Review: Preserved

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by Damon Noisette // photo by Agnes Lopez

The corner of Bridge Street and MLK avenue in St. Augustine’s Lincolnville neighborhood had something of a bad reputation. Fortunately, with the opening of Preserved Restaurant in April, a place that was once something of an eyesore is now one of the Oldest City’s finest dining destinations.

The Victorian building that houses Preserved was the home of President Thomas Jefferson’s great granddaughter Maria Jefferson Shine in the late 1800s. Many years later, the property fell into disrepair as the M&M Market, a notorious criminal enterprise, was shuttered after a November 2010 police raid. Businessman David Corneal purchased the property from the city in 2014 and set out on an extensive renovation project to revive the structure to its original architectural glory—and in the process helped spark a renaissance in Lincolnville.

Restaurateur and chef Brian Whittington returned to his St. Augustine roots with Preserved after serving as executive chef of Avondale gem Restaurant Orsay. He made the most of the space available in the beautifully restored Victorian, with 30 seats inside and 20 more outside—under ceiling fans—on the wraparound porch. Preserved’s one-page menu strikes a balance between familiar Southern fare and locally sourced fine dining.

For starters, options like the roasted oysters ($11), with a parmesan-herb crust, bacon lardons and garlic cream, would work well for the table. The spinach salad ($8) is probably better for one because the creamy Lil’ Moo cheese and bacon vinaigrette dressing might make it hard to share.

A tender beef short rib ($28) entrée will please any carnivore, and seafood lovers are right to select the local fish entrée ($26), a thick and expertly seared snapper filet served over Congaree & Penn rice middlins and pickled okra. Another way to go is the Southern classic shrimp and grits ($23). It is spot on in its delivery and not to be missed, with fluffy antebellum grits and bits of crisp bacon to complement the fresh Florida white shrimp.

Sides can be ordered à la carte; if you’re choosing between the creamed spinach ($5), mac and cheese ($5) and roasted Brussels sprouts ($6), you’re better off just ordering them all.

Preserved’s vanilla bean crème brûlée ($8) seems lighter on the spoon and better than most. The banana bread pudding ($8), served with buttermilk ice cream, is a great Southern spin on a classic comfort dessert. And for a diminutive finisher, the lemon curd cake ($8), with a dollop of torched meringue, is a delight.

Check Your Calendar Preserved is open for lunch Tuesday through Thursday. Friday and Saturdays are supper only, starting at 4 PM.

Uptown Saturday Night Preserved seats guests until 10:45 PM on Saturday nights, good news for late-night diners.

Small house blues With only 50 seats, making a reservation is highly recommended. Reservations can be made through OpenTable or by calling the restaurant.

Preserved Restaurant 102 Bridge St., St. Augustine 904-679-4940 preservedrestaurant.com