The two of you have snared the best seats in town, the cozy window table for two at St. Augustine’s Bistro de Leon. While you gaze at the massive oaks defining the plaza which it faces, two steaming plates of risotto arrive, thanks to the delightful Valerie Poinard and her talented husband, Chef Jean-Stephan. This is all possible during a vacation in St. Augustine, Florida.
The History of Bistro de Leon
Lyon, France lost a treasure when these two left in search of the American Dream. Hoping to not entirely give up the olde-world lifestyle they loved, the Poinards discovered, to their great surprise, the small, European-style city of St. Augustine during an unplanned visit. Within 24 hours of arriving, they had put down new roots a stone’s throw from massive church bells, horse-drawn carriages and globally inspired architecture of the city center.
Lyon’s loss was definitely St. Augustine’s gain, and it’s fitting that the most desired reservation in what is known as “the old city” is as the guest of a European culinary duo who felt at home here.
Situated on a beautiful natural harbor, this desirable small city has it all. The historic part of the city – which amazingly dates to 1565—clearly shows the influence of 250 years of Spanish occupation, from Moorish architecture to tiny Catholic chapels to tapas bars.
The French influence is all you’ll care about, however, as you relax into the bliss that is Bistro de Leon. Chef Jean-Stephan, a fifth generation chef, has infused his menu with French and Mediterranean favorites. The menu offers 3-course chef selections or a la carte. Either way, you win with a trip here during your vacation.
The charming Valerie Poinard and her amiable staff let you know right away that the evening is yours to relax and enjoy. At Bistro de Leon, there will be no pressure to hurry, no push to clear plates or clear the tab. The Poinards want the focus to be on enjoying the atmosphere, and—most of all – the food. Each dish is prepared to order.
Start with the goat cheese appetizer. It’s baked in honey and datil peppers (unique to St. Augustine) then served on croutons and salad. Escargot, cheeses, French onion soup and beef carpaccio leave diners with no doubt of the chef’s home country.
Just reading the menu will have your mouth watering: lamb shank, Poinard’s beautiful risotto, pasta del mar, steak au poivre, seafood souffle’ . . . all are boggling in their excellence. And if you’re not well versed in French cuisine, have no fear. The staff is friendly, down to earth and welcoming. You’ll feel you’ve made friends by the time you leave. The close seating in most of the bistro increases the odds you’ll also make friends with the people seated next to you.
Bistro de Leon is truly one of the finest St. Augustine Florida restaurants, if not the top spot in the state. Getawyas to Grande Villas at World Golf Village® are certainly far more memorable when including a relaxing evening at this fine establishment.