Six locally owned and operated restaurants, all within walking distance of each other, will have opened up in downtown Fernandina Beach by the end of the first quarter of next year and if the numbers and expectations I’ve heard from the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council, local hotels, bars, and current restaurant owners are correct, there are, and will be, plenty of customers to feed.
According to the Amelia Island Tourist Council, hotel occupancy rates are at record levels and current restaurant owners have told me that their numbers for this period of year are far above those of last year at this time. In fact, I’ve had restaurant and bar owners tell me that they welcome the new eateries because they attract folks downtown and those folks will eventually stop in their establishments too. Just four months ago the tourist council reported that island tourism was moving at a record-setting pace, “outperforming major Florida tourism destinations.”
That’s good news for these following new eateries:
Luca’s American Bar & Grill, takes over the space that was once Bonito Grill & Sushi and another place that didn’t last long enough for me to even recall its name at the corner of Centre & South 7th. I haven’t seen the menu offerings for this venture from the owner of Ciao Italian Bistro just down the street at 302 Centre, but if it’s as good as Ciao, it will be a success.
Brew Pub, on Centre and the corner of South 4th where O’Kane’s used to be, will open in December or January. Original brewed beers and, from what I hear, a very interesting menu offered by the owners of Salty Pelican and Espana that locals have been anxiously awaiting with empty beer mugs in hand.
The Patio Place, run by Amy Petroy at 416 Ash near South 4th, will soon be serving up French cooking inside and on a patio and deck in addition to its signature Celtic pancakes.
The Picnic Basket, 503A Centre Street across from Peppers and operated by Lisa Mullis Langshaw, just opened and offers deli fare including homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, cheeses, pastries and charcuterie every day but Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wine is available as are six patio tables.
Sabbia, 11 North 3rd Street, an interesting Mediterranean casual street food concept expected to open the end of February next year by Arte owner and Isle of Capri Italian native Tony Tizzano, who is still working on the menu but tells me he will offer pizza slices, kabobs, Spanish, Italian, Greek and other Mediterranean foods as well as beer and wine.
Burlingame, a fine dining destination at 20 South 5th Street, that at the time of its anticipated February opening will initially be open for dinner only Tuesday to Saturday with Sunday brunch added once it is operating at the level of performance expected by owner Eric Fanelli, a 30-year retired Rayonier employee. Wine and beer will be offered to pair with its seasonal menu that is expected to include a winter/spring hybrid with seven starters of grilled romaine Caesar with cured salmon carpaccio, onion soup, lamb belly, mixed greens salad, soft-shell crab, asparagus w/ rabbit confit and poached egg, Mayport shrimp & grits and main courses of black drum, pork loin, steak frites, duck breast, veal cheek & lobster, snapper, and vegetarian gnocchi. Just about everything will be made in-house including the pastas and gnocchi says Mr. Fanelli.
The thing I like best about all of these new places is that not one of them is a chain, but are all locally owned locations operated by our neighbors and friends. I wish all of them the best of luck and hope that we can continue to keep the tasteless, cookie-cutter corporate formula recipe chains out so locals and tourists can enjoy interesting and delicious menu options created by our local restaurant entrepreneurs thus giving our community a unique feel and leaving tourists and locals with a distinctive taste of our island.
Speaking of downtown, there will be a variety of activity taking place there this weekend beginning today with the annual Black Friday Pajama Party where merchants will be providing special discounts and refreshments for shoppers beginning at 9:00 a.m. Pajamadave’s 2nd Street South’s Pajama Life shop has teamed up with the Historic Fernandina Downtown Business Association to host the event, which will feature prizes to be awarded for the best pajama outfits including ones for Best Individual, Best Group and Most Creative Pajamas. The judging will take place at the old train station Visitor Center beginning at 11 a.m.
In addition Pajama Life will host a South 2nd Street Block Party with family activities and live music beginning at 9:00 a.m. by Jim Barcaro, the Dan Voll & Michele Anders duo, Sean McCarthy, Hotshot Carter and Ernie Elum while Santa cruises up and down Centre Street. Holiday photos with a Christmas backdrop will be taken in the Centre Street pocket park.
Later this evening Little Mike & the Tornadoes a blues and rock n’ roll Band will perform at the South 3rd Street Green Turtle Friday beginning at 7 p.m. New York City native Little Mike grew up in the New York music scene as he started playing harp at age 14 and took up piano two years later. Little Mike, whose group has released a number of albums and toured the U.S. and Europe says his sound is influenced by the late Muddy Waters.
Tomorrow the City of Fernandina will hold its annual Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration with a sneak preview of the building lights that were installed for the “Dickens on Centre” event to be conducted the next couple of weeks. Activities and times are 1:00, vendors open to the public; 3:00-5:00 Santa arrives and is available for pictures; 5:00-5:55, live music, caroling; 6:00, welcome message by Mayor Johnny Miller; 6:05 tree lighting; 6:15, caroling.
