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Is there anything decent in Amelia Island??

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majik Oct 18, 2010 09:49 AM

I will be traveling to Amelia Island for a girls' weekend in November. It really looks like there are not any foodie-approved places to eat! I have two simple requirements: good food and good atmoshere. Can anyone help me out??

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  1. m
    Medallion RE: majik Oct 18, 2010 12:51 PM

    You must try Merge. The chef used to be at the Ritz, but the prices at Merge are reasonable

    3 Replies
    1. re: Medallion
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      bobstripower RE: Medallion Feb 8, 2011 12:29 PM

      is Merge still there--website is gone

      1. re: bobstripower
        Roswellgirl RE: bobstripower Aug 19, 2011 05:10 AM

        Is Merge still there?

        1. re: Roswellgirl
          stellamystar RE: Roswellgirl Aug 20, 2011 02:03 PM

          Merge was there in May/June. Very popular

    2. a
      alacroix RE: majik Oct 18, 2010 12:58 PM

      There are great gems on Amelia Island! The Verandah Restaurant at Omni Amelia Island Plantation is great for seafood. Downtown in the historic district of Fernandina Beach there are plenty of great places. My favorite is Cafe Karibo, known for eclectic cuisine, great courtyard and brew pup next door. 29 South is also great along with Espana for tapas and spanish food. Bright Mornings on 3rd for breakfast/brunch of TRays, located in an old gas station on 8th Street, for a great, cheap breakfast or awesome hamburgers. Amelia is a great place for small, mom-and-pop restaurants.

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      Bright Mornings Cafe
      105 S 3rd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

      Espana Restaurant
      22 S 4th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

      Cafe Karibo
      27 N 3rd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

      4 Replies
      1. re: alacroix
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        shiloh15 RE: alacroix Dec 24, 2011 03:04 AM

        Ate in the garden for lunch. Dog friendly. Food just OK. Nice atmosphere. Known as a microbrewery with eclectic food. My son who is a beer expert and makes his own beer tasted all their beers and said they tasted funny and seemed watered down.

        1. re: shiloh15
          m
          marelyisdead RE: shiloh15 Dec 24, 2011 10:11 AM

          Lousy water = lousy beer.

        2. re: alacroix
          g
          gfweb1 RE: alacroix Dec 29, 2011 09:48 AM

          The Verandah? I've never had a good meal there. Agree about Karibo.

          1. re: gfweb1
            m
            marelyisdead RE: gfweb1 Dec 29, 2011 11:10 AM

            Some have reported exceptional seafood at the Verandah. Those of us living downtown prefer Lulu's, Le Clos and Arte to anything on the south end.

        3. m
          marelyisdead RE: majik Oct 18, 2010 04:47 PM

          Espana, Merge Restaurant, Le Clos, LuLus at the Thompson House, 29 South and Kelley's Courtyard are very good. Lunch at the Ritz Carlton is nice. Arte Pizza is casual and excellent.

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          Arte Pizza
          109 N 3rd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

          Le Clos
          20 S 2nd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

          Espana Restaurant
          22 S 4th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

          1. l
            Littleman RE: majik Oct 18, 2010 07:03 PM

            Beech St. is one of my favorites. Espana is outstanding. Joe's is nice fine dining for dinner.

            Beech St. Grill @ 801 Beech St., Fernandina Beach, FL 904 - 277 - 3662.
            http://www.beechstreetgrill.com/
            Espana Restaurant @ 22 South 4th St., Fernandina Beach, FL 904 - 261 - 7700.
            http://www.espanadowntown.com/
            Joe's 2nd St. Bistro @ 14 South 2nd St., Fernandina Beach, FL 904 - 321 - 2558.
            http://www.joesbistro.com/

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            Espana Restaurant
            22 S 4th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

            3 Replies
            1. re: Littleman
              m
              marelyisdead RE: Littleman Oct 19, 2010 02:06 PM

              To all Amelia Island visitors...the Island Barbecue reopened over the summer and the pulled pork is very good. This is the place behind the Hammerhead just south of Sadler. Enjoy!

