Memorable | One of the Best
Review by: Michael Stern
Datil peppers have long been a locally-favored backyard crop in the St. Augustine area. They originally were brought to the area in the late 18th century in the hands of Minorcans who came to work the indigo fields. The exact history is murky, but it is possible they picked up the peppers somewhere in the Caribbean, as there are none in Spain. Few people beyond the city of the Fountain of Youth ever heard of them until the 1980s, when Chris Way began putting datil pepper sauce on the tables of his restaurant, Barnacle Bill’s. Customers liked it so much that he created the first successful line of datil pepper products, the Dat’l Do-It brand; and he has since left the restaurant behind.
Barnacle Bill’s remains one of a handful of places in town that offer opportunities to taste the datil pepper in several forms. The bottled sauce is on every table, suitable as a condiment for just about anything you want adorned with fragrant, flowery heat. You can get fried shrimp encased in batter seasoned with datil powder; but the shrimp aren’t all that good and the power of the pepper is minimal in this incarnation. My favorite dish is chicken wings plastered with buttery barbecue sauce that smolders with datil power. When the waiter saw how quickly the chewy-skinned drumettes and bows were disappearing, he brought a fresh bottle of Devil Drops. “Now, this is hah-ot,” he intoned; and sure enough, a few datil droplets – in which the peppers are combined with lime juice, mango, and passion fruit – sound reveille that feels hotter than Tabasco and yet in a beguiling Caribbean way is also breezy and refreshing.
If hot food is not your pleasure, Barnacle Bill’s has a full menu of normal seafood, including fried shrimp in multiple flavors (teriyaki, Santa Fe, scampi), oysters, crab cakes, and fishes of the day. I visited the downtown location at 14 Castillo Drive (904-824-3663). It is a ship-shape, family-friendly sort of place with wood-paneled walls, bare tables, and nautical décor that includes a hostess’s podium that is a ship’s prow.
Directions & Hours
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|