As diverse as the attractions on Jekyll Island are, it’s no surprise that the dining options are just as diverse. Here, I share some favorites. They are presented in no particular order, and each has its strengths. It all depends on whether you are looking for a quick snack as you roam the historic section of Jekyll Island, solid food for a big appetite, or a relaxing meal at the end of the day.
1. Doc’s Snack Shop
As I walked around, I noticed that there were a few places you can grab a quick bite to eat as you travel through the historic district. Doc’s Snack Shop is a fast food place where you can order things like burgers, hot dogs, chicken salad sandwiches, grilled cheese, and typical short meals. Don’t expect a gourmet meal, but it’s quick, tasty, and served hot. Sit on the raised dock and enjoy it before continuing to explore the neighborhood.
2. Island candy shop
For dessert it’s a short distance from the Island Sweets Shoppe. Get some pralines, fudge, or ice cream to soothe your sweet tooth.
3. The wharf
At The Wharf, history and gastronomy come together. The casual restaurant is located on the pier where visitors to the island’s exclusive club once checked in. It was the only way to get to the island. The wealthy members arrived either by their own yachts or by train and were then taken to the island on the 100 foot steamer Jekyll Island.
The dock is at the end of the pier with a great view of the water. It is part of the Jekyll Island Club Resort, which serves South American cuisine. Seafood is the most important item on the menu, but there is meat, poultry, and choice of vegetables. My favorite is the shrimp and oatmeal. It’s made with fresh Gulf shrimp and andouille sausage and is a bit spicy. From Wednesday to Saturday evening, they offer live music.
4. Driftwood Bistro
Driftwood Bistro is where the locals all told me to go for that special dinner. It’s in the villas near Driftwood Beach. Since they’ve been in business for 12 years, you know they’re doing something right. To convince, they were awarded the 2019-2020 Georgia’s 100 Plates designation. They are only open from Tuesday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The style is Coastal Low Country with an atmosphere of the old Blue Plate Special restaurants. Fried okra, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits, and black-eyed peas mix nicely with meatloaf and roasting dishes. The shrimp dishes are special here and include the Wild Georgia Shrimp and Grits and the Wild Georgia Shrimp Cake, a different take on the usual crab cakes. For dessert, try their Georgia Bourbon Peach Cobbler. My vegan, vegetarian and gluten intolerant friends will be delighted because they have choices here for them. They also have a full bar with refreshing frozen drinks.
5. Tortuga Jacks
Tortuga Jacks is a Baja Mexican beach hangout near Great Dunes Park. I chose to sit outside on the pet-friendly deck near the tiki bar overlooking the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean. While I was there I heard native Spanish speakers, which bodes well for authenticity. If the weather is not nice, the indoor dining room is cozy and the bar seems well stocked. Of course, the margaritas are special here, but they also have a great selection of cocktails, beers, and wines.
My favorite here is the pineapple and pepper wings, but there are plenty of other great choices. All the traditional Mexican dishes are here, including the fajitas with chicken, shrimp, or beef – or go with whole pork and eat them with all three. There are enchiladas and burritos or, if you’re not into Mexican cuisine, burgers and shrimp. A few unusual aspects caught my attention: Sweet plantains and Mexican street corn aren’t found everywhere.
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday evenings in summer, shows are organized. The dress is casual at the beach and the prices are reasonable.
6. Pizza Red Bug Motors
If you’re in the mood for pizza, take a look at Red Bug Motors Pizza. They are across from Beachview Drive and Tortuga Jacks in the Great Dunes entertainment complex. They serve more than pizzas made from scratch. You will find things like lasagna, pasta and other Italian dishes, as well as sandwiches and salads. They serve beer, wine and soft drinks.
Mini-golf, a regular golf course and a playground surround the old English pub-style restaurant. There is a cozy fireplace inside for tours in cooler weather.
7. McGarvey’s Little Pub
When I walked into McGarvey’s Wee Pub in the Beach Village, I felt a touch of ‘bold country’. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear someone burst singing Take me home, Kathleen. It’s so authentic with dark wood, several cozy little rooms with a single large table suitable for a group, cozy booths, deep greens and reds on the painted walls, and a fully stocked bar. They filled the ledge above the bar with empty signed Jameson bottles. The customer who finishes the last shot of the bottle signs it. There are a lot of pretty signs posted. My favorite is in the ladies’ room and features a young couple picking flowers in a grassy field. He says “Better to have loved and lost than to live with the psychopath the rest of your life.”
Tucked away in a little nook under a ladies’ table is a miniature Irish pub scene with a small table with food, a pint of whiskey, and a glass of frothy beer. A small fireplace, a Christmas tree and mini-signs complete the scene.
The food is quintessentially Irish: shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, plus home-made corned beef and cabbage. They make everything from scratch. When you see “Champ” on the menu, it’s Irish mashed potatoes. They also have a lot of other choices. Whatever you do, save room for dessert and top their Butter Pecan Bread Pudding with caramel and whipped cream, and have them add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. He has won first place several times at A Taste of Glynn County. I almost licked the bowl to get the last crumb.
Perhaps the secret to the authenticity of The Wee Pub is that the family of owner Kevin McGarvey is from County Donegal in the north of Ireland. He returns regularly to the Emerald Isle.
8. Jekyll Market
Jekyll Market, located in Beach Village, is a different concept. It is a delicatessen with restaurants inside. You can stop by The Love Shack and buy a roast chicken or a simple barbecue sandwich. Back at the Boardwalk Deli, choose a Muffuletta sandwich with fries or sliced meats and fresh bread. Grab a cup of Joe at Good Day Coffee & Bakery and finish with a cupcake-sized birthday cake, chocolate caramel bar or Mile High Tower cheesecake for dessert at A Sweet Shop Named Sprinkles. There are also dozens of other food products that you can find in the market. Soft and hard drinks are available here. Take them all outside to one of the tables and dig.
9. Grill at sunrise
Just around the corner, the Sunrise Grill is a great place to start your day with a regular bacon and egg breakfast. It’s also a nice place to end your evening at the beach with dinner and an Appletini or Godfather cocktail. Their motto is “From sunrise to sunset”.
Jekyll Island has many restaurants. It is impossible to try them all, but I was delighted with these. For more vacation planning inspiration, consider: