Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.
Amelia Island Dining Scene
A merry-go-round of Amelia Island restaurants continues to spin, with new establishments climbing on and others getting thrown off.
The latest restaurant to depart the wheel of fortune/misfortune is longtime favorite Barbara Jean’s. The Southern cuisine restaurant in the trendy Gateway to Amelia complex was part of a tiny, family-owned chain.
The restaurant closed with little notice. It was usually busy and always known for its delicious crab cakes. Its location is appealing for another restaurant, bordering Highway A1A and backing up to the marsh.
Just across the expansive marsh, a successful restaurant has relocated into an established building, just down from The Down Under. Shuckers Oyster Bar & Grill, a Yulee favorite for years, has moved into a prime location that has housed a variety of restaurants/bars. The outdated building has been effectively updated, with a ship-shaped outdoor bar, a courtyard and a stage along the marsh.
You can hardly miss the new Shuckers. The cars of patrons are sprawled along A1A just before the Intracoastal Waterway bridge. It has obviously opened to much fanfare. Meanwhile, the old Shuckers, near Highway 107, is being converted into a fried chicken restaurant.
Oceanfront at Main Beach
New restaurants are nothing new to Amelia Island. However, one of them could be a game-changer for Fernandina Beach. A new Salt Life Food Shack restaurant/surf shop is opening at Main Beach, sporting a rooftop bar and a spectacular view of the ocean.
Salt Life is a small, but profitable and well-capitalized chain. The reported costs for the premier lot at Main Beach along with the construction of the new building easily approach $2 million. While most restaurants could not afford such an entry fee into this rich market, Salt Life pulled it off.
Nearby, The Sandbar & Kitchen has undergone substantial improvements from its roots as Sandy Bottoms. The new owners have invested into an artistic décor, an expanded outdoor bar and big-screen televisions for sports.
On the south end, much is happening. Not only has the Harris Teeter supermarket undergone a massive renovation (offering lavish prepared dishes), several new restaurants have successfully debuted there. Lagniappe is glitzy with an impressive menu, as is Pogo’s Kitchen (on the property where Gourmet Gourmet was).
Both stylish restaurants were built from scratch. With their additions, the south end now offers more than 10 full-fledged restaurants, including those at the resorts.
Downtown Fernandina Beach
Historic downtown Fernandina Beach still boasts more than 30 restaurants, even with the loss of the 801 Kitchen & Bar (in the old Beech Street Grill building). The newest addition, Wicked Bao, has opened in the old Wicked Davey’s location near the port.
In all, there are more than 70 restaurants in and around Amelia Island. Nearly all of them are locally owned, with a few exceptions. This gaudy number does not even include the fast-food restaurants along South Eighth Street.
These locally owned restaurants provide a unique flair to our area, and certainly attract visitors. But the competition here is keen, the fare superb. While this restaurant merry-go-round grows, it spins ever faster.
Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor and a chartered retirement planning counselor for a regional U.S. firm who lives on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His business columns regularly appear in several newspapers in North Florida and on his website SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book of his favorite columns from the last 20 years, “All About Money.” The book is available in local stores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected]