Where to Eat in Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island, located just northeast of Jacksonville on the Florida-Georgia state line, is known for its golf courses and beaches. But it also has an interesting history, first as an end point of a railroad built by David Yulee in the 1850s and later in the century, cruise steam ships brought tourists to Amelia Island. After a while, Henry Flagler’s railroad and resorts drew visitors further south and the island became a hub of the motorized shrimping industry. But today it has reclaimed its place as a tourist destination, with luxury resorts like the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort and The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. More “southern” with its cypress trees than your typical palm tree-lined Florida beach town, the cuisine reflects this blend of cultures. You are as apt to find key lime pie as fried green pickles and hush puppies on the menu. And as you might expect from a tourist town, there is a range of cuisine from fine dining to your typical tourist traps. Luckily, when I was in town in November for a conference, I was able to stay at both the Omni and the Ritz and had a chance to sample the cuisine around town — and quiz the locals on their favorites. So if you are looking for the best Fernandina Beach restaurants or where to eat in Amelia Island for a special occasion, I’ve got you covered.

Where to Eat in Amelia Island — Fine Dining

Salt at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

If you are a foodie, than you just have to experience the Chef’s Adventure Tasting Menu at Salt in The Ritz-Carlton. The restaurant was recently renovated and reopened the day before we arrived. The Chef de Cuisine, Richard Laughlin, integrates contemporary techniques with salts from around the world to stimulate your taste buds. Now I’m always a fan of salt and I have sea salt, pink Himalayan salt, Celtic grey salt and even Icelandic volcanic salt in my cabinet at home so this experience was right up my alley. I was wowed again and again throughout our six course tasting menu, making it easy to see why Rick has been honored multiple times with the AAA Five Diamond Award.

The Chef’s Adventure Tasting Menu is typically five courses and is offered for $149 per person, with an additional $55 for wine pairings. I’ve done a number of chef’s tasting menus and this is not a bad deal for a special occasion and you will not go away disappointed or hungry. The chef is also open to changing the menu based on dietary restrictions and preferences with advance notice. For example, I don’t care for tuna tartare so I was given an alternate second course.

Our dinner started with a foie gras gelee with pear compote, oat crumble, and micro celery for an amuse bouche. I prefer my foie gras seared but this was smooth and rich…don’t let the “gelee” fool you. Our first course consisted of king crab meat with cauliflower gelee, clementine, pickled radish and caviar, and the second course for most was the tuna tartare. But it was the next three courses that brought the “ooos” and “ahs”, so if you go, don’t fill up too quickly (although the fresh bread with butter and a variety of salts makes it soooo tempting!)

The third course were Key West pink prawns, served with goat cheese, smoked tomato, and green tomato marmalade. But it was the presentation that wins the night here. Each dish arrived under a glass cloche, smoke swirling, which when lifted made for a big reveal.

It was the fourth course that won my stomach. Even though I’m not a fan of butternut squash, I make a delicious butternut squash soup with truffle oil that I thought was the best around. I was very wrong. Chef Laughlin is big on engaging all the senses and uses aromatics in his dishes to prepare the palette through the nose. The butternut squash soup arrived in a kabocha squash on a bed of toasted, spicy aromatics with cranberry foam and spiced pecans. This dish was sublime — more like dessert than dinner. Sweet, smooth and full of flavor.

Butternut squash soup at Salt in the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island

I may have just overdone it on the earlier courses, and my full wine glasses were lining up as they were coming out faster than I could drink them (not usually a problem but I was keeping a 4 am wake up call in mind.) But to me, the fifth course looked better than it tasted. The “Steak, Eggs & Lobster” came out still cooking on a sizzling Himalayan salt block. It looked amazing and the presentation was stunning. The meat was rare and I was able to cook it to my liking on the hot salt. The contrast to the lobster tail was so perfect surf and turf, but once the lobster kept cooking on the salt it got a little tough, and the quail egg was just overkill at that point of the evening. By the time the s’mores soufflé arrived, with graham cracker, smoked vanilla ice cream, and Nutella anglaise, I was glad I don’t like marshmallows because I couldn’t manage more than a nibble.

Steak Lobster and egg at Salt

Steak, Eggs and Lobster at Salt

The entire meal all I kept thinking was how much I want to return with Glenn because he would also absolutely love this experience. If you are looking for a place for a romantic retreat, do consider The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. I can attest that the spa is fabulous, the rooms are luxurious, and the food…well the food is amazing. From the salad I had by the pool to the chef’s tasting dinner.

S'mores souffle at Salt in the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island Florida

S’mores soufflé at Salt

Le Clos

Although my stomach could only handle one meal of that magnitude, I did get recommendations for other fine dining options on the island including Le Clos, a French restaurant just off Center Street in Ferdinanda Beach in a quaint home. I’ve been told that the meatloaf with foie gras and the flourless chocolate cake are the things to get here — another place Glenn would just love!

20 South 2nd Street, Fernandina Beach, Florida 32034, (904) 261-8100

Burlingame Restaurant

Another Ferdinanda Beach restaurant that came highly recommended was is Burlingame Restaurant. The chef was formerly at The Ritz-Carlton, but joined with the owners to open Burlingame. The restaurant focuses on coastal cuisine and fresh, local ingredients.

20 South 5th St, Fernandina Beach, Florida 32034, 904-432-7671

Continue to next page for casual dining recommendations>>Next Page>>

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  1. Mariana on Center St. in downtown Fernandina is GREAT!!!

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