Ned’s is a comfort food staple in St. Augustine and we would be remiss if we didn’t include it in our journey around St Augustine writing this blog. The family style (including family seating) restaurant is well known for it’s huge portion sizes and affordable prices for all things soul food. The owner, Ned himself, is also behind Gypsy Cab. Ned’s Southside Kitchen is open Monday through Saturday 11 am to 9 pm and even includes a drive thru!
Address: 2450 US 1 South
Phone: (904) 794-2088
I was taking a working lunch on this particular day so I was alone. With the family style seating, I was seated by the hostess at a bigger table with two other women dining with me. I really like this kind of atmosphere because I can meet new people and have a comfortable communal style lunch. For some people that may be frustrating if they’re looking for privacy, but there were a few smaller tables scattered around for parties wanting a private dining experience. My waitress arrived after a few minutes to take my drink order while I looked over the expansive menu and specials. I love variety, and Ned’s has just that. Traditional southern staples, some Italian influenced pasta dishes, a few mediterranean options, salads, and of course the quintessential seafood dishes that St. Augustine is so well known for. Anyone can find something on Ned’s menu to try. As I was doing a review alone, I decided to order a few courses to try out as much as possible.
First up was the soup of the day (cup size $2.75), which this particular day was eggplant tomato bisque. All of the soups and chowders at Ned’s are made fresh daily, which is such an easy way to add tremendous value to a restaurant’s offerings. Soups and stews are simple and basic and yet so many are pre-purchased. Back to the soup of the day, I’m partial to anything with eggplant. While this soup was delicious, rich, full of fresh herbs, and tomato-y, I missed the eggplant flavor entirely. Don’t get me wrong, I would still order this soup every day and enjoy it, but I would literally have not known there was eggplant in this soup unless I was told. The lack of eggplant flavor did not stop me from scraping the cup of every ounce of soup.
About halfway through my soup the waitress returned to get my entree order. I opted for the grape leaf platter ($7.95) and a fresh fish of the day special, Flounder Supreme ($11.95). The waitress seemed a little taken aback by both entree orders for one tiny girl and she put in the grape leaf platter only to start with. When the plate arrived, it was evident that these grape leaves were pre-made, which was disappointing. Pre-made grape leaves’ texture is pretty unappealing. If you’ve never had them, the rice inside is gummy and the leaves themselves take on a rather slimy texture. Obviously by this description it’s evident that this is not something I’d reorder. The rest of the platter that is included with the grape leaves is immensely fresh and delicious. The platter was loaded down with diced crisp tomatoes, slices of cucumber, red onions, red peppers, and lightly toasted pita bread. There was also a generous helping of hummus, which was clearly made fresh in the restaurant. Their hummus is on the thicker side – more chickpea, less olive oil. The hummus was also topped with an excellent tapenade of green olives, peppers, and black olives. This platter is a tremendous amount of food, and minus the grape leaves would make an excellent light lunch.
As I was making progress on this platter, the waitress reapproached me and asked me if I still wanted to order the second entree. This seemed to be out of honest concern that she didn’t want me to pay for food I couldn’t eat. But, one entree and a cup of soup doesn’t make a thorough review for our readers. Needless to say, because she waited to put the second entree order in, I waited. And waited. And waited for my food. There was probably a near 30 minute gap between her verifying the second entree and me receiving my food. While I appreciated her obvious concern for not wanting me to be dissatisfied, I really would have preferred to not have to wait that long for my meal. Thankfully I wasn’t on a strict schedule. However, the second entree proved to be worth the wait. Actually, thinking about it while writing this description made my mouth water again wanting more. The Flounder Supreme was a huge filet of romano crusted flounder, topped with shrimp and a dill supreme sauce and served with tossed pasta and the vegetable of the day (steamed broccoli and carrots for this particular day) and a piece of garlic toast. This filet of fish was so tender it truly melted in my mouth. The romano in the crust wasn’t overwhelming, and the fish was cooked until just crispy on the outside so that each forkful had a crisp bite that surrounded the white fish. There was no shortage of the shrimp and dill supreme sauce, which tasted like the creamy shrimp sauce you would get at a Japanese steak house. The sides were basically fillers to give the special more substance. The tossed pasta was a simple angel hair with olive oil and herbs, which paired well combined with bites of the panko and romano. The steamed vegetables were just that – well steamed broccoli and carrots with no seasoning. The garlic bread needed a tad more garlic, but otherwise was a nice touch of extra carbs. Overall I was immensely satisfied with this special and would definitely order it any time it’s on the menu. Seafood seems to be the menu items to order at Ned’s. I would say nearly half the tables had a seafood course of some sort.
Aside from the massive delay in food and the much longer lunch than I anticipated, the food itself at Ned’s is precisely what it should be. The majority of it was fresh, homemade, and comforting. It was also extremely busy, so it’s clear that St. Augustine appreciates what Ned’s has to offer and has made it a popular spot for locals and travellers alike. Wear your stretchy pants – portion sizes are plentiful and the food is rich!