The loud booms, whooshing, and gurgling atmospheric sounds heard recently were nothing to cause concern as they were merely the digestive clatter of our two gluttonous galactic Fat Men From Space suffering severe interstellar indigestion following an orgy of Amelia Island hamburger excess. Ever since they vacated their booth at “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” (See where I’m going here?) to journey to Amelia Island, the obese alien astronauts have been recording their gastronomical experiences locally in their quest to locate our island’s best burger.
Following their most recent series of cholesterol clogging capers the Fat Men have compiled 10 reviews leaving some 20 to go. To read the previous Fat Men evaluations Google davescottblog August 25, 2017. In addition to the ones below they have reviewed Beach Diner, Sandbar & Kitchen, Doo Wop Diner, Picnic Basket and Tasty’s.
Once the Fat Men have gorged themselves silly I will get together with the two of them and together we’ll cull out the also-rans and determine the top five best island burger joints, ranked in order.
In the meantime here are the results of the Fat Men’s latest samplings:
DeNucci’s Soft Serve: DeNucci’s located at 2210 Sadler Road, is primarily a destination for those seeking sweet, frozen ice cream. It angles towards families and kids with a variety of ice creams, shakes, sundaes and a playground in front. But I had it on good authority that DeNucci’s, also, serves a quality burger. So I had to try it out.
DeNucci’s is a small place that has, maybe, six indoor tables with additional outside seating. Patrons order at the counter, and the food is delivered to your table. A quarter pound cheeseburger will cost you a modest $3.99, while a double (weighing in at half a pound) runs $6.96. Fries are separate. $2.50 will get you a sizeable order of delightful shoestring fries. I opted for the quarter pound cheeseburger with fries. As best I can tell, the burgers are not cooked to order (I was not given that option). The service was excellent, and my burger promptly arrived. It was served on a potato roll (the perfect vehicle) with American cheese, shredded lettuce, a nice slice of tomato, onion and a house sauce reminiscent of remoulade. I cannot say definitively that the burger was hand-pattied or a Cisco product, though I suspect the former. It was cooked on a flat-top (the preferred method) to well done (not the preferred method). As such, it was slightly dry but still tasty. I should note that the service was friendly and prompt. All in all, the burger was good, but not great. The differentiator for me was the doneness of the beef. If that doesn’t bother you, you will likely think this is a terrific burger. You can, however, visit DeNucci’s knowing the frozen treats are superb. After all, that is their sweet spot. A couple of final observations. There is no beer or alcohol of any sort offered. They have a drive-thru if you are in a hurry.
The Down Under: Take it from this cosmic cabbie; I don’t need to tell you, it’s a BIG universe we live in. Fortunately there are some constants to keep us from flying off the rails. Here’s one: cheeseburgers taste better in a place that has a full bar. The exception is airports, but that’s a different column. Here’s another, water views are more relaxing than mountain views. Something about avalanches, I suspect. Now, what’s the perfect combination for a great cheeseburger? A bar with a water view! Imagine my thrill when I found BOTH at the new Down Under restaurant. Originally opened in 1982 as a small restaurant part of a bigger fish camp located underneath the west side of the Shave bridge, or as I call it, the Highway to Hell-0….Yulee, it was a locals joint where you could come by boat or car for a quick meal of fresh local seafood. A few decades later the fish got wise and stopped camping there and they closed. (I’m just spit-balling here).
After being nearly destroyed by last year’s tempest, Matthew, the Saltmarsh family stuck it out and re-opened in Oct. 4th, a mere three weeks after this year’s tempest, Irma. A quick aside: A family named Saltmarsh opening a restaurant on a, you guessed it, a Salt Marsh…cool! Kind of a bummer though about the family burial ground but whatever… As tempted as I was to order some shrimp and oysters, cheeseburgers are kinda my thing, and I was GLAD I DID! $12 gets you a half-pounder of fresh beef, a toasted bun, light as a hug from an anorexic, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and, get this, HOME MADE pickles! Your choice of all sorts of delicious sides too, including cheese grits and watermelon.
This burger was worth traveling light years to get to, so good in fact, someone should write a song about it. Wait, Earth people are telling me Jimmy Buffett already did. (That guy is EVERYWHERE!) In any case, do yourself a favor, hop in your hoopty, and get over the bridge, take the HARD left at the base, and follow it around to the Down Under, I suspect the crowds will indicate your arrival, or the sounds of live music on the week-ends. Either way, save some for me, I’ll be back on my next pass.
