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Amelia Island - Fernandina Beach: Restaurant Reviews
Amelia Island - Fernandina Beach
Fernandina Beach is the largest city on Amelia Island Florida. I’ve been visiting the beach town for some fifty years, so I know it well. My family and I love Amelia Island, and we enjoy dining out while we’re on vacation, so we’ve frequented numerous restaurants on the island. Like eateries in many beach towns, the restaurants here come and go. New ones pop up quite frequently, and some don’t last long. On the other hand, there are some restaurants here that have survived and flourished for decades. Some, in fact, have become landmarks. Believe me – you won’t have a problem finding somewhere to eat, and your choices will be numerous and varied. Included are restaurants that serve burgers, wraps, French cuisine, Italian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, Spanish cuisine, Portuguese cuisine, pizzas, fusion cuisine, continental cuisine, fresh bakery items, deli meats and gourmet cheeses, and good ol’ Southern comfort food. Of course, fresh seafood is the main attraction here when it comes to food, so be sure to take advantage of some of the seafood restaurants in Fernandina Beach and on Amelia Island.
Fernandina Beach - Amelia Island Florida
These restaurant reviews are honest assessments of eateries in Fernandina Beach. Some are based on a single visit, but most are based on numerous visits and a variety of menu items. These restaurant reviews are completely unbiased. I don’t know any of the restaurateurs, so I have no reason to promote or demote any restaurants on Amelia Island.
Keep in mind, however, that restaurant reviews are often a “spot in time.” In other words, a review might be the result of a single meal, and even the best restaurants can have a bad day. Likewise, a subpar restaurant can have a very good day or one particular item that they excel in preparing. Also, taste is a matter of…well, taste. You might not like the same foods I do, and we might disagree on criteria in judging a restaurant. Please remember these points as you read the restaurant reviews presented here.
Fernandina Beach is where the modern shrimping industry began, and it has plenty of seafood restaurants. Your best bets, in most cases, is to stick with locally caught seafood – shrimp, blue crab dishes, oysters, and finned fish like flounder, snapper, grouper, spiny lobster, and shark. Items like Maine lobster, salmon, and snow crab legs aren’t locally caught, so they won’t be as fresh. Some Fernandina Beach seafood restaurants do an admirable job with these entrees, but it’s hard to go wrong with local ingredients harvested from the waters around Amelia Island.
In our opinions, the shrimp is the overall best thing to order. Many times, the shrimp are so fresh that you can almost taste the ocean. We’ve tried the fried, the steamed, the grilled, the blackened, and the stuffed shrimp in numerous restaurants on Amelia Island, and all were tasty. Since Fernandina Beach is in the Deep South, however – both geographically and culturally – most restaurants here do a fantastic job with fried shrimp. Add some coleslaw, cheese grits, and hushpuppies, and you’ll have a wonderful seafood meal with a Southern flair.
This is one of our favorite seafood restaurants in Fernandina Beach. Is it fancy? No. Does it have great ambience? No. What it does have, however, is great seafood that’s reasonably priced. For years, we stuck to the fried seafood, but just recently, my daughter ordered the crab-stuffed broiled snapper, and it was delicious! The service is quick and friendly. We usually get takeout, unless they have an all-you-can-eat dine-in special going on. For sides, we love the hushpuppies and fried okra, but we’re not crazy about the coleslaw. Cedar River is located on Sadler Road. By the way, the seafood platter for two is enough food for three, maybe even four, people. The prices are great! Be sure to get a paper menu to keep. You never know when the urge for more yummy seafood might strike again while you're vacationing on Amelia Island.
We've ordered takeout from Cedar River many, many times. Our food was always hot, and our order was always right. Be sure to ask for plenty of tartar sauce and cocktail sauce, and they'll put some in the bag with your meal.
The Crab Trap is a neat place to visit, especially if you’re not in a hurry. We went last time in the middle of the afternoon, and even though there were few diners, the service was incredibly slow. As for the quality of the food, we’ve experienced a mixed bag. On our most recent trip, the food was very good. I had a tasty shrimp po’ boy, and my daughter had a bowl of blackened shrimp that were yummy. My grandson had a slice of cheesecake, and it was a mile high and delicious. We also like their seafood casserole, which is super rich and cheesy. If you want to enjoy dinner at the Crab Trap, get there early – the place fills up quickly, and there’s often a line. The Crab Trap is on 2nd Street in downtown Fernandina Beach and has been in business for more than thirty years.
