Salt Water Cowboys of St. Augustine – Review

Melinda D. Teston

Note: menu offerings and prices may vary.

If any restaurant truly epitomizes the intentions of St. Augustine seafood, Salt Water Cowboy’s is it. This is a restaurant that even if you know how to get to it, you are likely to have to search for it, even when following the signs! (Thank God for the sign that tells you that you’ve missed the turn.) Fortunately, the food is worth the drive and effort.

The specialty of the house is high quality, local seafood dishes “served in a turn-of-the-century fish camp setting.” They also feature open-pit barbecue items, claiming them to be the “best this side of the Suwannee and, for that matter, the other side, too!”

Start your dining experience with Cowboy’s Spicy Red Clam Chowder or their award-winning Creamy White Clam Chowder. You can also choose the “Florida Cracker” Combo — frog legs, cooter (soft shell turtle), and alligator tail. For the less adventurous, there’s Boiled Shrimp and freshly shucked Oysters, and my personal favorites Oysters Dondanville (prepared with garlic butter, vermouth, and scallions, served on the half-shell) and the Big Bucket of Steamed Oysters.

Hopefully you’re not too full, yet. Dinner selections are abundant, affordable, and encompass a broad range of seafood that is available fried, broiled, blackened, grilled, and baked. On our visit, the Fried Shrimp were lightly battered and HUGE! The Broiled Scallops were sweet cooked in their own juices with a touch of lemon and butter, and the Shrimp and Oyster Fried Combination offered large, tender shrimp and tasty oysters. Other notable menu items include Soft-Shell Crabs w/ Cowboy’s famous rebel sauce, Catch of the Day baked in a sour cream vermouth sauce topped with parmesan cheese, Cooter, Cowboy’s Baby Back Ribs (OK, so that’s not seafood, but they looked really good at the next table), and a Blackened 12-ounce New York Strip. I can’t wait to get back there soon to try the Deep Fried Blackened Catfish. All dinners include hot bread (it’s really good), salad or slaw, and a choice of two of the following: french fries, baked potato, potato salad, baked beans (my choice), or the daily vegetable.

A recent visit confirmed my previous assessment of this restaurant. As always, their fried shrimp was amazing, and the stuffed ones were very good. I also enjoyed the tangy sauce on the barbecued shrimp. Other members of our party tried the fried Combination Platter and really enjoyed the selections of seafood. This item is served with some of the largest, sweetest, and tenderest scallops I’ve ever tasted. The shrimp are large and the fish is quite tasty, obviously not an afterthought like the fish serving on combo platters in many restaurants.

Service was prompt and very attentive. Salt Water Cowboy’s is not a restaurant at which to catch a quick meal, so sit back and enjoy the view afforded by the picture windows which enclose the modest-sized dining room on three sides. [If you have time now, preview an artist’s rendering of the restaurant.]

Salt Water Cowboy’s can be found at the end of Dondanville Road just off A1A in St. Augustine Beach. They open for dinner only around 5:00 in the afternoon. I strongly suggest arriving early unless you do not mind waiting, as they do not take reservations. They do have an outdoor bar and a beautiful deck from which to gaze out over the water while enjoying a beverage. For information and directions, call (904) 471-2332.

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