Pies in St. Augustine, Florida
The sun is rising in the nation’s oldest (continually inhabited) city.
It’s too early for the horse and buggies that will clip-clop through brick-lined streets of St. Augustine in a few hours; too early, even, for the pies to be set out in their case yet. But I know what I want. I walk into the downtown location of Kookaburra, an Australian-owned, tiny coffee shop, one minute after its 7:30 a.m. opening. The pink-haired 20-something behind the counter lifts and uncovers a tray.
They’re fresh from the oven. I must choose: sausage, egg, and cheese; spinach, egg, and cheese; or the classic sirloin (although that’s a lunchier version). But when she points to the rosemary cheddar, I’m sold—though yet another tempting iteration features bacon. When she asks if I’d like sriracha or ketchup—the traditional accompaniment—I say both.
These savory pies are a traditional street food in Australia, where people eat 270 million of them each year. Here in this strange little seaside town in northeastern Florida, they’re an exotic nosh—one on which a melange of college students, crumpled conservative residents, and wide-eyed tourists can agree. In fact, I’d bet students at nearby Flagler College outstrip the Aussies themselves on per-annum pie consumption.
I order a flat white to top it off: Australia’s smoother, sweeter answer to a latte. It’s warm and easy, creamy without too much sugar-sweetness.
The pie is delicious. It’s rugged, despite the frilly, fresh rosemary sprinkled on top and within. In fact, it’s almost too well-seasoned, with noticeable flavors of salt and pepper. It tastes like something homemade, intended for someone who’ll endure a day far tougher than mine. The crust is pleasantly dense, subtly flakey, crunchy at the edges; the cheese and eggs inside have melted into a sticky, gooey mess.
As I eat, the baristas are still getting things in order, switching on the stereo to fill the silence with acoustic guitar. Through the window, the first rays of sun broaden into full daylight, and sightseers filter into the 450-year-old streets—the closest to ancient America has to offer. The pink-haired girl is laughing. She replaces g’s with k’s (“Anythink else?”) and calls everyone “love.” Her accent sounds, to me, more Cockney than Australian, but what do I know? As yet, this is the closest I’ve come to the Outback.