Sliders is a must visit when you’re in Fernandina Beach or anywhere else on Amelia Island Florida. It's pretty much an icon. The restaurant is right on the beach, and you can enjoy your grub indoors or outdoors. There’s also a beachfront playground for the kiddies, so they can cavort while you eat. Big hits at Sliders include the oysters, the shrimp, and the appetizers. Surprisingly, I had a wonderful steak here, too, and some great seared scallops. The service is friendly and fairly quick. Sliders is located at the intersection of Sadler Road and Fletcher, at the turnabout.
Kabuki is a standard Japanese steak house. We used to really like this restaurant, and my daughters loved it when they were kids. Unfortunately, the last time we ate there, it wasn’t nearly as good. The food just seems to lack something, and the portions were smaller on our last visit. The sushi, however, is excellent here, and the staff is friendly and entertaining. Kabuki is located in the Winn Dixie/Walmart shopping center, on 8th Street, just off the main highway on Amelia Island.
Beef O Bradys
We love seafood, but after gorging on shrimp, fish, and oysters for a few days on Amelia Island, we're always ready for some beef. Sometimes that's a steak, and sometimes that's a good hamburger. When we're ready for a juicy burger in a fun atmosphere, we often head to Beef O'Bradys.
We’ve eaten at several Beef O Bradys around the South, but this one had the best service we’ve ever experienced. The restaurant is located in a strip mall on 14th Street in Fernandina Beach. We had good burgers, great wings, and tasty appetizers here. The men loved all the sports on the TVs, and the kids enjoyed the games. The atmosphere was laid back, friendly, and noisy – a good place to take the kids.
O’Kane’s Irish Pub
What a difference a year can make! We used to love this place and always tried to schedule at least one visit when we were vactioning on Amelia Island, but our most recent visit was disappointing, to say the least. The service was slow, even though the dining room was sparsely occupied. Their burgers have always been exceptional, but the one I ate yesterday wasn’t. I ordered it extra-well done, and it was still pink in the center. Even worse, my daughter ordered a shrimp po’ boy, and there was a live bug inside the sandwich. We showed it to our server, and she took the price of the sandwich off our tab. For something this egregious, I thought the whole meal should have been comped! I will say, however, that the baked brie appetizer was very good, and the onion rings were some of the best I’ve ever eaten – thin and crunchy, with a tasty sauce. Hubby’s Philly steak sandwich was good, but it was a little light on the steak. They have a nice children’s menu, by the way. If you don’t want to have a meal, stop in the bar at the front of the restaurant for a drink and for a little taste of the Emerald Isle in North Florida.
O'Kane's is located on Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach. If you're strolling the streets and shops, this is a good place to stop for a break. Order a cold drink and an appetizer.
Located in downtown Fernandina Beach, on Centre Street, this is a great place to indulge your sweet tooth. They have lots of different flavors of ice creams, including low fat and sugar free options. I can definitely vouch for the sugar-free pistachio! You can choose to have your frozen treat served in a cup, a regular cone, or a sugar cone. And their fudge is…fantastic! I do think, though, that their items are a little overpriced, and sometimes you have to wait in a fairly long line to be served, especially at the height of the tourist season. Nevertheless, this is a great place to take a break when you’re shopping downtown. Enjoy an ice cream, and buy some fudge to take home with you.
Sadly, the Palace Saloon no longer serves food, but you can stop in for a beer, a cocktail, a glass of wine, or a cold soft drink. This place is full of history. In fact, it’s the oldest bar in the state. The massive bar is hand carved, and murals of pirates and Dickens’ characters adorn the walls. Kids aren’t supposed to be allowed, but the bartender allowed the grandkids to come in and take a look around. You might very well have some impromptu live entertainment, too, in the form of a little black man who rides around downtown on his bicycle, selling cookies. We bought a bag of cookies from him, and he serenaded us with his harmonica.
You can't miss The Palace. It's on Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach. Look for the vertical sign and the wooden swinging saloon doors. When you visit Amelia Island, this place is a must-see!
This is a neat place to take the kids, due to the outdoor playground that features a wooden pirate ship. On the menu are seafood baskets, sandwiches, and lobster rolls – at reasonable prices. Most of the food is fried, and this restaurant is super casual. There is very little indoor seating – a lunch counter and two tables. You’ll probably have to sit outdoors, so keep this in mind when you’re planning a visit. During the heat of summer, it’s best to go in the evening. There’s a large fan that moved the air around the outdoor seating area, but it doesn’t help much when the mercury is at almost 100 degrees and the humidity is like a sauna.
Timoti's is located just off Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach.
If you’re in the mood for Italian, Pompeo’s is a pretty good choice. It’s in downtown Fernandina Beach, on Centre Street. This is the place for real Italian cuisine – the owner is from Naples, Italy. Everything here is homemade, too, including the breads and desserts. Included on the menu are pizzas, salads, and pasta dishes. I really like the homemade salad dressings, but I think the salads are too small. I also feel that the entrees are overpriced. My favorite entrée here is the fettuccini Alfredo. The atmosphere is dark, and you can hear yelling in Italian in the background. I guess that sort of brings a little taste of Italy to Amelia Island! This place is definitely worth at least one visit.
Jack and Diane’s
Jack and Diane’s is located on Centre Street, just past the intersection of 8th Street in downtown Fernandina Beach. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with breakfast being the best, overall. Service is good sometimes, but at others, it’s not. The lunch and dinner menus are varied, with a little of everything offered, but there’s not a lot of consistency in quality. Something good is the vegetarian menu, which is pretty hard to find on Amelia Island. Seating is offered indoors and outdoors, and if you sit under the porch, you can bring your dog.
Pepper’s Mexican Grill
Located on Centre Street, Pepper’s Mexican Grill is easy to find. It's one of the first restaurants you'll pass when driving through downtown Fernandina Beach. Sit indoors or on the attractive patio. Pepper’s serves typical Mexican fare, including quesadillas, nachos, fajitas, stuffed jalapenos, burritos, chimichangas, and arroz con pollo. Also included are items made with fresh seafood – shrimp, grouper, and other fish. Desserts offered are flan, sopapilla, fried ice cream, and banana burrito. The food is good, and the prices are modest. The service has always been friendly and helpful. This is a great place for people watching - one of the best on Amelia Island!
The Surf is the favorite “hangout” on the island, especially when live entertainment is provided. It’s located on Fletcher, across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. They have very good wings and appetizers, but I’ve always been disappointed with their dinner entrees. Case in point: their “specials.” When I ordered the lobster dinner special, the lobster tail was tiny and looked more like a large shrimp. I once ordered a steak, and it was tough and chewy. Stick to the wings, the loaded chili, the seafood dip, the chicken fingers, the fried mushrooms, and the boiled shrimp. Order a brew, some wine, or a frozen drink and sit back and enjoy the show on the outdoor dining patio! The Surf is usually crowded and noisy, especially on the weekends. If you’re looking for a quiet dining experience, go somewhere else. But if you’re in a party mood, you’ll love this place!
Island Barbecue is a little gem, but it’s tucked away in an obscure location. It’s at the junction of Sadler and Fletcher, behind Hammerhead’s Bar and Hall’s convenience store. When you get close, roll down your windows and allow your nose to lead you! The aroma is tantalizing. Don’t judge this place by its looks – they have great BBQ pork and beef brisket. They also have fried seafood, but stick with the BBQ. Most people think it's the best on Amelia Island. Be sure to try the pulled pork sandwich with some sweet tater fries. Yummy!
The Marina Restaurant is located at the end of Centre Street, near the Amelia Island docks. It’s been in business since 1965 and is a favorite with locals. It’s housed in a 19th century building. I’m not too crazy for most of their seafood entrees, except for the crab-stuffed shrimp, which are excellent. Otherwise, stick to the typical “home cooking” dishes. I like the veggie side dishes, especially the squash casserole. The restaurant is sort of run down, so don’t expect posh surroundings. The service is usually friendly and fairly quick.
Brett’s Waterway Café is a beautiful restaurant that provides great views of the harbor and boats. It’s located at the end of Centre Street, in downtown Fernandina Beach. Brett’s serves seafood, Angus beef, and organically grown meats. The atmosphere is upscale, casual resort. The food is good, but I think it’s overpriced - $14 for a chicken and brie salad, for example. At night, the entrees can push the $30 mark. The crab cakes, the fish tacos, and the shrimp and grits are all good. Be sure to have a drink on the veranda for some amazing views.
Happy Tomato Café
The Happy Tomato Café is a great place to grab a light lunch. The menu includes salads, sandwiches, and barbecued pork. Their chicken salad is awesome, but I wasn’t too crazy about their shrimp salad. Since this is basically a sandwich shop, I was skeptical about their barbecue items, but they were great! Be sure to try the pulled pork sandwich. Service is friendly, the prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is fun and casual. Dine indoors or on the patio. Happy Tomato is located downtown, on 3rd Street.
