As diverse as the attractions are on Jekyll Island, it’s no surprise the dining options are equally diverse. Here, I share some favorites. They’re presented in no particular order, and each has its strong points. It all depends on whether you are looking for a fast snack while you browse the historical section of Jekyll Island, some 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 there were a few places where you can grab a quick bite to eat as you travel around the historic district. Doc’s Snack Shop is a fast-food spot where you can order things like hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken salad sandwiches, grilled cheese, and typical short-order food. Don’t expect gourmet dining, but it’s quick, tasty, and served hot. Sit on the raised dock and enjoy before continuing your explorations of the district.
2. Island Sweets Shoppe
For dessert, it’s just a short distance to the Island Sweets Shoppe. Pick up some pralines, fudge, or ice cream to appease your sweet tooth.
3. The Wharf
At The Wharf, history and food mix. The casual restaurant is on the pier where once visitors to the Island’s exclusive club checked in. It was the only way onto the island. Wealthy members arrived either by their own yachts or by train and were then taken to the island on the 100-foot steamer The Jekyll Island.
The Wharf is on the end of the pier with magnificent water views. It’s part of the Jekyll Island Club Resort, serving American Southern-style food. Seafood is the most prominent of the menu items, but there are meat, poultry, and vegetable choices. My favorite is the shrimp and grits. It’s made with fresh gulf shrimp and andouille sausage and is a bit spicy. Wednesday through Saturday evenings, they treat you to 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 have been in business for 12 years, you know they are doing something right. As a further convincer, they were awarded the 2019-2020 Georgia’s 100 Plates designation. They are only open Tuesday thru Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The style is Coastal Low Country with a feel of the old Blue Plate Special restaurants. Fried okra, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits, and black-eyed peas mix pleasantly with meatloaf and pot roast platters. 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 happy as they have choices here for them. They also have a full bar with some cooling 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 by the tiki bar overlooking the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean. While there, I heard some native Spanish speakers, boding well for the authenticity. If the weather isn’t pleasant, the inside dining room is cozy, and the bar seems well stocked. Naturally, margaritas are special here, but they also have a large selection of cocktails, beer, and wine.
My favorite here is the Pineapple and Pepper Wings, but there are lots of other interesting choices. All the traditional Mexican dishes are here, including fajitas with either chicken, shrimp, or beef — or go whole hog and have them with all three. There are enchiladas and burritos or, if you’re not into Mexican food, burgers, and shrimp. A couple of unusual sides caught my eye: Sweet plantains and Mexican street corn are not something you find everywhere.
On Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings in the summer, there is live entertainment. Dress is beach casual and prices are reasonable.
6. Red Bug Motors Pizza
If you are in the mood for pizza, check out Red Bug Motors Pizza. They are across Beachview Drive from Tortuga Jacks in the Great Dunes Entertainment complex. They serve more than made-from-scratch pizzas. You’ll find things like lasagna, pastas, and other Italian food, 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’s a cozy fireplace inside for cool weather visits.
7. McGarvey’s Wee Pub
When I stepped into McGarvey’s Wee Pub in the Beach Village, I felt a touch of “the auld country.” It wouldn’t have surprised me to hear someone burst out singing Take Me Home Again, Kathleen. It’s so authentic with dark wood, several snug little rooms with just one large table suitable for a group, cozy booths, deep greens and reds on the painted walls, and a well-stocked bar. They packed the ledge above the bar with signed empty Jameson bottles. The customer who finishes the last shot out of the bottle gets to sign it. There are lots of cute signs posted. My favorite is in the ladies’ room and depicts a young couple picking flowers in a grassy field. It says “It’s better to have loved and lost than to live with the psycho the rest of your life.”
Tucked away in a tiny nook under a checkers table, there is a miniature Irish pub scene with a tiny table set with some food, a pint of whisky, and a glass of foaming ale. A little fireplace, a Christmas tree, and mini signs complete the scene.
The food is typical Irish fare: shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, and homemade corned beef and cabbage. They make everything from scratch. When you see “Champ” on the menu, that’s Irish mashed potatoes. They have lots of other choices as well. Whatever you do, save room for dessert, and have their Butter-Pecan Bread Pudding topped with caramel and whipped cream, and have them add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s a multi-time first-place winner at A Taste of Glynn County. I almost licked the bowl to get the last crumb.
Perhaps the secret to Wee Pub’s authenticity is that owner Kevin McGarvey’s family is from Donegal County in the north of Ireland. He takes regular trips back to the Emerald Isle.
8. Jekyll Market
Jekyll Market, located in Beach Village, is a different kind of concept. It’s a gourmet grocery store with restaurants inside. You can stop by The Love Shack and pick up a rotisserie chicken or a simple barbecue sandwich. Back at The Boardwalk Deli, choose a Muffuletta Sandwich with chips or some sliced meats and fresh bread. Grab a cup of Joe at Good Day Coffee & Bakery, and finish with a cupcake-sized birthday cake, a chocolate toffee bar, or a Mile High Tower Cheesecake for dessert at A Sweet Shop Named Sprinkles. There are dozens of other food items you can find in the market as well. Both soft and hard drinks are available here. Take them all outside to one of the tables and dig in.
9. Sunrise Grill
Just around the corner at Sunrise Grill is a good place to start your day with a regular bacon and eggs breakfast. It’s also a pleasant spot to end your evening at the beach with dinner and an Appletini or Godfather Cocktail. Their motto is “From sunrise to sundown.”
Jekyll Island has many restaurants. It’s impossible to try them all, but these delighted me. For more vacation planning inspiration, consider: