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Amelia Island update

DAVID'S is a two month old restaurant near the old Beech St Grill. It is an ambitious place with the clear goal of elevating dining on the island. The owners have spent a lot of money renovating the place and i think they've done a smashing job. The bar is cozy but roomy and had a lone soprano sax guy playing light jazz which was just right (did I just say light jazz was ok?).

We had the amuse , tenderloin sliders, scallop "BLT" which was great, duck pot pie made with duck confit and petit filets with mushroom risotto....Cheesecake and cheese plate for dessert. Each was great. The risotto was just right..a rare thing. About the only miss was the lack of something sweet on the cheese plate. Forgivable. Wine list is on an iPad and not huge, but what I had was nice.

MERGE finally has a website but one still must call for reservations.

BEECH ST GRILL is gone. Word from waitstaff is that new owners ran it into the ground.

LE CLOS is still a great place. Reliably great bistro food.

CAFE KARIBO was a disappointment. It was a disorganized and grimy place when we visited. Apps were served after the mains. Cheeseburger was ok...fries good...tuna melt was skimpy and under seasoned.
Our table was made of old wood that had the finish stripped off. The boards had shrunk leaving big gaps that were filled with the crumbs of past meals. Ew. The floor was concrete that had had tile removed but the adhesive remained...just looked dirty. The flowers in a carafe were in murky water...gross. I know this place has a big following. I don't get it.

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  1. A couple of recent trips to DAVID'S were just as nice. Marinated portobello/crab, tenderloin sliders and scallop BLT apps...duck pot pie, sea bass, Dover sole (flown in that day), petit filet mains...the cheese plate for dessert is gone but may return they say.

    A quirk with their online reservations sometimes makes it look like there is only early or late availability (eg after 8PM). I called to question this and got a rez at the time I requested.

    LE CLOS is always great. Get your reservation in advance. The place is small and fills up in advance.

    BARBARA JEAN'S is a small regional chain of low country home cooking. Not haute cuisine, but a notch or two above diner food. For me it is great for lunch or casual dinners.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sal_acid

      What is the actual name of David's? I cannot seem to find anything about it when searching.

      1. re: kempshark

        As far as I know its David's Restarant. Here's the website http://ameliaislanddavids.com/

    2. Another Amelia update...

      DAVID'S and Le CLOS are both bustling, and deservedly so. Both serve great food done nicely. Reservations are a must at Le Clos. David's is big enough that you might find a last minute table, but I wouldn't count on it.

      We visited a new (to us) lunch place, KELLEY'S COURTYARD CAFE. Busy, a bit cramped, but a nice feel all in all. The menu is varied and the service is fine. Great for a leisurely lunch.

      PLAE was a big disappointment this time. The place was a fine dining place, but standards have slipped it seems. Servers were confused about the menu in a few instances, beer was served in warm glasses, meat served at the wrong temperature, grits were full of uncooked chunks (really!), fries were badly overcooked... bland sauces and a few other things of a similar vein. Taken one-by-one, no big deal, but taken together this looks like a restaurant with big problems.

      1. Just spent the weekend on Amelia Island. I dined at:

        -Espana--its as great as everyone says it is, go!

        -David's-pricey but if you are looking for a more upscale ambience, this is the place. The food did not disappoint. I ended up dining solo at the bar, which is in a lounge where there was live music, and guests wandering in and out at different times of the night for aperitifs/digestifs. Bartenders Tristan & Benny took good care of me!

        -Salty Pelican--recommended by the locals when I asked where the best spot is for raw oysters. Casual typical seafood bar/resto, overlooking the 'river' (in quotes because I learned on the Shrimping Ecotour that it is no really a river!). Serving local shrimp, oysters, so a great to go for both, which i did 2 days in a row for lunch. Nothing fancy, but good at what they do. Great spot for lunch.

        I almost went to Salt at the Ritz for dinner the nite after David's---it would have been pricey, but I am sure it would have been good, as the locals even agreed.

        This is island is a gem, I hope the dining scene continues to grow.

        1. My wife and I just concluded a week in Amelia Island. First reactions? Lots to see, lots to do, lots to eat. Good people.

          Blue crab caught in local waters is pretty special. Joe's Bistro does a superb job with their upscale crab cake.They also make the best shrimp and grits I've had in some time. Go for lunch, leave room for the Key Lime pie. Wash things down with blood orange mimosas. The wine list is very good. Service is pleasant and attentive. Chef will stop by your table to ask how you're doing.

          All-in-all, this was the most appealing restaurant during our stay. The room is modest in size but the high ceiling, moulding, fans and thoughtful paint schemes put a smile on my face. We went back a second time to confirm initial reactions: it was even better.

          2 Replies
          1. re: steve h.

            fully agree about the Shrimp and Grits and overall experience at Joe's Bistro....exceptional all the way around

            1. re: TonyO

              Good to hear. For a while Joe's was not so great.

          2. Amelia Island February 2014

            Lulu's - saw a rec from Chowhound and this was spot on. The best shrimp po' boy I've had to date. Fresh shrimp, with just a little bit of coating. Cooked perfectly. and the flavor and the slightly toasted bun made this a delight. You can tell these people are true foodies. Lot's more places to try on the island, but will return here for sure.

            Karibo - would never do it again. Burger was a mush of marinade mixed into the meat and then served undercooked and overworked. The waitstaff was polite, yet seemed scattered and unmanaged.The kids had pizza, which, I swear was right out of a box. Had the calamari/shrimp appetizer which was cooked well, but the dipping condiments were not good. My gal liked her lentil salad, but overall agreed this was a let down.

            1. Looking for recent feedback on Beach Bistro - any help appreciated!

              2 Replies
              1. re: kennycandy

                I don't know of a place with this name on the island. Doesn't google.
                Sure name is right?

                1. re: kennycandy

                  wrong coast and too far north. you need to look at holmes beach, north of sarasota.

                2. Things seem busier in a good way on the island.

                  DAVID'S remains a serious place with good food. Not cheap but good. Couple of minor misses on our last meal...risotto was a shade undercooked...the bananas foster wasn't made table side and had a lone banana and dense beignets. Still a fine place

                  LE CLOS still great.

                  29 SOUTH is a nice place. Better for lunch than dinner, I think. Dinner seems to overwhelm the kitchen sometimes. Tasty food in general.

                  MERGE has expanded and is still cooking great food. Still no website and no open table. Gotta cost them business.

                  A new place, AMELIA CITY SUSHI has opened in the shopping center down by the Ritz...the one with HarrisTeeter. Very pretty inside, friendly helpful staff. Sushi came out really slowly...really slowly and it wasn't a bit busy. Rolls were variable...one great , one a gnarled little thing...but tasty. There isn't much on the menu other than sushi, a couple cooked fish that seem an afterthought. And it isn't cheap, $18 sushi rolls seem excessive for what it was.

                  1. Just finishing a few days on the island.

                    David's and Le Clos are as good as ever. I wouldn't miss either.

                    Horizons has moved to a much larger space a half mile south on A1A. I worry that it's too big and will fail for that reason. Food is still good, although the "panini" I had at lunch was on some sort of hamburger roll and was far from pressed and toasted adequately. A surprising screwup.

                    Merge has slipped with their new menu. Dishes are not as described eg a crab gnudi dish was actually a plate of mussels with a few gnudi...not at all a pasta dish. Rabbit spring rolls had no mention that they were heavily curried. Also "we didn't get our beer delivery" so they only had a few bottles. Still no website or online menu or reservations. Are they on the ropes? Hope not.

                    A new place, Cucina South, has a nice website and menu, but they list no phone number or online reservation method!!

                    Another new restaurant, La Mancha, is in the old Shoneys /Murray''s space on Sadler. Not a promising location given it's horrible predecessors. But it is pretty darn good. Decent number of generous sized tapas as well as entrees. We liked everything we had including a paella that was properly crusted. The waitstaff is a bit green but is helpful. They have open table reservations but no online menu. I'd rec reservations, it fills up fast with what appear to be mostly locals.

                    1. Just back from an extended Memorial Day Weekend stay. Some modest observations:

                      * Joe's Bistro continues to impress. I've always enjoyed the seafood here but the prime rib, a special, was outstanding. Be sure to save room for the house special dessert. Service is pleasant and professional.

                      * Espana on 4th Street is a wonderful Spanish restaurant. The room is nice, not handsome, but don't let that factor into your enjoyment because the food is wonderful as is the service. Ask the waiter to both select your tapas and orchestrate the delivery. You will be amply rewarded.

                      * Random thoughts:

                      Brett's Waterway Cafe is a solid lunch destination. I like to sit at the bar. The fried shrimp and the shrimp and grits are two plates I enjoy here. The quiche was a pleasant surprise.

                      Dog Star Tavern has very good beers/ales on tap. The room is classic warehouse: high ceilings, wood floors, brick walls. They have an excellent sound system.

                      Palace Saloon is quite the tourist attraction but they build an honest gimlet. I like the barkeeps and the history.

                      Salty Pelican, upstairs on the deck overlooking the water watching the sun go down, has its attraction. Go for the view, the sea breeze and the booze.

                      Neither Tasty's nor Parkway Grille build a burger I can get behind.

                      Arte Pizza makes a decent pie in their wood-fired oven. The big surprise was the outstanding fried calamari.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: steve h.

                        Agree in general and on the burger situation in particular.

                        There is a burger place opposite the carcass of the Beech St Grille, built in an old gas station. I've heard its great, but have not been there.

                        1. re: sal_acid

                          Please give it a shot and report back. I should return before the year is out and can always do with a good burger.

                          1. re: steve h.

                            I'll be down in a month or so. Consider it done.

                      2. Heading to Amelia Island in late November. First time in the area and am curious if this is considered "off season" and whether some restaurants will be closed or limit their menu? I've scanned the most current threads on Amelia Island and see a lot of great recommendations that I'm going to do more research on.

                        One question: what would you all consider the best place to get fresh fish? Casual to fancy, doesn't matter.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          It will be a "shoulder season" but in my experiences, no places will be closed in November as most, if not all, are year round operations.

                          We are big fans of Timoti's (downtown). Very casual, very reasonable, and very fresh.

                          Amelia Island is a great place and if you simply ask local residents and store owners, they will be very helpful. I always recommend stopping at the Chamber of Commerce office as they have some great guides to local sites and restaurants. I don't recall the street, but they are easy to find. That being said, Joe's 2nd St. Bistro, David's, Pizza Arte, Tasty's, The Verandah (at the Omni), and Horizon's are all solid options based on our most recent visit in August 2014.

                          1. re: TonyO

                            Thank you! Your posts and sal_acid's posts have been a great help to me. I was particularly happy to see the positive reports on The Verandah, since we're staying at the Omni.

                            I will report back with my experiences. Cheers!

                            1. re: TorontoJo

                              Swing by the Falcon's Nest at the Omni and ask for a Tony O Burger.....named after yours truly! They do a really great job at the Omni and I am sure you will have a great time!

                              1. re: TonyO

                                This is now on my radar. I take burgers seriously (grind my own meat blend). Amelia needs a top-drawer offering. I'll give it a shot when next on the island.

                              2. re: TorontoJo

                                I've had several bad experiences at the Verandah. Maybe it has changed....