Something Old, Something New
Noteworthy is the revival of two popular Fernandina restaurant properties occupying prime waterfront locations. One is at the seashore, The Sandbar & Kitchen, the other on the intracoastal, the Down Under.
A good meal, a waterfront view and casual island vibe. This coastal combination sets the table for a memorable dining experience. It’s nice to see these places brought back to life and improved for the future enjoyment of visitors and residents.
At The Beach
With its oceanfront setting, The Sandbar & Kitchen opened their doors mid-summer 2017 at Fernandina’s Main Beach Park (2910 Atlantic Avenue). Outside of the luxury resort properties (Omni AIP & Ritz-Carlton), The Sandbar & Kitchen is one of only two beachfront restaurant/bars on Amelia Island. It’s located at Fernandina’s largest city beach park next to the only public boardwalk along the oceanfront (plus Putt Putt mini-golf, and seaside playground for the kids).
On The River
Soon to debut on the intracoastal is the “new” Down Under, featuring a large outdoor deck on the waterway and floating docks (96106 Wades Place).
Main Beach Site Since ’62
The Sandbar & Kitchen is the new restaurant at a Main Beach building that dates back to 1962 (formerly occupied by Sandy Bottoms). The ownership of the beachfront property changed hands in late January 2017, with the restaurant space undergoing a major renovation.
The new interior design has a nice, relaxed beach vibe, themed the “Main Beach Pier.” More natural light and views of the beach and Atlantic Ocean have been revealed, plus a large outdoor bar added to the seaside patio. Shoreline views from an elevated perspective are available from the upstairs bar inside.
Chef Susan Burdian
The Sandbar & Kitchen brings to the Fernandina dining scene talent from the “Big Apple,” Chef Susan Burdian. She left New York for Florida, trading city sidewalks for a sandy seaside setting at Main Beach.
Whether sitting inside or out, upstairs or down, the new owners have successfully recreated this Main Beach restaurant space in a thoughtful, pleasing way. Sit at a table beside a sand dune on the outdoor patio. Or perch on a bar stool and feel a sea breeze while watching the sea oats sway. Those who prefer air conditioning can choose from tables or bar seating available on either the main level or second floor, with large screen TVs in view of all and stage for live musical performances.
For those sandy or in a wet swim suit who prefer to get something to go or stay on the beach, there’s a walk-up window. Patrons can sit at picnic tables on the beach itself, right in the sand, adjacent to the oceanfront patio.
We enjoyed a brick oven pie the first time visiting the Sandbar, choosing the Pesto Pizza (sized about right for two to share). Upon a second visit, we ordered the Fish and Chips (upon recommendation from a friend), sure to a become popular menu item. We also ordered the Chicken Paillard with lemon beurre blanc and fresh salad (mixed greens, strawberries, blueberries, raspberry vinaigrette, candied walnuts and goat cheese). It was wonderful! Hope this “special” becomes a regular menu item.
The Down Under
A renaissance is happening on the river at the Down Under. After being closed for years, this old-time favorite of locals and visitors alike on the intracoastal waterway is being revived by new owners and management. After undergoing major renovations, the long-awaited debut of the restaurant is highly anticipated around Fernandina. (UPDATE: Hurricane Irma delayed the opening, now anticipated to be during the first week of October 2017.)
Drinks & Dining DocksideThe Down Under’s riverfront location allows mariners to pull up to floating docks and hop ashore for dining and drinks.
Last year, Hurricane Matthew passed by Amelia Island’s coast, about 50 miles out to sea, causing a setback in the waterfront restaurant’s opening timeline. Many riverfront properties and docks in northeast Florida were damaged or destroyed. UPDATE: Déjà vu? September 2017’s Hurricane Irma swept through the Sunshine State, just eleven months after Matthew passed by northeast Florida. Delaying the opening a bit, the Down Under post-Irma is now aiming to open the first week of October.
Some fare of the past (using recipes of Down Under’s former chef) will be on the new menu. “I’m happy to say that we are bringing back a lot of the old favorites. We are consulting with Brian McCarthy on old recipes. We will have Dungeness, snow and king crab,” according to the general manager, Mitch Murray.
Murray is no newcomer to the local restaurant business. He departed Fernandina’s downtown dining scene (formerly at the Salty Pelican), to help shape the revitalized dining experience at the Down Under.
Social Media Enthusiasm
We published a Facebook post back in June about the Down Under’s forthcoming reopening. It became the #1 most popular post of the past eight years on our FB page, reaching over 69,000 people with over 9,200 post clicks.
Restaurants on Facebook
Keep up with restaurant news at the Down Under’s Facebook page.
Also see The Sandbar & Kitchen’s Facebook page for updates.