Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jekyll Island, Georgia: Where To Eat!

A few weeks ago, we visited Jekyll Island for the first time. Before leaving home, I read reviews of various restaurants in the area so I could take that into consideration when we dined out. When you read a travel related review, understand that not all reviews will be positive. That's a given. Also, negative reviews over six months old shouldn't make or break your decision to try a restaurant, or even a hotel. Usually, after receiving a few negative reviews, changes are made to improve quality and service. Most of the reviews I read were positive and I was looking forward to this dining experience.
Our first night on the island found us at The Driftwood Bistro. This charming little restaurant was located next to the lobby of Villas by the Sea, where we spent our long weekend away. The staff was friendly and attentive, discreetly watching over us to ensure the best possible experience. This was not a compensated meal, but I could have sworn they knew what I was up to. I can't remember the last time I had the perfect dining experience, but we certainly had one here! The prices were great and the food was even better. I ordered the farm raised and corn meal breaded catfish fillets with cheese grits and macaroni and cheese. The fish fillets were crisp on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside. They were seasoned nicely and they arrived on the table still hot! The creamy macaroni and cheese was baked and it was topped with a beautifully browned cheesy crust. We all shared, but not because I wanted to. I couldn't keep my husband, Sam or Logan away! Luckily, there was enough to go around. The cheese grits were creamy, but there was a slight tartness that I didn't really like. Logan thought they were okay, but my husband seemed to really enjoy them. The rolls were soft and warm inside and we all enjoyed them!
Before our trip, I read reviews and found out about The Driftwood Bistro's beer battered fried green tomatoes and the fried okra. The reviews were good, and after hearing about their version of fried okra, I knew my husband would love it! Their whole okra pods are smashed flat and pressed into seasoned corn meal and deep fried crispy. My husband couldn't decide on one item as an appetizer, so he ordered both as side items to accompany his Stuffed Collard Greens. Whole leaf collard greens were stuffed with rice and seasoned ground beef and baked in a rich tomato creole. According to him, it was the best meal he's had in a long time. The fried green tomatoes were a little bland, but everything else was perfectly cooked and seasoned.
 Logan had...Pizza. Pizza Bites to be exact. But this wasn't a microwaved pizza passed off as something more. This pizza was made with fresh bread, delicious sauce, and it had a generous layer of cheese. This kid's meal made me want to sneak a slice off Logan's plate. It smelled amazing! He loved it and polished it off quickly!
 Sam had Chicken Fingers from the child's menu. When his plate arrived, my husband cut the chicken into bite size pieces. We did "sample" it, just to make sure it wasn't too hot. As soon as I tasted it, I grabbed another bite, and then another. It's a good thing The Driftwood Bistro is generous with their portions. I could have eaten all of his chicken fingers! Seriously, they were some of the best I've had. They were juicy and full of flavor. The crust was crisp and it wasn't oily at all!
The Driftwood Bistro scored an A! As we were finishing our meal, the manager (or owner) came over to greet us. He wanted to make sure we enjoyed our meal. After a little friendly banter he was on his way. What a warm welcome we received from this gentleman and all the staff! It was such a pleasant experience that I could see myself coming back and making it my regular spot. I left with a smile. We all did!
During our trip, we were given tickets for a Sunset Dolphin Cruise. While we were waiting to depart, we sat down at a table just outside the gift shop. When approached by a gentleman asking for drink orders, I looked across and noticed we had found Rah Bar. The waiter asked if we were waiting for the boat and then he did something so unusual. He offered complimentary drinks and asked that we consider returning to eat sometime soon! Here's a little more information:

If you are looking for the hot spot for seafood and a scenic view of the true Georgia coast, you have just found it. Latitude 31 & Rah Bar offers GREAT food. A full menu for Dinner at Latitude 31 and an awesome lunch menu from the Rah Bar as well as a full service bar. Latitude 31 & Rah Bar serves locally caught, fresh seafood daily, setting the standard for fresh seafood on the Georgia Coast. We offer our signature shrimp, and crab legs, along with a wide variety of steamed and fried seafood. We also have a full menu that caters to the steak, chicken and salad lover in you. Our great location also offers you seating overlooking the Ocean with a beautiful view of the a breath taking sunset.

We didn't eat there, but we will in the near future. After leaving our sunset cruise, there was a live band playing and a nice crowd. We all stopped briefly to enjoy the scene, and then we were off!
Fins on the Beach had a lovely setting. It was oceanfront, with a well lit exterior and beautiful landscaped grounds. Walking toward the parking lot was a delight. The sun had already set and the cool breezes were blowing off the sea. I was immediately in the mood for delicious seafood. Walking towards the door, I noticed a great place to sit outside and dine. After going inside, I took note of the light decor that really fit the theme of the restaurant. It was clean and it smelled really good! We were the only ones up front and we waited more than five minutes before we were noticed and seated. After being seated, we ordered drinks. The kids colored activity sheets while we waited. When the drinks arrived, a container of hushpuppies was set on the table. Instantly, we all took one and savored the flavors. These hushpuppies were divine. I wanted to take a box (a very BIG box) of them home! We waited patiently for our dinner to arrive. With the neverending (they kept them coming at our request) hushpuppies, it wasn't hard to do!
We ordered Cannonball Shrimp for starters. We asked for the sauce on the side. Sam doesn't like spicy food that much, and Logan has a hard time eating it sometimes. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and the breading was crisp and flavorful. The shrimp were served over a Caesar Salad, minus the croutons, which was nice because I didn't order a salad with dinner. The lettuce was cool and crisp. You could tell it was fresh!
My husband ordered After The Storm Boat Bounty. Wild Georgia Shrimp, fried oysters, scallops and fish seemed to be a great combination. After tasting the Cannonball Shrimp, we expected this shrimp to be just as good! It wasn't. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, but it went from spectacular to slightly better than average. Maybe a different chef prepared this entree. We were told this was a possibility. Everything tasted different, right down to the batter. The scallops were not real scallops, but they were tasty. Everything else was really good, especially the fish.
I ordered Blackened Mahi Mahi served on a seasoned wooden plan. The presentation was really nice. The blackened seasoning was a little light, almost too light, but it had a great flavor. The mild flavored fish was a little dry, but other than that, it was good. The fries were unevenly cooked. Most were perfect, but I found some needed a little longer in the fryer. Let's get back to those hushpuppies! Did I mention how great they were!
Logan enjoyed Steamed Crab Legs. Actually, we all did. They were cooked perfectly and they had beautiful color. The presentation wowed Logan and the rest of us too. Logan easily cracked the legs open and found moist crabmeat that was so good, he bypassed the butter!
Sam enjoyed his fried shrimp and french fries, and of course, ketchup. Lots and lots of ketchup! After pouring the ketchup, he dived in and ate almost all of his dinner. It looked like a generous portion for a child's shrimp plate and we were treated to an instant "This is good", which he doesn't always say after that first bite.
The waitress here was new, and she seemed to be learning the ropes. She was a little slow refilling drinks and she forgot a few things, but she was better as the evening progressed. She was always friendly and she was always smiling, even though she still seemed a little uncertain. We enjoyed our time dining at Fins. The atmosphere was great and the views were stunning!
Before leaving the island, we found SeaJays, a beautiful restaurant with southern charm. It was nestled beneath the oaks with a breathtaking view of the marina. It seemed like a welcoming place. You could dine inside or on the porch, overlooking the boats. As we entered, we began seeing signs for their Low Country Boil. We started getting our hopes up only to to have them dashed. If you want to eat Low Country Boil, visit them for dinner! We were greeted by a waitress and shown to our table, disappointed that their Low Country Boil wasn't until later that day.
My husband ordered Nachos Carne Supremos. It was good. He ordered sweet tea and was a little disappointed when he had to get up and find a waitress to get a refill. His glass was more than half full of almost completely melted ice. Instead of dumping it, the waitress poured new ice into it and topped it off with tea.  
I ordered Breaded Chicken Tenders that were described as crisp. Unfortunately, they were limp, as if they came straight from the microwave. I know they were not baked or fried. I could only eat one. Thank goodness they came with a bag of chips! Regardless of this experience, I'm betting their Low Country Boil is to die for. It looked that good, in pictures of course. I wouldn't hesitate to give them another shot. Just don't ask me to have chicken tenders!
Logan and Sam had pizza. Not only did it look good, it tasted great! The kids were happy and that made me happy. We had the pleasure of  looking out over the water while we dined and that was a treat! With the meal over costing around $35, not including tip, I was a little disappointed. I don't think I will be back for lunch, but I will definitely be back for dinner.
Disclosure: My family was treated to dinner at Fins on the Beach. All other meals mentioned and all tips were paid by us. Honest opinions given. No monetary compensation received.

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