, and that’s the fault of Florida’s minimal growing season. The couple-owners of The Floridian want everything, from meat to garnish, to be locally sourced. And, they want it to play off of St. Augustine’s culture – without becoming fried shrimp and french fries. The idea in short: create new and exciting food from what Florida had to offer.

But Florida is an unusual state. It’s either chalk full of Southern charm or mellowing in a beachy vibe. As a city, St. Augustine adopts both equally. And as a restaurant, The Floridian navigates both equally. The quirky spot, tucked into a tree-shaded nook of downtown Spanish Street, serves up the classic Southern staples and dishes for the diehard vegan.

This means a lot of balls in the air for Jeff and Genie, including a menu that changes with the seasons. Chef Genie adapts to what local vendors can deliver at different times of the year, which doesn’t make the job easy. “We always joke that we definitely do it the hard way,” Jeff said. Genie chimed in, “But it keeps us energized.”

A marriage of cultures made from local fare is what Jeff and Genie began with and intend to keep. “The Southern spin is Genie’s side of the family,” Jeff said. “She’s eighth generation North Floridian. On my side, we were Floridian but not at all Southern. We were Bohemian. I mean, I was eating tofu stir fry for much of my childhood.”

Matt Titone
Matt Titone
Matt Titone

Jeff and Genie have both worked in the industry since they were 15. It was good on-the-job training. Genie manages the kitchen and crafts the menu, while Jeff juggles the ins and outs of the front of house staff. They’re a perfectly-matched partnership. “Opening a restaurant,” Genie said with a laugh, “is a really good litmus test for whether or not you should get married.”

The two know this well.

Back in 2010, the pair were five months married when they opened the doors of The Floridian’s original location on Cordova Street. Back then, the term “farm to table” was just entering the nation’s cultural vocabulary. Local options for fresh, healthy, vegetarian and vegan cuisine were sparse, at best.

The Floridian was born to fill the gap. The food is brimming with Southern flavor, but not in the traditional Southern style. Favorites like shrimp and grits are made vibrant with purple rice grits, flash-fried kale and a citrus-strawberry salsa. Biscuits are served with microgreens and (optional) tofu. Barbeque pork comes with gluten-free cornmeal waffles.

Matt Titone
Matt Titone

Behind the well-stocked and pineapple wallpapered bar, the local focus continues. This is not the spot to saddle up seeking a Jack and Coke. Jeff and his bartenders craft cocktails using local flavors and local sources — same as in the kitchen. The Floridian doesn’t stock standard spirits. On the shelves you’ll find selections from local St. Augustine Distillery Gin and, for the adventurous, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur. “It’s not to be pretentious or because we think we’re cooler,” Jeff said. “It’s because you can get those other experiences anywhere.”

“We’re lucky to be able to sell this locally-focused menu,” Genie added. “It’s taken years of organic growth.”

This article was originally published in our St. Augustine issue and was made possible with the support of  Vans, Design Within Reach, and Flexfit.

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Molly Wilson

Molly Wilson is the Managing Editor of the city magazine of St. Augustine, St. Augustine Social. She’s a graduate of Flagler College and a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, currently studying Liberal Arts. In her very limited free time, she enjoys baking, crocheting, reading crime novels, and nurturing a host of houseplants that never seem to respond to her care.

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