T-Rays is a favorite with locals – and with visitors who can find the place. It’s located on 8th Street (A1A), the main drag onto Amelia Island. We passed by the place twice before we spotted it – it looks like a gas station. Don’t expect anything fancy here – just good food and friendly, down home service and a fun atmosphere. The burgers are awesome, the seafood baskets are tasty, and breakfast is great, too. Be sure to try the biscuits and gravy. If you schedule your visit when chicken and dumplings is on the lunch menu, you’ll be in for a real treat. T-Rays is family owned and family run, and you’ll be made to feel right at home.
The Florida House Inn is a lovely old historic building. Built in 1857, it’s Florida’s oldest hotel that’s still in business. The inn serves as a bed and breakfast, but the dining room is open to the public for lunch. Meals are served boarding-house style, at large tables. The food is brought out on large platters and in serving bowls, so you serve yourself. I love their fried chicken, and hubby likes the meatloaf. The side dishes are usually tasty, too, and biscuits and cornbread are served with meals. The Florida House Inn has lots of charm and history, and it’s definitely worth a stop. The restaurant is closed on Mondays. It’s located in downtown Fernandina Beach.
Café Karibo offers soups, sandwiches, wraps, veggie burgers, and desserts. Located in the downtown area, on 3rd Street, the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Saturday. On Mondays, they close at three, and on Sundays, they close at four. The outdoor dining area has plenty of shade, so it’s not too hot. Theme nights, live entertainment, and special menu items are provided. Some of the specials are crab cakes, seared ahi tuna, grouper, and beef medallions. The soups and sandwiches are great, and so is the shrimp and grits. No matter how picky you are, you’ll find something on the menu to tempt you. The service is friendly, but it can be slow at times.
Located on 3rd Street in downtown Fernandina Beach, Kelley’s Courtyard Café offers soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, appetizers, and desserts. They’re open daily, except for Sunday. Lunch and dinner are served. The dinner menu includes pasta dishes and seafood. The hits include BBQ shrimp, the steak wrap, the mahi mahi, the caramel pie, and the blueberry squares. Service is friendly, and the food portions are generous. Indoor and outdoor seating are available. Kelley’s is definitely worth a visit!
DeNucci’s Soft Serve
If you like soft serve ice cream, you’ll love this little shack on Sadler Road. The ice cream is creamy, with none of the little powdery particles you sometimes find in soft serves. There are lots of toppings and sauces from which to choose. The hot fudge is great, but avoid the cherry dip – a hard coating/topping. We thought it tasted like candle wax. They also serve Nathan’s hot dogs. They have a small playground for kids, along with tables for enjoying your treats. Custards, frozen yogurts, sugar-free treats, and dairy-free products are also available.
29 South Eats is a bistro that’s located on 3rd Street. The restaurant has received several awards. The menu includes lots of local foods, including seafood, salads, pulled pork, and chicken. The foods come from Florida and Georgia farmers and ranchers, as well as from local youth clubs. The chef even has a garden on the premises. The big hits here, in my opinion, are the honey-fried chicken, the fried green tomatoes, and the short ribs. Some of the menu items are pretty original, including lobster corndogs and tea-brined pork chops. Dinner entrees are pricey, but lunch items are reasonable.
Sandy Bottoms is located right on main beach in Fernandina Beach, and lunch and dinner are served seven days a week, along with beer, wine, and cocktails. Appetizers, salads, sandwiches, seafood baskets, burgers, nachos, and wings are offered. Guests can dine indoors, under the shade of the outdoor patio, or in the sand at an umbrella table. The view is great, but the food is nothing to write home about. You might have better luck just going for drinks and appetizers. Surprisingly, however, their pizza is pretty darn good. For some reason, kids love this place – probably because of the location. There’s a kids’ menu that has items for $5-$6.50.
We really like Barbara Jeans! It’s located just off A1A, shortly after crossing Shave Bridge onto Amelia Island. You can sit indoors or enjoy your meal on the outdoor deck. Our favorite menu items here are the pumpkin bread, the jalapeno cornbread, the she-crab soup, the shrimp and grits, the country fried steak and gravy, the squash casserole, and the broccoli casserole. You have to try the crab cakes – they’re almost all crab meat. The desserts are heavenly, too. We thought the portions were generous, so you won’t leave hungry. Barbara Jeans isn’t exactly cheap, but we found it provided good value for a resort town like Fernandina Beach and tourist hotspot Amelia Island.