White House Turkeys: Every year or so, no matter who he is, the President of the United States makes a public gesture of “pardoning” the White House turkey. And this year was no exception as President Obama posed with a National Turkey Federation executive to spare the White House bird a beheading. However, I find it odd that the Obama Administration couldn’t find anyone at the Turkey Federation other than a man named Jihad Douglas for the President to pose with in this photo op ceremony, particularly following on the heels of the Paris slaughter by Islamic terrorists. Depending on who you ask, the Islamic word “jihad” has many definitions, with one of the most common being “a war or struggle against unbelievers.” And to me labeling your kid “Jihad” would be like a German tagging his child “Blitzkrieg” or a Japanese calling junior “Banzai.” Or am I the only one who thinks this White House is stuffed full of clueless “stick-a-finger-in-the-American-public’s-eye turkeys?”
Where Are Her Kids? For the past 21 years the Jacksonville Times-Union, the University of North Florida and HandsOn Jacksonville team up to provide assistance during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season to folks who are experiencing tough times. It’s a good program and their stories are publicized in the Times-Union whose readers are asked to provide financial assistance with 100 percent of their contributions actually going to help those area residents that need it. This year’s first story ran yesterday, Thanksgiving morning, and was about an 82-year old woman who is living in a house that needs several immediate repairs, including an unhinged front door and a roof covered with debris. In the story it was reported that the needy octogenarian has 11 children, one of which — a daughter — was with her while she was being interviewed by the Times-Union. It’s obvious from the article that this woman needs assistance, but if I were one of the 11 kids this woman raised I’d be hiding in shame as a story about their mother’s dire straits is broadcast in a major daily newspaper. I hope the lady gets the help she deserves and that her kids get what they deserve when their friends and neighbors read about their destitute mother’s obvious neglect.
Ex-Cons Being Treated Better Than Veterans: Reading a Florida Times-Union Page 1-A report last week headlined “Re-entry summit examines ex-inmates’ restoration of rights” I found myself wondering why we don’t have similar events for our military veterans and their disgraceful treatment by an inept and corrupt Veterans Administration (VA).
In the article T-U reporter Tia Mitchell says — without attribution — that former convicts “… dealt with the long-term psychological effects of an institutional setting where they experienced poor conditions and inhumane treatment.” Sounds to me like she was describing the VA.
According to this reporter those running the summit support Barack Obama’s plan to “Ban the box,” a program that prevents employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history. She quoted a former securities fraud felon, crack dealer, and gang member, all whining about their treatment in the U.S. penal system and their bleak job prospects following their incarceration.
Apparently the reporter and those running the summit, which included an Obama Administration representative, would prefer that criminals be housed in venues such as the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, where the event was held, and that investment firms hire security fraud felons; pharmacies employ convicted crack dealers; and schools sign on gang members, since they agree with the Obama Administration and are opposed to firms inquiring about criminal backgrounds in the hiring process.
When will we see a summit featuring experts discussing Veterans Administration reform, and the rights of those that fought to protect us and our fellow countrymen and women instead of coddling those who are shooting us, stealing from us and selling poison on our street corners?
Refugee Solution: My former Atlanta business partner and national political pundit, Phil Kent, sums up very nicely why the U.S. should not take on any of the Syrian refugees in a Wednesday, November 25 Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion-editorial saying: “Congress would be better served to add Rep. Brian Babin’s H.R. 3314, which would pause the entire refugee resettlement program. Let’s redirect funds from the resettlement program to help refugees closer to their home regions. (Also, why move refugees out of the safety of internationally supervised camps in their own region so they can get lifetime work permits and take scarce jobs in the United States?) More than 40 percent of illegal immigrants arrive legally but, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, they overstay their visas and melt into society. Since law enforcement authorities cannot locate them, how is this nation going to be able to keep track of a new wave of mainly Muslim refugees? Since the president won’t address this homeland security issue, Congress must.” I couldn’t agree more with Phil.
If You Really Want Chain Fast Food Then Try This: Not everyone likes Chick-fil-A’s politics, but they sure seem to like the food. It’s the highest ranking fast food restaurant in the U.S. for customer satisfaction, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Restaurant Report 2015. The chicken restaurant was the subject of controversy and protests a few years ago after its CEO made remarks that offended the LGBT community. But that hasn’t stopped fans from flocking to its restaurants, and giving it high marks for customer experience. “It is laser focused on a particular product,” said Forrest Morgeson, director of research at ACSI. “It focuses on one thing and does it exceptionally well … and that is chicken sandwiches.” This is Chick-fil-A’s debut on the list and its score is the highest ever achieved in the category.