A few weeks ago my friends and I were walking through downtown St. Augustine and heard some amazing live music coming from a balcony above Hypolita Street. After looking around a bit we saw it was coming from Sangrias Wine and Tapas Bar, so we decided to walk upstairs to relax a bit and try out some of what Sangrias had to offer. After looking around a bit inside we decided we’d rather sit outside on the couches on the balcony and enjoy looking out over downtown St. Augustine. The glass tables were beautifully lit underneath with tiny Christmas lights and decorated with wine corks. It set an awesome ambiance to hang out for awhile.
Address: 35 Hypolita Street
Our waitress came over and greeted us and provided us with menus fairly quickly. The outside area at the time was not very busy but the inside was packed and it appeared that she had both sections. From the name of the restaurant, we obviously had to order sangria. Sangrias has 7 house sangrias that are all homemade and topped with sparkling wine. We opted for the cinco fruta sangria, which is a fusion of spanish red wine, fresh orange and cranberry juice, ruby porto, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. We had the option of either ordering a glass ($8) or a 48 ounce pitcher for $19, so the clear choice was ordering the pitcher to share. I think offering such a great price on a pitcher is a good reflection on the purpose of the business – tapas are meant to be shared and this clearly follows the communal dining theme. Our sangria came quickly so we are guessing it is stored in a large container and just filled into pitchers, which would make the most sense with the quantity of people in the restaurant. The wine was rich and sweet with just the right amount of tart that makes sangria enjoyable. Our only concern was that we joked that cinco fruta must translate to literally five pieces of fruit. We only had a few swimming around in the bottom of the pitcher and so we each got about one berry. To me, excellent sangria is equally great wine and fresh fruit, so this particular pitcher was about halfway to being excellent.
The tapas menu itself is rather limited, nothing is too fancy, and the small plates run between $12-$18 which is a little higher than most tapas places but not dramatically higher. We weren’t quite ready to order when the pitcher of sangria was delivered because one of our friends had stepped away, so we asked the waitress to come back shortly. We waited, and waited, and waited. It was clear this wasn’t a lack of customer service on her part, it was just chaotically busy and the restaurant was understaffed. She arrived back at our table awhile later and we ordered two sets of crab cakes ($13), the spanikopita ($13.50), and the caprese ($11.50). While our food was made we could hear the music drifting over from the other balcony at Sangrias. Truly, this atmosphere is pretty unmatched. It was relaxing, inviting, and obviously meant for customers to stay a while and visit. There was no rushed or hurried feeling to anything.
Our food was delivered really quickly since everything we ordered was fairly simple. First up to try were the crab cakes. We all love crab cakes, which is why we ordered two sets of these. All of the tapas were beautifully plated and these were no exception. We had three palm sized crab cakes on each plate with a side salad of organic greens and vegetables and a drizzle of sriracha on the side. The crab cakes also had a mustard sauce on top of each of them. The breading on the outside of the crab cakes was perfectly crisp and the insides were absolutely stuffed with crab. There’s no cheap filler here – you’re getting lump crabmeat with just enough breading to hold it together. These crab cakes have claw meat in them as well so you do get a little change in texture as you’re eating, which I enjoyed. We are all fans of spicy foods, so we really liked the sriracha on the side of the plate. One of my friends got a little too much sriracha on one crab cake when he was re-arranging the plate and mixed with the mustard sauce it was extremely salty, so don’t get overzealous and keep an eye on how much you’re adding if you have both the mustard and sriracha in one bite. The seasonal salad on the side of the crab cakes was absolutely delicious and had incredibly fresh but simple ingredients. We mixed it with the balsamic and sriracha on the side of the plate and it added some healthy freshness to the fried crab cakes.
The spanikopita was disappointingly only one pie. I was hoping for two assuming that this was a sharing portion, and really hoping for two at that high of a price point. The pie was made from phyllo dough, which is a more traditional preparation, and it was stuffed with spinach, feta, and cream cheese. There was some type of seasoning in the spanikopita that made it slightly bitter. Without whatever seasoning it was it really would have been excellent. The phyllo was flaky and buttery and the spinach was well cooked and tender. The side salad had mixed greens, lots of feta, and carrots (which the carrots seemed a little random to me with a greek tapa) and it was dressed with a balsamic dressing which was simple, bold, and tasty. I was thankful this came with the side salad, otherwise it really would have been an overpriced item.
Last up on the tapas was the classic caprese. I think often you can judge the quality of a restaurant by the care they put into simple dishes, and this tapa was no exception. Our plate came with four thick cut slices of tomato layered with equally thick buffalo mozzarella. There was a scattering of basil on top and balsamic drizzled throughout the plate. It also came with a small wedge of focaccia bread on the side. This was basic caprese done right. While the dish wasn’t over the top or unique, it had every basic element of fresh ingredients with large portions. There is nothing more disheartening when you have a limp slice of tomato or wilted basil served with caprese. This was clearly freshly prepared for our order. This tapa is sharing size. Three portions of tomato and mozzarella completely filled the plate. The mozzarella was high quality and creamy and absolutely melted when we ate it. In my opinion this was the best of the tapas we had because we could taste the freshness in it.
As we were finishing our pitcher of sangria, our waitress brought our check and had it all on one ticket. She graciously went and split it four ways without any complaint. Throughout the meal we never felt rushed or like they needed to turn a table even though they increasingly got busier as we were eating. Really, Sangrias to me is memorable and worth a return visit strictly for the atmosphere alone. The well-prepared tapas were a bonus but not the focus for me. It’d be easy to spend a Sunday afternoon with friends sharing wine and food on a regular basis. All of our table neighbors seemed to feel the same – the patrons were relaxed, happy, and clearly there were a fair amount of familiar, return clientele. Sangrias was a great accidental find for us, and we look forward to visiting again soon.