John M. Phillips
A wise city planner once said, you can never have enough places to dine on the water. A city with a river, ocean and intracoastal waterway should have many options. Lighthouse Grille was a landmark as one reached “the ditch” and then it was ditched for condos. A few less than ideal places came and went at the Landing from American Cafe to Hooters. Neither saw updates in decades. That same bullseye (and need of some renovation) is now on the River City Brewing.
There are certainly lesser known waterways with good food- namely Julington Creek and especially Palm Valley. And some decent places at the beach, but the berm blocks the view of the ocean.
The latest arrival is the Margaritaville Hotel. It opened January 26 to little hype. Jimmy Buffett didn’t fly in to play. COVID-19 kept most of the changes in latitude and changes in attitude relatively mild. The brand-new hotel features 202 rooms with views of the Atlantic Ocean and three Margaritaville-inspired dining options with ocean view outdoor seating. When we went we were two days away from 80 degree weather, and it was 50 degrees and windy. But it is easy to imagine how nice it will be on a Chamber of Commerce beach day.
From a protocol standpoint, social distancing was respected, and all staff were properly masked. No noses to be seen. Some training was still going on, but the managers were working hard.
This writer, a fan of Jimmy Buffett and cheeseburgers, chose the BBQ burger. It was a huge hunk of meat served on a big warm bun. It was a $2 up charge to order french fries and we had to ask for ketchup to dip them in. However, it was Heinz 57.
The big kosher pickle was included. The cold draft beer was Landshark, likely brewed right across town. Pulp Fiction’s Jules would agree, “This is a tasty burger!“
It’s difficult to judge a place during its launch. It’s even harder during COVID-19. Even more complicated to see if this will measure up to Sunday Fundays at the Lemon Bar, but it’s got huge potential.
We give it 4 out of 5 shakers of salt. It would have gotten 5, but… you see this coming, parrotheads? The 5th is the lost shaker of salt. As it gets warmer, it could be one of the water adjacent greatest hits of Jacksonville.