              1. re: marelyisdead
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                bcodom RE: marelyisdead Oct 19, 2010 04:50 PM

                Hey marelyisdead, I'm headed to Amelia again over Thanksgiving for our annual family reunion -- do you know if any of these recommended places are open on Thanksgiving day or are we headed back to Barbara Jeans?

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                Barbara Jeans Restaurant
                101 Palm Harbor Pkwy Ste 123, Palm Coast, FL 32137

                1. re: bcodom
                  m
                  marelyisdead RE: bcodom Oct 20, 2010 01:35 PM

                  I'll have to get back to you on Turkey Day opennings. I have not heard as of yet.

            2. m
              mattblen RE: majik Oct 19, 2010 06:39 PM

              I'd pass on Beech Street Grill. I don't think it has the same snap in the kitchen as in year's past. I will absolutely second those who recommend Merge, Espana, Le Clos and Joe's. That's for a higher end experience. Cafe Karibo is also very good on the alt side. Matt

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              Beech Street Grill
              801 Beech St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

              Le Clos
              20 S 2nd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

              Espana Restaurant
              22 S 4th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

              Cafe Karibo
              27 N 3rd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

              1. n
                nyny12345 RE: majik Oct 27, 2010 11:42 AM

                For lunch: Happy Tomato & Island BBQ are my favorites. Happy Tomato has a secret garden atmosphere Downtown. Real simple, but good. I stick to their salads & sandwiches (particularly the chicken salad on a croissant). Island BBQ has great Carolina style pulled pork sandwiches & sweet potato fries. Hammerhead (the adjoining dive) has a great jukebox, pool tables, & possibly the most eclectic group of regulars I've ever seen.

                For dinner: Anyone visiting the island, Moon River is a must--great pizza, calzones, Greek salads, & atmosphere. (Google "Moon River Pizza" for their website.) Even though it is just a pizza joint, it's the best food + atmosphere in Fernandina. It's off the tourist route (don't let the location fool you), but not hard to find. Cafe Karibo is everyone's pick (after Moon River) I know for dinner.

                Definitly not foodie standards, but Kabuki & The Surf are tourist favorites. Kabuki has good sushi, okay hibatchi, & can be fun. The Surf is definitely a vacation/girls' night out destination. It has a large tiki beach bar & all the food is good, but is best for seafood specials & eating while having a cocktail, or two, or three... (Can also eat inside & move to the outside for more drinks, or vic versa.)

                I vote against Joe's, Beech St., & The Verandah. For me, the food is so-so & over priced at all three, atmosphere blah. I just haven't had any fine dining experiences on the island that I thought were good. I haven't been to the other places listed above, though.

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                Kabuki Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar
                1147 Amelia Plz, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                Moon River Pizza
                925 S 14th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                Cafe Karibo
                27 N 3rd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                The Surf Restaurant & Bar
                3199 S Fletcher Ave, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                Island Bar B Que
                2045 S Fletcher Ave, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                Happy Tomato Cafe
                216 Centre St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                4 Replies
                1. re: nyny12345
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                  nyny12345 RE: nyny12345 Oct 27, 2010 12:04 PM

                  P.S.
                  Be sure to double check hours online/call, because you'll be on island time.

                  1. re: nyny12345
                    m
                    marelyisdead RE: nyny12345 Oct 27, 2010 03:34 PM

                    nyny is right! Don't take anything for granted when it comes to hours and days of opening. Especially in this "off" season. Call ahead first. I'm not a big fan of Karibo. They have dropped off dramatically since they expanded. Check the ratings on Urbanspoon. And while we can argue about the pizza, the "atmosphere" at Moon River is sketchy. Arte Pizza has some of the best Neopolitan style pizza outside of Italy.

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                    Arte Pizza
                    109 N 3rd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                    1. re: marelyisdead
                      n
                      nyny12345 RE: marelyisdead Oct 27, 2010 10:04 PM

                      "Sketchy." Seriously? I'll agree to disagree.

                      1. re: marelyisdead
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                        gfweb1 RE: marelyisdead Nov 7, 2010 10:04 AM

                        Yeah, I agree about Moon River. Sketchy by AI standards.

                  2. g
                    gfweb1 RE: majik Nov 7, 2010 10:01 AM

                    Salt at the Ritz is uber pricey and just OK...all things considered.

                    Le Clos is a small French bistro that is always good, if a bit noisy.

                    Beech St. Grille- Reliably good but not inspired cooking. Menu needs some updating. Good wine list.

                    Barbara Jean's - Coastal southern home cooking. Its OK if that's your cup of tea.

                    Verandah- Not as good as I had hoped. Just mediocre really.

                    Brett's Waterway - Your grandfather's restaurant, overlooking the water. Pretty, pricey , but just average food.

                    Horizons- Good food, well prepared. Decent prices.

                    Baxter's- an expanded neighborhood bar-ish sort of place. Been there three times and the food was poorly and carelessly prepared every time. Service is indifferent. Yet there is a steady local clientele. Go figure.

                    Bonito- a strong fishy smell in a sushi and fish restaurant isn't a good omen. Confused servers and below average food and atmosphere.

                    Joes- Used to be a good place, but sadly it has slipped badly. A tourist place at best now. It seems like nobody is paying attention to things there.

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                    Le Clos
                    20 S 2nd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                    Brett's Waterway Cafe
                    1 S Front St Ste 2, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                    Barbara Jeans Restaurant
                    101 Palm Harbor Pkwy Ste 123, Palm Coast, FL 32137

                    1. p
                      Parsley RE: majik Nov 8, 2010 04:29 AM

                      We just got back from Amelia Island and had one of the best meals of our lives at Merge. Thanks to posts here on Chowhound, we found it. Everything we had, from soup of the day to special calamari appetizer to the simply best salad anywhere to a listing of entrees that make choosing just one very difficult was extraordinary. This is one restaurant where I'd welcome a tasting menu. Service and ambiance as equally as good. Prices are the same as other dinner places in Fernandina Beach so it is a puzzle why everyone doesn't just go to Merge and be delighted. We'll certainly be back. I hope it's not too late for your girls' weekend.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Parsley
                        k
                        kriscolby RE: Parsley Mar 19, 2011 02:54 AM

                        Totally agree on Merge. Was in town for a conference and ended up going there twice for dinner 'cause it was so good. Adam and team were dolls and I wish them much luck.

                        1. re: kriscolby
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                          gfweb1 RE: kriscolby Mar 20, 2011 05:41 PM

                          Agreed as well. Merge is up there with Le Clos. I just wish they'd get a website.

                          -----
                          Le Clos
                          20 S 2nd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                      2. m
                        majik RE: majik Nov 11, 2010 06:29 PM

                        We dined at 29 South, which was phenomenal! All nine of us ate our way through the menu and enjoyed each and every dish. Highlights were the crab cakes, grass-fed Filet of beef special and short ribs. Espana was fun, but the paella was underwhelming.

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                        Espana Restaurant
                        22 S 4th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: majik
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                          Parsley RE: majik Feb 19, 2011 07:30 PM

                          Gee, we ate at Espana and thought it was wonderful. But we had Tapas and Salads, no large dishes or paella. In fact, we're planning on going back on our next trip. Also enjoyed Lulu's for lunch which was recommended by Chef at Merge. We have been delighted with our choices in Fernandina Beach. Our only disappointment so far was 29 South which we found ordinary. Majik, I guess we just have different tastes.

                          -----
                          Espana Restaurant
                          22 S 4th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                          1. re: Parsley
                            m
                            marelyisdead RE: Parsley Feb 20, 2011 03:37 PM

                            Actually Parsley and Majik are both right about 29 South. The restaurant is maddeningly inconsistent. Sometimes from day-to-day. Sometimes from dish to dish. And they refuse to clean up the exterior despite numerous complaints. When its working it is very, very good. And when its off...

                        2. stellamystar RE: majik Apr 1, 2011 12:29 PM

                          Amelia Island Question - we are headed for 7 days in May 2011. Out room has a kitchen, so I was wondering if there are any gourmet shops/wine/liquor stores to hit up? Maybe a good seafood market?
                          Based on the CH reviews, it sounds like we may do a few dinners out, but may lay low with cheese and wine the other evenings.
                          Also - any rec's for a Florida specific microbrew to buy would be appreciated.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: stellamystar
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                            gfweb1 RE: stellamystar Apr 30, 2011 05:20 PM

                            Avoid the Plantation's places.

                            Merge and kids are fine if they can sit thru a dinner. Ditto LeClos.

                            Kids might like 29 South more.

                            Salt is waaaaay too pricey to waste on kids.

                            1. re: stellamystar
                              The Food Bee RE: stellamystar May 16, 2011 10:58 AM

                              stellamystar, did you find any good gourmet shops with prepared foods to bring home? I'll be staying in a beach house May 22-28 and would like to have a few dinners on the deck without having to cook much! It seems there was a place near the Plantation that may have been called The Gourmet Shop (?) and wondered if it is still open.

                              1. re: The Food Bee
                                g
                                gfweb1 RE: The Food Bee May 16, 2011 07:25 PM

                                Its still there. I think its called Gourmet Gourmet.

                                -----
                                Gourmet Gourmet
                                1408 Lewis St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                                1. re: The Food Bee
                                  stellamystar RE: The Food Bee May 22, 2011 01:41 PM

                                  Gourmet Gourmet is here and comes highly recommended by fancy local folks. We have not made it. We ended up going to Harris teeter and buying nice cheeses, meat, etc. They had some nice prepared salads but we skipped those.

                                  We loved going to Nassau health foods (near the wal mart). It had prepared salads items and a deli with wraps, falafel, etc etc. Check it out!

                                  -----
                                  Gourmet Gourmet
                                  1408 Lewis St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                              2. m
                                masala maci RE: majik Apr 2, 2011 07:49 PM

                                We have eaten as SALT, twice and would suggest for really special occasions or if you just have money to spare. I would second recs for Espana and Merge, although we enjoyed ambiance at Espana, and better service at Merge. Would not recommend anything at the Plantation.

                                -----
                                Espana Restaurant
                                22 S 4th St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                                1. t
                                  tracyd RE: majik Apr 25, 2011 08:22 PM

                                  How does everyone feel about Merge with small kids (3 & 5)? I have heard good things about it, but worry that it might be too fancy for little kids. Also, it doesn't look like they have a kids menu. Any opinions?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: tracyd
                                    k
                                    kriscolby RE: tracyd Apr 26, 2011 04:28 AM

                                    Definitely.

                                    1. re: tracyd
                                      m
                                      marelyisdead RE: tracyd Apr 26, 2011 06:36 AM

                                      Well its been crazy busy around here this Spring, so it kind of depends on whether Chef Adam can accomodate you and the little ones. I went by there last night (Monday) and the parking lot was full. So I would call and ask if they can handle special needs. Adam is great with kids (he has 2.) But if the restaurant is jammed it could be difficult for everyone. Kelley's might be a little better with kids (outdoor, simpler menu.) Arte Pizza is not to be missed and they are great with kids.

                                      -----
                                      Arte Pizza
                                      109 N 3rd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

                                    2. stellamystar RE: majik May 22, 2011 02:05 PM

                                      Nearing the end of our 7 day trip here (first time). We have dined in the room for the most part but can give you some insight for what it is worth. Having never been here all I can say is Wow. We usually travel to Maine or Cape Cod. The southern hospitality is so wonderful. Never made to feel like an annoying tourist or in the way of the "locals.". So, that is great.

                                      As mentioned, we went to chain harris teeter to pick up provisions as our hotel had a kitchen in room. This was to be our beach eats and lunches. My husband is a bit of an adventurer, so when he saw the sign in yulee for Shuckers, we went. We caught happy hour and enjoyed $5 beer pitchers, raw oysters from Florida, and a shrimp po boy. I ordered fried green tomatoes, (shoulda got the fried pickles instead) and oyster po boy. Nice meal in very casual atmosphere (6 cats are hanging around). Behind gas station so don't expect fancy. They have lots of weeknight specials on oysters (30 cents in Tuesday !). So worth it for the budget minded. . I'd love to hear others thoughts as I could not find much on this place.

                                      Near our hotel is a soft serve place called DeNuccis on Sadler road. . We went there for boredom one nite and left raving fans!! Their soft serve ice cream and custard are absolutely amazing. So creamy / not icy or granulated like some soft serve. Fun cones made from Oreos or pretzels. And some crazy hot dogs too.

                                      For fancy times, we headed to le clos. Made email reservations which I would recommend since it's a tiny little cottage. Hubby and I split escargot $13 or $14 for 1/2 dozen (is this a good price?). Then we each had steak au poivre and finished with a shared dessert. Good service and location. Four outta five stars. nice affordable wine list and we got to take the rest of bottle back to hotel - so get a bottle.

                                      Will return with more thoughts.

                                      1. g
                                        gfweb1 RE: majik Mar 6, 2012 05:07 PM

                                        Update on Amelia...
                                        LeClos- still great serious food at decent prices for what you get. Wines by the glass or bottle from a small but good list. My favorite on AI.

                                        PLaE- I've avoided eating there for the probably flawed reason that the name of the place is an acronym for People Laughing and Eating. Ewww. But the food is pretty darn good. Some dishes are great and a few dishes are just OK. Prices are high but portions are giant. A glass of wine is really two glasses anywhere else.

                                        Beech St. Grill- An AI veteran BSG is consistently good. In the past year they started adding soup and salad to the entree which makes for a pretty economical meal at a very good restaurant.

                                        Murray's Island Grill- A step up from the Shoney's that previously was in that space, but not as good as the Murray's in Yulee. The buffet is just greasy junk, but burgers are good.

                                        Horizon- A small place with good food made by an ex-Ritz chef.

                                        Salt- at the Ritz-C. Uber-pricey for the tasty morsels that are served. Expense account pays.?..OK w me. I pay? No.

                                        Merge- still great food. They need a website and online rez system.

                                        Barbara Jean's- Low country home cooking. Paula Dean would feel at home here. To me its a lunch place. Could be cleaner lately. Busboys put ketchup and mayo squeeze bottles in the dirty glasses as they clear tables. Efficient and disgusting.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: gfweb1
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                                          tlubow RE: gfweb1 Mar 7, 2012 09:20 AM

                                          Thanks for the update. I found this post a few days ago. I am planning to be at the Ritz Carlton the weekend of 5/18 - meeting my two best girlfriends from high school (30 years ago!). We will eat one night in the hotel - but I'm not sure that we will splurge on Salt. On Sat. night, we'll likely go out - since I'll be driving up from Ft. Laud and will have a car.

                                          I will check out LeClos and PLaE (which looks like it's not too far from the hotel), but I was wondering if you could tell me what Merge is like since they don't have a website.

                                          Many thanks in advance.

                                          1. re: tlubow
                                            The Food Bee RE: tlubow Mar 7, 2012 01:33 PM

                                            I was just in Fernandina and we were lucky to have caught some great weather in February since I love to eat outside. If you are at the Ritz Carlton, do consider going to Horizon in Palmetto Walk nearby. The porch is lovely and food is very good. Also, you can browse the shops there.

                                            In town we like the courtyards (and food) at Cafe Karibo and Kelley's. Arte Pizza is great if you are in the mood for Italian. In addition to a wonderful thin crust pizza, I ordered a special of shrimp and mushroom risotto that was excellent. I wish they would improve the wine list.

                                            We had dinner at Merge one night and it is always excellent if a bit spartan in decor (think metal garden furniture). It is never crowded when we have been there and I hope the locals are supporting it. They had the back section closed and a group of eight people came in who had obviously made a reservation. When they were seated in the front room (with us and one other couple) they asked if they could sit in the back. The hostess told them that area was closed so the group got up and left!

                                            We dined for the first time at Espana and had several tapas dishes that were good. Again, it wasn't crowded but we tend to eat fairly early. The bread was outstanding- I wanted to take another loaf back to our beach house. It has a nice courtyard if the weather is good.

                                            We found ourselves at the Ritz Carlton for drinks and a salt-tasting, wishing we had made a reservation for dinner there. It was much calmer in the winter without a lot of kids. We enjoyed dinner there on a previous trip despite a young, arrogant sommelier.

                                            Le Clos is a lovely, quaint setting and the food is good. I cannot speak about PLaE since I was so put off by the dumb name I have not been!

                                            Enjoyed a cocktail and view at Brett's but would not waste an evening dining there when there are too many other restaurants to try.

                                            It sounds as if you girls will have a great time catching up!

                                            1. re: The Food Bee
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                                              gfweb1 RE: The Food Bee Mar 8, 2012 09:46 AM

                                              Exactly right about Brett's. Very expensive mediocrity. But a nice place to watch the sun set with a beverage in hand.

                                            2. re: tlubow
                                              g
                                              gfweb1 RE: tlubow Mar 8, 2012 04:51 AM

                                              Merge isn't far from the RC. Nothing is on AI. It's in a converted gas station and isn't a big place...maybe 10 tables? Menu is eclectic,wine list llimited,but I've never had a bad meal there.

                                              1. re: gfweb1
                                                t
                                                tlubow RE: gfweb1 Mar 8, 2012 08:29 AM

                                                Thank you both for the wonderful information. I should have pointed out in my earlier post that my two friends don't eat meat, poultry or shellfish (I eat everything), so any restaurant we go to should have a least a couple of fresh fish options (that aren't covered crabmeat or andouille sausage!). I've looked at the menus for The Horizon and PLAE (I agree on the ridiculous name) and they seem to have fish options. Merge is intriguing, but without a website, I'm in the dark about the offerings. Can someone help?

                                                1. re: tlubow
                                                  The Food Bee RE: tlubow Mar 8, 2012 08:44 AM

                                                  I feel certain that the chef at Merge will accommodate such a request if you let him know ahead of time. I believe fresh fish of some kind is always on the menu though.

                                            3. re: gfweb1
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                                              gfweb1 RE: gfweb1 Jul 12, 2012 05:12 AM

                                              Update ...

                                              Cafe 4750 at the Ritz- Pricy food in a boisterous setting. The RC is a family-oriented place and the restaurant has many tables of grandparents,parents and toddlers. Discipline was apparently left at home for most of them. Entrees are above $30 and weren't well-prepared eg overcooked fish, soggy fried shrimp. I see no point in eating there.

                                              Barzin- A newish place on A1A in the Shops at Palmetto Walk. Burgers and salad for lunch, typical lighter food for dinner. Lunch was good, didn't do dinner. Staff was dressed sloppily, including the guy who was apparently the owner. Throughout lunch he sat at the bar in his undershirt doing business on the phone. Not quietly. Odd.

                                              Le Clos- Still great.

                                              Beech Street- The soup/salad /entree special has disappeared. Is the economy recovering?

                                              PLaE- Still the stupid name, but the food is still generous and well-made. I found the booths cramped and uncomfortable. I'm aging.

                                            4. m
                                              marelyisdead RE: majik Mar 8, 2012 04:01 PM

                                              Best restaurant on the island right now is still Lulu's on S. 7th. Nice but not fancy interior, if that is important to you. The daily specials are very, very good. Excellent local fish. Arte has excellent Neopolitan style pizza in a casual family setting on N. 3rd. Tasty's is a nice new addition for casual hamburgers.

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