When Jeff and Genie McNally moved their restaurant from downtown’s Cordova Street to Spanish Street, they took their dingy with them. Found behind Sailor’s Exchange, the restored dingy hung prominently from the ceiling of their first restaurant and was a wedding present to the McNallys from a friend. The Floridian is full of personal memorabilia and family flourishes.
Genie’s family boasts eight generations of North Floridians. Eating there feels like you are at your aunt’s house, only the food is made by your hip culinary cousins.
The McNallys opened the Floridian’s doors in 2010 with nary a cash flow. The idea was to serve seasonal innovative food from as many local suppliers as possible. From St. Augustine’s Veggie Confetti to Live Oak’s Wainwright Dairy, every effort is made to sustain local and regional economies.
There are 150 seats upstairs. Downstairs features a front patio area and two full-service bars.
Lunch and dinner are served. You may find yourself ordering anything from Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf to ‘N’ Biscuits served with tofu or chicken — where biscuits meet the new millennium.
Q&A WITH CO-OWNER JEFF McNALLY
How would you describe the restaurant’s atmosphere?
Casual and fun, vibrant. I want a place where people can come in with flip flops and sit down at a table with linen napkins. The staff is professional without the button downs or collared shirts. Friends have donated art pieces. My mom worked here; my brother waited tables. It’s a family and community supported venture.
What is your food philosophy?
Our food encapsulates innovative Southern fare. We build upon Southern cuisine and update it. For instance our purple rice grits are not what your grandmother would have fed you. We weave the freshest seasonal foods into our menu and seek out superior local and regional food suppliers. Our waiters are knowledgeable about the ingredients.
What types of cuisine do you specialize in?
Innovative Southern fare for omnivores, herbivores and locavores. Right now, beets are in season, and they are in salads and coleslaw. We have picked them and use beet juice in our whiskey cocktail. That’s just one example of our innovative range.
What is your signature dish?
While our menu changes seasonally and Genie creates daily specials, a constant favorite is the ‘N’ Grits — choice of blackened Florida shrimp, fresh catch or tofu over creamy goat’s cheese with Congaree and Penn purple rice grits, topped with flash-fried kale, citrus-strawberry salsa and house ricotta.
What would you recommend for a first timer?
The Floridian has a fresh catch entree that is cornflake encrusted, pan fried and broiled with a cilantro-lime compound butter served with sauteed seasonal vegetables and herb-crusted potatoes. For something lighter try one of our six salads chock full of health.