Downtown St Augustine is absolutely packed with restaurants. A stroll down any block brings you copious amounts of seafood, tapas, and and dessert treats. We were looking for something unique the other night and stumbled upon Barley Republic because of a mouth watering grilled meat scent wafting out into the street. The special on the board outside listed a wild boar burger as the special of the day and we knew we had found the right place. There was a fair amount of seating available outside and inside, but we opted for inside to get the full ambiance of the restaurant. The tiny Irish themed restaurant takes you right out of Florida and into Ireland with it’s dark wood interior and large bar with copious beer choices. The inside was surprisingly quiet and comfortable with music loud enough to create background noise but not loud enough to be disruptive.
Address: 48 Spanish St, St Augustine, FL 32084
Phone: (904) 547-2023
Our waitress was truly outstanding. She immediately brought us a carafe of water when we sat down, filled our glasses and left the carafe on the table. The carafe was filled with water that was slightly cold and no ice. Our guess is they’re shooting for authenticity. If you like your water ice cold then you’ll need to ask for ice. We asked the waitress for her recommendations and she pointed us towards the mussels and beer as the most popular item on the menu. She also recommended the curry. Curry is certainly an odd addition to an Irish pub menu. However, we’ve found that when something looks out of place on a menu it’s often one of the best options. If it weren’t no one would order it and it would get quickly removed. After listening to the daily specials, we opted to order the chef’s deviled eggs ($5 for 4), the aforementioned wild boar burger and the recommended mussels and beer ($12). Our waitress suggested that the boar burger be cooked medium and we went with that recommendation.
The deviled eggs and mussels arrived quickly and our waitress held back on the burger until we had made a nice dent in our appetizers. The deviled egg flavor changes daily, and this day’s flavor was parmesan and bacon. Unfortunately these were a bit of a let down. The parmesan flavor was fine, the yolk of the egg was whipped into a light, fluffy “deviled” status, but the poor bacon was either bacon bits or bacon of really low quality. Bad bacon is devastating to me and we each tried one egg and left the other two on the plate. Had the bacon been better, this would have been a pretty perfect appetizer.
On the other hand, the mussels compensated for the bad bacon and then some. I’m not the most selective on mussels, I generally love them any way they’re prepared and I’m always happy when I order them. Barley Republic’s mussels blew us away. The sheer quantity is probably three times as much as what we typically see at restaurants for the same approximate price. The mussels could be a meal in and of themselves. They come smothered in a sauce made from beer, cream, mustard, and shallots that I could have had as a soup. They’re also served with crusty grilled baguette which you will need to soak up every ounce of the sauce. The sweetness of the beer and cream mixed with the bite of the mustard should have felt heavy on seafood but it was actually perfectly complementary to the briny flavor of the mussels. It soaked down into the shells as we ate so the mussels at the bottom had the more distinct flavor of the sauce. I later even tore of pieces of my bun from the burger to dip into the bottom of the mussel bowl. Next time I will ask for more bread now that I know how delicious it is.
We had a few mussels left when our burger arrived. Our waitress thoughtfully rearranged the table each time that she brought a new plate out since we were sharing all the food. This is the type of service you expect from a high end restaurant and was a delight to have in the pub atmosphere. It wasn’t a disruptive movement either, it was coordinated and efficient. Back to the burger, because it deserves lots of love in this article. The boar burger patty was thick and the toppings were stacked high on a grilled bun. The burger came with grilled pineapple, arugula, and house made pickles plus a semi-sweet sauce that had a bit of a spice to it. We also got a side of house made french fries. For those who have not eaten wild boar, it has a slightly gamey flavor to it that makes it very distinct. I don’t mean gamey in a negative way as in it wasn’t processed correctly. It has almost a rich, smoky flavor and has less fat than traditional pig so the meat is a thicker texture. I believe it came out slightly past medium but that wasn’t a deal breaker. The burger still had plenty of flavor and moisture. The toppings were perfectly paired with the burger. The grilled pineapple was juicy and deliciously sweet which toned down the heavy meat. The pickles we ate on the side and probably deserve an article to themselves. They are made in house and are sweet and spicy and marvelous. I’d eat a hundred of those pickles. Actually I’d eat a thousand of those pickles. The waitress said she couldn’t tell us the recipe, but that apple cider vinegar gave them their distinct flavor. The fries were great for people who like a thick cut “potatoe-y” french fry. They’re clearly hand cut and fried and are served fresh.
Overall our experience at Barley Republic was much more than we expected. We went in assuming we would have good bar food and we received excellently prepared and flavored unique cuisine. The simple touches at Barley Republic make it special – the above and beyond customer service, the unique food offerings, and the comforting atmosphere. We’re so glad we found by accident, next time we are there it will definitely be on purpose.