The Perfect Bite
St. Johns Magazine's exclusive reviews of Local Restaurants by Local Foodie Lori Allen
by Lori Allen
Summertime summertime heading to the beach time! I know a lot of us like to head down 95south to exit 206 and the beaches at Crescent, St. Aug, Matanzas inlet for paddle boarding and even for some a little area known as the Triangle. So after we’ve rinsed off the sand and ocean and are in need of a nice casual Air Conditioned place (because we are starving!)Look no further. Just a few miles down the road (a left instead of a right over the bridge at 206) you will run into this great place tucked into a strip mall called Redfrog & McToad’s. This place looks like a fun sports bar (so no worries if you are a bit sandy)…but believe me they serve way more than sports bar food that’s for sure! The menu has so many darn things on it you want to try them all! So to start we decided to go with the sports bar theme and move on from there…we got the Buffalo Chicken Dip and something they call Chicken bombers. The dip was cheesy and creamy filled with shredded chicken. I think that they make it so creamy with blue cheese mixed in with the melted cheese. Scoop some of this up with a tortilla chip, hot cheesy spicy crunch! It didn’t last long. These bomber thingys are so unusual that I just had to try them. They sort of look like a chicken wing drum but all the meat is pushed down to one end. Then they marinate them in a special seasoning, roast them then drop them in the fryer. They are crispy on the outside and tender on the in and you have all these choices of sauces to choose from! Hot, Mild, Bourbon Glaze, BBQ Hot Datil Pepper, Teriyaki, Garlic Parmesan and Extreme. Really really good!
The next thing that’s worth trying is their Great Chowder Debate 1st Place Winner New England Clam Chowder (or as I would say it Chowdah). The owners have this Bohemian/Irish heritage so the Chowder is not exactly like us New Englanders would make it but its Outstanding as my dad would say. The base has some kind of sherry/cooking wine in it along with cream and its super light and not fishy at all. There are lots of clams, potatoes and onions to give it tons of flavor and yes it does come with the traditional Oyster crackers (gotta have those!)
I tried one of their signature dishes, their famous Giant Pork Fried Tenderloin Sandwich. They take pork tenderloin, pound it out thin, season it up and then batter it with what tasted like seasoned flour along with panko breadcrumbs. If I had to guess they probably double battered it, first with flour, egg and then the panko break crumbs but whatever it is it makes a super crunchy batter and the pork has so much flavor you don’t even need a sauce with it! They serve this Ginormous piece of pork on an extra-large bun. It’s so big that the top of the bun along with the lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles and it has to come on a separate plate! I would highly recommend this with some of their Onion Straws. You can’t find super thin, super crispy onion straw/rings many places in the south. But you can find them here!
If you are feeling like something cool and fresh give their Black N Blue salad a try. This is a really good portion and you get tons of fresh mixed greens, bacon, crumbled bleu cheese, red onions, and tomatoes and on top you can add blackened Chicken, Shrimp or Mahi Mahi. The mixture of all the goodies makes this salad so delicious and you won’t go home hungry that’s for sure.
So when my son gets good grades he gets to have a special meal…their Lobster & Shrimp Mac-N-Cheese is one of those meals. Rotini pasta with Gruyere (Gruyere is named after a Swiss village, and is at first fruity to taste and later becomes more earthy and nutty flavor) and white cheddar combined to make a creamy sauce. Filled with shrimp and lobster then crunchy parmesan bread crumble on top. You have to be fast with the fork if you want to get a bite of that!
I guess having that Irish Heritage you will also find Sheppard’s Pie and Bangers and Mash (sausage links and mashed potatoes) on the menu but I think their Fish fry is off the chain good! They use Yuengling beer (kind of an amber ale) and make a light beer batter with it. Then they dip a thick generous portion of Haddock into it and deep fry it. When it comes served to you all hot and steamy you sink your fork into it and the fish just flakes away and it is so juicy you can’t stop eating it! I personally love the traditional way with Malt Vinegar to give the fish that tang. But they do make a rich creamy dill tartar sauce that is equally as good. But if you want to go all out like one of our friends did try the Fried Haddock and “Ultra” Shrimp plate. They add their Ultra-Light Ultra-Crisp beer battered shrimp to the already delicious fish for the best of both worlds!
