My Wandering Fork
St. Johns Magazine's exclusive reviews of Local Restaurants by Local Foodie Lori Allen
St. Johns residents looking for a restaurant that encompasses casual beach energy with high end cuisine should look no further than The Reef. Set against the backdrop of the Atlantic, with stunning vistas of the ocean in every direction, dining at the Reef gives one the feeling of being aboard a yacht, complete with a first class chef and live entertainment.
The Reef originally opened as Compton’s in 1989 on a high dune overlooking the ocean at North Beach. The story goes that Mr. Compton, a local businessman and Mr. Usina, whose family is of direct Minorcan descent collaborated to create the new restaurant. Compton’s was popular but closed about a decade later in 1999 when Mr. Comptom fell ill. In 2002, after a brief but unsuccessful time as ‘McMulvie’s Reef’ the Usina family took over direct ownership of the property continuing business as The Reef, as it is known today. Since then under the ownership and support of the Usinas and the management of Jeremy Ticehurst and his team, The Reef has achieved a reputation of excellence.
Located as it is on the beach in a tourist town the concept is relaxed elegance. Outside, The Reef is a rustic-looking building with weathered boards and a North Florida feel. Inside, the scent of sea air mixes with diverse spices and fresh seafood while live music plays in the background every Friday and Saturday. It is a place where everyone and anyone is welcome, whether it is celebrating couples, families with children, casual groups or business people. People love the food, the daily happy hour, the music and the staff. Indeed, at the heart of what makes The Reef amazing is the well trained, courteous waiters, hostesses, bartenders and prep cooks who assist Executive Chef Bob Henle.
Manager Jeremy Ticehurst is passionate about maintaining a local focus. The Reef sources food, mostly seafood, produce and fruit locally whenever possible and has extensive bar offerings, including cocktails from The St Augustine Distillery, wines from San Sebastian Winery and craft beers from St Augustine, Jacksonville and around Florida.
As befits an oceanfront restaurant there are an abundance of fish and seafood dishes, balanced by some fine meat and vegetarian dishes. Chef Bob Henle lived and worked in Spain for many years and that influence can be seen in his special creations. Standouts include; the chicken liver pate with delicate onion and sage herbs; the Zarzuela, a Catalonian bouillabaisse seasoned with saffron; or the mouthwatering, spicy Datil Peppers Shrimp and Grits.
The Reef is also renowned for its award winning Sunday Buffet Brunch. With a dizzying array of hot and cold items, carving station, crab legs and complimentary champagne, it's a wonderful way to relax for a couple of hours with friends or family.
The Reef also features a second floor banquet room with two balconies that seats up to 80 and offers the same great setting and ample parking. It's an ideal place to hold receptions, rehearsal dinners and family or business events.
So here's an idea. This holiday season, head down to North Beach with visiting family members or a group of local friends and treat them to all The Reef has to offer. It's the quintessential taste of the good life in St. Johns.
What You Need To Know:
4100 Coastal Highway
St. Augustine, FL 32084
*The Reef is located just ten minutes from downtown or 20 from Ponte Vedra
or the 210 corridor and with easy parking.
Reservations: Available directly, through the website
or by OpenTable.
St. Johns Mag
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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)
Lori now has her own instagram page -check it out at mywanderingfork