During a recent weekend away in St. Augustine, hubby and I found ourselves up way too early (thanks, kiddos) and hungry for a hearty breakfast before a day of exploring. We found a place just around the corner from our vacation rental home. Jaybird’s is a freestanding restaurant on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, right next door to its corresponding hotel, Jaybird’s Inn. While “hotel restaurants” don’t usually get high marks in our book, the online menu looked pretty promising, so we decided to give it a try.
We arrived shortly after they opened at 7am and were the only ones there during most of our meal. We were greeted warmly and seated right away. Our server was friendly, accommodating, and prompt. It was Southern hospitality at its best. We were immediately brought fresh, hot coffee (yay!) and left to look over the expansive menu. While thumbing through the menu, we both commented that the coffee was especially good. I’m not sure if it had anything to do with the fact that we were up so doggone early, but we really savored our coffee on this particular morning.
When our server returned, we placed our order and then had some time to take in the décor while we waited. The interior of Jaybird’s is loungey and casual, almost like a cross between a family diner and a sports bar. It comes across as a tad dated, but still clean and comfortable. The rust-red walls and amber light fixtures add warmth to the space, while all the windows let in tons of natural light. The walls are covered with framed photographs showing birds, flowers, landscapes, and stunning photos capturing Florida’s natural beauty. We were thrilled to learn that these photos were actually taken by one of the co-owners, Rainer Martens. Before he and his wife Julie took ownership of the property in 2012, the building housed an old IHOP, long-since shut down. They renovated the space and created their own, completely new restaurant. Under the direction of Chef Mark Langston, Jaybird’s has become a favorite of locals as well as travellers passing through town. Its close proximity to the hotel and to other local attractions makes it an ideal spot to stop in for a bite to eat anytime of day. The outdoor dining area is especially spacious and charming, with a wooden bridge, lots of greenery, and a water feature to add character and interest.
After a short wait and a rousing game of I-spy to keep the kids occupied, our food was brought over and we dug right in. For the kids, we went with a side of Cheese Grits ($2.95) and half order of Chocolate Chip Pancakes (one pancake for $5.95). The grits were surprisingly good. They were creamy, cheesy, and well seasoned. The pancake was especially impressive, mostly because of its sheer size. This thing was HUGE – almost the same size as the plate it was served on. It elicited an excited “Mom! It’s bigger than my face!!” from my five-year old. Because of the size, however, the pancake was a bit chewy around the outside. I would imagine that because of the massive size, in order to allow the middle to cook completely, the outer edge got a tad overdone and took on a dense, chewy texture. The flavor was still good and chocolaty and middle part was nice and fluffy, so the kids didn’t complain at all.
For his entrée, my husband ordered the Corned Beef Hash ($8.95). Along with the corned beef hash, the meal came with two eggs and a choice of toast, English muffins, or biscuit. The corned beef hash was salty and flavorful, just as it should be. There was nothing spectacular or special about it, although the golden brown crisp, pan-fried crust added a nice texture to it. This was a good breakfast, and a hearty portion for the price.
I went with the Sweet Potato Hash ($9.95) for my breakfast. As soon as I saw it on the menu, I knew I had to have it. The description alone made my mouth water and I could not wait to dig in. The dish did not disappoint. Peppers and onions mingled with julienned jalapeño peppers to create delicious layers of flavor. Chorizo added even more flavor and a great heat to the dish. The home fried potatoes were perfectly cooked and the sweet potatoes added a nice subtle sweetness that complimented the spicy chorizo. On top of it all sat two perfectly cooked poached eggs and a drizzle of creamy hollandaise sauce. Cutting into the eggs unleashed a perfectly runny yolk that mixed with the other flavors in the dish to create some serious deliciousness. If you’re looking for something different and interesting for breakfast, this is a dish I would definitely recommend. Of course, there are plenty of other yummy options to start your day, including Jailhouse Grits, Huevos Rancheros, and what we’ve heard is a local favorite – the Smoked Salmon Benedict.
For this meal, we obviously focused on the breakfast section of the menu, but a quick glance over the other sections showed that Jaybird’s offers some solid lunch and dinner options as well. They have an extensive menu with everything from salads to hot and cold sandwiches, pasta dishes to tacos, as well as steaks and burgers. Their happy hour game also seems strong, with a full bar and lots of daily drink specials available. If pizza is more your thing, then stop by the pizzeria section of the restaurant for a full menu of wings and specialty pizzas, which you can order by the pie or by the slice.
When it comes to menu selection, Jaybird’s has it all. There is something for everyone. If you’re a traveller visiting town, this is reasonably priced and conveniently located place for any meal of the day. If you’re a local and haven’t tried out Jaybird’s, you should stop in for a meal and see what you think. Don’t write it off just because it is a “hotel restaurant.” The friendly service, casual atmosphere, and just plain good food definitely make it worth stopping by.
Rhonda Kovar grew up in the heart of North Carolina before moving to Florida after getting hitched in 2002. She is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University and a lover of all things crafty, musical, or edible. Rhonda loves finding new and delicious ways to turn her two tiny picky eaters into future foodies. You can follow her on Instagram and read her other reviews over at Jax Restaurant Reviews.