Halftime Bar and Grill: When you spend your time in the deep recesses of space, like I do, you find time to think. When I pull into Earth’s orbit, I simply stop thinking. Good way to blend in, as of late. I also want to have a cheeseburger. My latest jaunt among you earthlings was to Half Time Bar and Grill. Here’s a little unassuming place at 320 South 8th Street. Full of large TVs featuring Ultimate Fighting, the night I visited. Sweaty, grown men slugging the snot out of one another, in full living color on all four walls. I told you thinking wasn’t a requirement.
Anyway, cheese burgers taste better at places where cold beer is served on tap. Everyone knows that, right? Well, for $11 you get a very worthy 1/2 pound burger and fries. Simply put, it was dense, tasty with two kinds of cheese, neither of them American, and all the usual stuff with a toasted bun. Nothing fancy, nor pretentious here. The ladies behind the bar seemed oblivious to the physical mayhem that was taking place on the TVs which covered nearly every bit of wall space. They remained smiling and cheerful as teeth-gnashed and hair, blood and perspiration flew everywhere. Tuesday night in America.
The vibe and violence on the TVs and the tasty slabs of beef on the plate would have melted a snowflake or shocked a vegan to apoplexy. But not this Fat Man, I got in touch with my inner gladiator, grease running down my wrists. I chewed with my mouth open, too. I jammed fistfuls of fries into my pie hole with great relish. I slammed beer after beer. Then I punched out with a 20 percent tip. It’s a great burger. But I would have enjoyed it more if a baseball game was playing on the TVs instead of the featured show, “Two Guys, a Cage and Constant Ass-kicking” I think I need to retire to my corner and calm down a bit.
T-Ray’s Burger Station: OK, if you’ve lived on the island for any length of time, you know (or at least have heard of) T-Ray’s. It’s located at 202 South 8th Street in an old converted gas station and is something of a local institution. T-Ray’s has received some broader notoriety, having been written-up in Southern Living, USA Today and the Washington Post. They are particularly known for their breakfast and burgers. We, of course, are here to talk about the burger. I ordered the Big T Burger, priced at $5.99 ($.50 extra for cheese). This is an eight oz. burger served “all the way” with lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions, mayo, mustard and ketchup. They, also, have a smaller four oz. version, cleverly dubbed the Little T Burger, for $3.99. Fries and a drink are extra with either. I went with the combo (burger, fries and drink) that priced out at $9.49. They do not cook to a specified doneness here. All of the burgers are served medium-well. The patties are hand formed and cooked on a flat-top grill. After taking my seat among the kitschy, mismatched furniture (and wiping away, as best I could, the artifacts left behind by the previous diner), I anxiously awaited the arrival of my burger. Let’s start by saying this is a burger that looks good getting off the bus. It was big, well formed, nicely dressed and a bit intimidating. The accompanying steak fries were plentiful and fried to a prefect, golden brown.
Getting a handle on this burger is no small feat. One misstep and whole thing can end up in your lap. So counter-measures are advised (cutting in half, taking your face to the food or both). This is big, juicy, messy burger. Despite being cooked past medium, the burger was very moist. The lettuce was crisp and the tomato perfectly ripe. The condiments were abundant. In retrospect, it would not have been unreasonable to request they hold the condiments and apply them myself.
Halfway through my burger, I had soiled enough napkins to circle the globe. So I decided to go knife and fork from there. I know. I know. But before you judge, think of Mother Earth. Anyway, T-Ray’s hits the mark with its burgers. Mine was delicious. I could barely finish it. Next time I might opt for the Little T, though that would be embarrassing for a fat man to order. Of note, T-Ray’s is only open for breakfast and lunch Mon-Sat and dinner Friday and Saturday but is closed Sundays.
Parkway Grille: Located at 5517 South Fletcher (the corner of A1A and Buccaneer Trail), the Parkway Grille is truly a diner, apparently specializing in sandwiches with cold cuts, tuna salad, a couple of daily soups, and the like. The protocol here is to order at the counter and take a seat wherever you prefer, I was coolly advised by a member of the staff after standing inside looking, waiting, longing for someone to seat me. This mistake set my fate. I was clearly not one of the regulars who dotted the place. But no matter. I was not there to make friends, just to eat a tasty burger. I was unceremoniously “greeted” at the counter, where I proceeded to place my order. Cheeseburger combo with fries and a Coke for a total of $10.88 (burger alone is $7.49). It is an eight oz. patty ostensibly cooked to order. As per usual, I asked for medium. The burger is served on a Kaiser roll (nice call) and dressed with the proper accompaniments: lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo.
Upon arrival, the burger and fries looked appetizing I was quickly disappointed to learn that my burger had been cooked to well done and beyond. Sad. Disappointment mounted when I discerned that the patty was most certainly a food service product (Sysco or similar) – a marvel of modern food science complete with pre-painted grill marks. It yielded a dry, flavorless burger with a poor caloric/enjoyment ratio. The fries were warmish and flaccid (yes, this word works in other contexts). More solar system sadness.
