Cool Customer

Located just off King Street, a few blocks west of the heart of downtown St. Augustine, The Ice Plant's name is not just a nod to the history of the building, which was originally an ice making factory. Ice production re-started in August, with machinery transforming purified water into 300-pound blocks of ice that are eventually carved into the cubes dropped into the cocktails served in the restaurant's two upstairs bars. The interior’s attention to detail on the reclaimed wood floors and marble bars, and touches like vintage ice hooks adorning the walls, create an early 20th century rustic-yet-clean aesthetic.

After being seated at a comfortably large booth by the stairs, our server explained the drink choices, which center on unusual offerings that use small batch liquors rather than the recognizable brands. On that advice, we eschewed the wine and beer menu and started with cocktails and house-made sodas. The Florida Mule, a concoction of cane vodka, ginger syrup, lime and soda, delivered in a copper cup kept chilled by pebbled ice cubes, hid its liquor with a gentle sweetness. It was downright refreshing and, at $10, I reminded myself to sip slowly for fear of ordering another two or three. Our group gave high marks to the ginger ale and lemon-lime soda, but were less excited about the cola, though I suspect it was out of loyalty to Coca-Cola.

The menu offerings are heavy on foods from local sources but didn’t offer much in the way of variety. Our party found an adequate number of interesting choices available, particularly from the small plates and bar snacks section.
The Devils on Horseback, four bacon-wrapped dates surrounded by a bleu cheese purée, were so delicious and well received that the group required a second order. The local datil shrimp also didn’t last long at the table. The roasted beet and goat cheese terrine’s cool simplicity even converted an avowed hater of beets. The soft pretzel bread and its truffled cheddar fondue sauce was a fine companion to our drinks.

Skipping over the mahi-mahi daily catch, we opted for the land-based entrées. The bourbon BBQ pulled pork sammy, with jalapeño-lime slaw, was tender and messy, as one would expect. Juicy and thick, though not notably seasoned, the grass-fed Ice Plant burger comes with either the hand-cut french fries or a house salad. I opted for the fries and greedily paired them with what was left of the bleu cheese purée from our second order of bacon-wrapped dates.
Desserts are not specifically listed anywhere on the menu and the only two available that evening were on the creamy side, a mango panna cotta with bee pollen and strawberries and a maple ginger cheesecake. Both were decadent and delicious.

The Ice Plant is open until 2 AM, so a nightcap of a grapefruit Collins or Hemingway daiquiri could double as a suitable stand-in for something sweet.

The Ice Plant
110 Riberia, St. Augustine; (904) 829-6553,
Hours: Daily, 5 PM-2 AM
Prices: Appetizers $6-$10, entrées $10-$26, desserts $6-$10
Why Go?: Inventive old Florida-themed cocktails with house-made juices are paired with healthy menu items featuring local ingredients and served in a fantastically designed space.
Fancy, or Not: Dressed up for a night out or down for a stroll on St. George Street will work.
Who You Will See: A mix of tourists, St. Augustine locals, and nearby Flagler College students.
Worth the Wait: The high ceilings hide the fact that there are a limited number of tables. Order a cocktail and a soft pretzel bread appetizer and wait for the text alerting you to when one opens up.
by Damon Noisette  //  photos by Agnes Lopez