What started as a rustic waterfront fishing lodge in Vilano Beach has grown into an award-winning upscale destination restaurant that attracts customers from all over.

Cap’s on the Water ranked 9th among the “15 Most Beautiful Restaurants in the United States,” according to travel industry website Tripstodiscover.com.

Another longtime local restaurant, O’Steens, recently landed on another Triptodiscover.com list as one of the “15 Best Seafood Restaurants in Florida.”

Just over 20 years ago, Bernard and Vivian de Raad bought Cap’s – first a fishing lodge in the 1940s and then a local bar – with the vision of providing an elevated dining experience in a serene setting.

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By almost all accounts, they achieved their goal.

Romantic Sunset View Restaurant in Historic St. Augustine

Nestled amidst a canopy of holm oaks, the large deck and pavilion overlooking the Intracoastal create a tranquil and romantic atmosphere. Add to that a diverse menu of fresh seafood and earthy fare, a huge wine list (a few rarities in their 500-bottle collection cost up to nearly $1,000) and it’s a recipe for success.

Cap's On the Water, north of St. Augustine, was recently ranked #9 among

Even with around 400 seats, staff routinely have to turn away potential guests in a line that usually winds nicely around the building during peak dinner hours.

“We have sensational sunsets and offer a slice of ‘Old Florida’ with a modern approach to food and drink,” said Bernard de Raad.

According to the Tripstodiscover.com article: “Cap’s on the Water has got to be one of the best places in the world to watch a sunset, with tables dotted around its expansive outdoor deck and pier that sit along from the Intracoastal Waterway.The outdoor Oyster Bar, which is often referred to as the Sunset Bar, is one of three here that offers beer, cocktails made from local spirits, and award-winning wine. If it’s cold, there are heaters around the tables that will keep you warm. For dining inside, enjoy the view through floor-to-ceiling windows. The menu starts with appetizers like a cheese platter. and raw oysters on the half-shell, with entrees featuring the day’s fresh catch, served crusted, pan-fried or charred.”

Bernard de Raad, originally from the Netherlands, brings a decidedly European flair and artistic sensibilities to the business, which offset Vivian’s southern charm and feeling for the “old Florida” she grew up with.

Both are very visible and hands-on owners, taking the time to drop by and chat with as many guests as possible. They live just down the road at Vilano Beach.

Cap’s is known for grouper, other seafood

As for the menu items Cap’s is known for (including its Vanilla Grouper, Sesame Tuna, and Calamari), the owners know they could never get them off the menu, but they’re trying new ones. specialties and incorporate them from time to time.

As a destination restaurant, Cap’s attracts many travelers but also has a loyal local clientele, according to the couple.

The place does not take reservations. And the reason they have to begrudgingly inform diners who may have waited over an hour that they can’t accommodate them that night is because they want to make sure those who enter receive their full attention.

Cap's On the Water, north of St. Augustine, was recently ranked #9 among

“It has everything to do with customer experience,” Vivian said.

After weathering two hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic, the de Raads say they have no intention of going anywhere anytime soon.

“We’ve expanded it over the years, just as the area has grown,” Bernard said proudly.

Cap’s on the Water, located at 4325 Myrtle St. in Vilano Beach, with dinner served every day from 4.30 p.m.; lunch starts at 11:30 am on Saturday and Sunday only.