During my four years as a student at Flagler College, I would often find myself wandering the streets of St. Augustine looking for the perfect cup of coffee. My friends and I would lament that our beautiful city did not have a coffee house. A real coffee house. One where we could order a latte, sit comfortably, maybe study, but more likely, enjoy one another’s company. About eight years later, St. Augustine finally has their coffee house. Actually, we have three.
The Kookaburra opened their first location in 2012. The café is tucked neatly into the old Exchange Bank building, right in the heart of the historic downtown area. It is situated perfectly for grabbing a drink and exploring the city. The little shop is right across Cathedral Place from the Plaza de la Constitucion, around the corner from St. George Street, and a block away from the Bayfront. I would also like to point out that the café is only two blocks away from Flagler College, making this location a meeting place for tourists, locals, and students alike.
In 2014, The Kookaburra expanded and opened a larger café off of 312 in the Seabridge Square Shopping Center, providing plenty of parking and a much larger dining area. This expansion also provided the growing business with a large kitchen to ensure that their Aussie Pies and other freshly baked treats would now be plentiful in both locations. At the 312 location, you will find students, professionals, and locals enjoying the many tempting treats and drinks, including craft beer and wine. The comfortable atmosphere is ideal for hunkering down and spending some quality time with a cup of coffee or tea.
Building off of their success, The Kookaburra opened their third location in St. Augustine Beach. This small café, situated off of F Street, is only one black from the Atlantic. I promise that I will be visiting that location frequently as the weather heats up and the beach starts to summon my name. I have recently discovered that a large iced coffee and scone from The Kook is the perfect accompaniment to sitting in the sand while watching the waves roll in.
The Kook’s owners have chosen an interesting spin on the traditional coffee house theme. Spencer Hooker and Megan Vidal decided to honor Spencer’s Australian roots by incorporating Australian foods, coffee preparation, and décor. However, you can still find the usual coffee house specialties as well. The owners have become big supporters of other hometown and regional businesses and often feature local specialties in the café. For example, the Kookaburra exclusively uses Bold!Bean coffee, which is fair-trade, organic, and roasted in Jacksonville. This is a conscientious and wise choice ensuring a fresh supply of high quality, delicious coffee while keeping business local.
The Kookaburra is a self-described Australian-American espresso bar and the owners take this title to heart in their menu. You can find the usual espresso offerings, which are artfully prepared by highly trained staff. The Australian influences are evident in the Signature Drink menu with options such as the Cherry Ripe, inspired by a chocolate cherry coconut treat, and The Hot Aussie, a sweet vanilla and cream latte. A local favorite is The Honey Badger, a honey, vanilla, and cinnamon latte.
Being a Florida girl, I often find myself sipping on a cold drink. The iced coffee at The Kook is strong and delicious, made from a dark, smooth Brazilian roast. However, Spencer has converted me to a Chemex pour over. It takes the barista about four minutes to “brew” this perfect cup, but it is well worth the wait – flavorful and velvety. I strongly recommend the darker roasts when choosing this method. On a recent visit, my husband ordered a Café Cubano and was delightfully surprised when he was served the familiar, strong and sweet cup of espresso and a small glass of club soda. This classic pairing was refreshing and invigorating at the same time and is a must try for those who are looking for a unique coffee experience. The chai latte has its own following. It is incredibly delicious, made from a house blend of seven spices, unlike the store bought mixes used at a lot of other places.
The Kookaburra’s food options are excellent. Their savory Aussie pies are a must try. Each pie is handmade and I have never had a more delicious crust. In the mornings, you can find brekkie pies filled with variations of eggs, bacon, cheese, and sausage. These are excellent with Sriracha Sauce. The last time I ordered, I was pleased to try a spinach and egg pie. A Kook favorite is the traditional meat pie, filled with ground sirloin in a tomato sauce. It also contains a famous Australian ingredient, creating a unique flavor for the American palate. The Kookaburra also offers a delicious vegetarian option with the curry veggie pie – julienned broccoli, carrot, and cabbage in a homemade coconut curry sauce.
In addition to the savory offerings, The Kook also has delicious, fresh muffins and scones. These flavors often change with the seasons. Their butterscotch pumpkin muffin inspired a baking frenzy in my house this past winter. My spring favorite is the mixed berry scone, which is served with crème fraîche and raspberry preserves. There are also Australian treats to sample such as Lamingtons, a coconut-coated chocolate sponge cake.
Often I visit coffee shops to feed my caffeine fixation. Occasionally I will buy food from these establishments to keep the edge off my hunger. The Kookaburra is the only espresso bar that I will patronize for the drinks as much as the food. Each are equally delicious, well done, and unique to The Kookaburra. The three convenient locations make visiting easy whether you are exploring the historic city, looking for a place to study, or spending the day with your toes in the sand.
Writer Cassie Oborne grew up in the beautiful Gulf Coast city of Naples, Florida. She graduated from Flagler College, where she studied English and Secondary Education. After graduation, she and her husband made St. Augustine their permanent home. She has spent the last 16 years exploring and eating her way around the ancient city.