Head on over after the beach or go down to watch a game. I am sure you will keep going back to see what else you can try!
by Lori Allen
6323 Racetrack Road
St. Johns, Florida
It’s that time of year and so I thought it would be a great idea to try out one of those favorites people love to eat at the ball parks…peanuts! Although this is not your ordinary roasted peanut….these are Gourmet Boiled Peanuts!
Randezz Nutz is the place to go if you want to try out original gourmet boiled peanuts. He is portable, but he does have a set schedule where he is on Race track road the majority of the time and makes what he likes to call the first ever Gourmet Boiled Peanuts. He told me that there has never been a market for gourmet peanuts so he created one. I asked him what makes them gourmet so he proceeded to have me taste them and see what I thought. Regular Gourmet was the first flavor I tried, these green peanuts are boiled with pineapples, carrots, ginger, lemon zest, onions and seasonings to give you a sweet tangy flavor. You can’t help but to suck out the juice before you pop open the peanut and delve in. It is so fully of sweet juicy fruity flavor and still a little salty because it is a peanut after all. The next kind we tried is called Cajun Gourmet boiled peanuts. These are similar to his regular gourmet ones but he adds Pepperoncini= banana pepper= sweet Italian pepper (that’s right, those funny yellowish green peppers you get with pizza or on a Greek salad) and Jalapenos which gives that tangy sweetness you get from the regular gourmet ones plus the extra heat you need to be calling them Cajun. He also throws in garlic and of course Cajun spices. They are hot enough that you might want a cold beer to go along with them but not so hot that you stop eating them! The heat is just enough to keep you coming back for more. These two flavors are what he has every day on the menu. But then he always has a special flavor of the day. When I stopped in the specialty of the day was Smoked turkey. That’s right smoked turkey boiled peanuts! The juice of these tasted like you were eating a thanksgiving peanut! He boiled them with smoked turkey (of course), celery, garlic, rosemary, thyme and a bunch of other seasonings. These were my son’s favorites and as an added bonus you sometimes even get actual chunks of smoked turkey...yum!
Some of Randezz other flavors include Korean barbeque, braised beef ribs with toasted sesame seeds, smoked kielbasa and bacon, lemon pepper and many more. You can call ahead and see what flavors he’s got going on that day or ask him on Facebook. I asked him where did he get his talent for making such tasty food and he told me although he was born and raised here in Jacksonville he spent some time in Mississippi as a sous chef…well that paid off because you can sure taste some of those Cajun flavors in his peanuts!
Randezz said it takes 12 hours to make one batch of boiled peanuts and he makes about 3 batches a night and up to 300lbs a week. These fine green peanuts are shipped to him from Virginia the peanut capital of the US.
Fun Fact: Boiled peanuts are widely consumed and commercially available in an area of the Southern United States from southern Virginia, south to central Florida, as far north as Ohio and west to Mississippi. The peanuts are sold in the hull and either boiled with only salt or with a piquant spice mixture such as Old Bay. Boiling peanuts has been a folk cultural practice in the Southern United States, where they were originally called goober peas, since at least the 19th century. The practice of eating boiled peanuts was likely brought by slaves from Africa. In July and August, when the peanut crops would come in, unsold and surplus peanuts would be prepared in a boil and extended families and neighbors would gather to share conversation and food. Boiled peanuts are symbols of Southern culture and cuisine. The first recipe for boiled peanuts was published by Almeda Lambert in 1899!
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Lori Allen is a local who moved from the Boston area to attend Flagler College and never left. She is a family person that loves the beach, football, working out and finding new places to try. Her love for food comes from her northern background and her love of cooking as well as meeting new and interesting people. She has never met a stranger nor has she ever been afraid to try an intriguing place. (Check out all her reviews on stjohnsmag.com)