Speaking Of Hamburgers: The new menu at Main Beach’s Sandbar & Kitchen features the SBK Burger, a one-half pound Angus beef patty that — brace yourself — includes peanut butter, jelly and bacon on a toasted brioche bun with honey siracha sauce for 15 bucks, one side included, a meal that would have made, or maybe still will, make Elvis a regular. So far customers are raving about this off-beat burger and I’ve tried one, and admit it is tasty, even though the Fat Men From Space tell me it doesn’t make the cut as a traditional burger in their galactic quest.
The Just Wondering Department: If vile Florida rapper Pitbull’s girlfriend decides to dump him does she just drop him off at the Humane Society?
Breaking News: Caitlyn Jenner claims Bruce fondled her for more than 50 years.
Call An Ambulance For The City: Sadly, part-time emergency room physician and purveyor of local loopy litigious, radicalized and fabricated fury — Chip “Dr. Strangelove” Ross — was elected to the Fernandina Beach City Commission Tuesday, ensuring that this newly formed legislative assembly will make the Marx Brother’s film “Night at the Opera” look like a documentary on “Robert’s Rules of Order.” Oh well, this blog will almost write itself watching this coercive group’s chaotic attempts at local governance as it now lacks the mature, intelligent and thoughtful wisdom of former commissioners Tim Poynter and Robin Lentz. Brace yourselves Fernandina tax payers, it’s going to be a bumpy, expensive and scary ride.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Just a few months after new Year’s Day the iconic Fletcher Avenue Surf will have a new look and a spiffed up menu but will be closed in the meantime while they tear the place down. Currently the inside dining area is getting remodeled, the kitchen will be remodeled next as well as some of the Motel rooms. The deck will get knocked down and will be rebuilt to a 9,000 square-footer with extra restrooms. It will be the same height, but have more roofing. A 40-foot bar will be built. Yep only one bar, but hey, a really long one. I’m not sure where popular bartender Artie and his Tiki bar Breakfast Club regulars will land at this point and will report on that as soon as I hear. The Surf’s Congenial Cajun General Manager Joey Ledet tells me that after remodeling he’ll be able to keep 140 guests comfortable in a controlled air environment, great for the winter. He adds that all employees will come back and some will be on board during the closing to help revamp the menu, which will consist of all locally farmed and caught menu items. He said they expect to have 17 signature items on the menu, fresh fish, and a market selection. All produce will be locally farmed with the shrimp coming straight off the boats from local docks. He says there’ll be a stage built on the deck and an area for arcade games. For the inside dining, Joey says they’ll offer 6-8 Healthy organic smoothies, eight different organic coffee choices, 24 different Ice cream flavors, five artisan sandwiches and salads pints of ice cream and milkshakes, and more ready to go. As soon as I have opening dates I’ll report them as I’m as anxious as everyone else to experience the Surf’s new look. I’m told that something called Wicked BAO at 232 N 2nd St. will bring Asian Street Food to downtown Fernandina Beach and I hope that means the delicious Vietnamese Pho soup and basil spring rolls, which will make me a regular there. Operated by Taiwanese native and long-time Fernandina Beach resident Natalie Wu, the new eatery will serve beer and wine, feature a 12-stool bar and seating overall for 52. Hopefully it will do much better than the last three places at that location which didn’t last much longer than happy hour. Ms. Wu is no stranger to the restaurant business as she worked in eateries in exclusive hotels in Switzerland, Taipei and Singapore and her late husband, Thomas Tolxdorf, was executive chef at the local Ritz-Carlton. I look forward to having a bowl of Pho and a cold Sapporo soon. I hear something called Aloha Bagel &Deli at 432 South 8th Street, next door to the Shady Ladies gallery, was recently licensed to operate in Fernandina Beach, but other than the fact that the city’s Extortionist Department made them install a grease trap (a grease trap for a bakery?) that’s all I have. Anybody know more? The Sandbar & Kitchen has extended its seven-day-a-week happy hour to 3-6 p.m. from 4-6 p.m. for the off-season winter months and sports a new menu there that includes more seafood selections — conch fritters, jumbo crab cakes, crab soup, peel & eat Mayport shrimp as well as a North Carolina puled pork BBQ sandwich, and a BBQ burger, dropping some of the less asked for items, a good example of management listening to what its customers want. Did I mention they have $2 Rolling Rock every day, all day? Oh, if you’re looking for a place to land on New Year’s eve Sandbar may be it, as they are offering a four-course dinner beginning 6 and dueling piano entertainment starting at 8 with snacks, a champagne toast, etc. for $75 per person. Call ’em at 904/310-3648 as reservations are required or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.