St. Simons Island is a small island, roughly the size of Manhattan Island, but it’s a major contender for food and flavor. There’s an abundance of restaurants, providing everything from fine dining to casual, family-friendly dining. Hidden among these restaurants are gems the locals return to again and again. We experienced these restaurants as part of a recent media event, but this dining guide for St. Simons Island will help you eat like a local.
Eat Like a Local on St. Simons Island
1. Sandcastle Cafe & Grill is known for their hearty breakfast buffet. Located in the Village on St. Simon’s Island, Sandcastle has been owned by the same family for 25 years. Their cuisine is classic American fare with a focus on Southern Style cooking. Imagine plates heaping with homemade biscuits and sausage gravy, cheese grits, eggs cooked to order, and unlimited pancakes. Don’t want something as heavy? They have plenty of lighter fare too, including made from scratch muffins, fresh fruit and bagels with cream cheese. I recommend their deliciously fresh homemade cinnamon rolls. I could have easily eaten an entire plate instead of just the one I tried! Breakfast is served daily from 7:30 AM-11: 00 AM.
Lunch is casual beach fare, including the traditional hamburgers. For the more adventurous, try one of the specialty sandwiches, like the Salmon BLT or the Fresh Catch of the day, fried, blackened or grilled. Sand Castle Cafe believes in the farm to table movement, using fresh seafood and produce whenever available. Sandcastle Cafe & Grill is open 7 days a week. The servers are friendly, the food is tasty, and the prices are reasonable. It’s a short walk to the pier, the playground, Neptune Park or the St. Simons Lighthouse from Sandcastle Cafe & Grill, making this the ideal place to grab a quick bite with the family. The restaurant is compact, but indoor and outdoor seating are available.
2. Gnat’s Landing was first opened by local “Boz” Boswick in 1999. With his death in 2014, the property was acquired by the Pope family who wanted to honor Mr. Boswick’s legacy by continuing his classic American fare. Located in Redfern Village, slightly away from the hustle and bustle of the beach, the atmosphere at Gnat’s Landing is casual and relaxed. We were seated outside on long picnic tables under a covered deck. It was like a picnic with friends. Although the atmosphere, including the twinkling lights that reminded me of fireflies, is fun, the food is the star of the show.
The lunch menu is overflowing with goodies, but don’t forget to start the meal with an order of Fried Dill Pickles and the Fried Green Tomato Appetizer. Both are lightly breaded and cooked until crisp. The Cajun Mayo served with the Fried Green Tomatoes elevates them above their classic Southern food status. I had the Grilled “Catch of the Day”, which is available fried, blackened or grilled. I chose their famous “Slaw Bowl” as a side. It’s a twist on traditional coleslaw with a vinegar based dressing and ramen noodles added for crunch. I could have easily eaten a large bowl of their slaw. They offer a variety of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, but the kids will probably want to order a round of “Bug Juice” aka Tang. Tip: Spell it backward and see what happens.) Gnat’s Landing opens at 11:30 daily and stays open until ” the last call.”
3. Georgia Sea Grill Located at The Pier Village, The Georgia Sea Grill is locally owned and operated by Zach Gowen. Mr. Gowen wanted to create an upscale dining experience utilizing the farm to table movement and he has succeeded. The menu is a twist on traditional Southern cuisine, adding modern touches to elevate the traditional dishes. Start the evening with one of the tempting small plates, like Georgia Bison Carpaccio, tender bites of bison, with side touches of chive aioli or Butternut Squash Ravioli, cooked in a brown butter and sage sauce and served with wilted swiss chard.
Although I could have easily made a meal on the small plates, I sampled the Brick Chicken, served with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Haricot Vert and Pan Sauce. The chicken was moist and flavorful, while the green beans and roasted potatoes were just crisp and firm enough to capture the flavor. And don’t leave without trying one of their array of desserts. I sampled several and was hard-pressed to choose a favorite. Entrees range in price from $23 to $33 dollars and the atmosphere is geared toward adults, making this the perfect spot for a celebratory dinner or an anniversary dinner. Georgia Sea Grill is open seven days a week from 5:00 PM until 9:30 PM and daily specials are available during “First Call” from 5:00-6:30. Reservations are recommended.
4. ECHO St. Simons– Located at the King and Prince Resort, Echo has a unique history. Formerly used as officers’ quarters, classrooms and towers during WWII, Echo is now an upscale dining establishment offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. The chef partners with local farmers and fishermen to bring a variety of fresh seasonal selections to the menu. The best part of ECHO? Anyone with food allergies can eat here too! The chef will, with a weeks notice, be able to provide allergy-friendly dishes!
I was lucky enough to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at ECHO and was pleased with all the offerings. Breakfast ranges from healthy to hearty, with everything from a seasonal fruit plate to Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches. On Sunday afternoons, guests can enjoy the Bloody Mary brunch, complete with appetizers and Bloody Marys. Dinners range from “Hand Helds,” a selection of sandwiches to Large Plates including the traditional Southern Shrimp and Grits to the more contemporary Bison Tenderloin with Savannah Bourbon Apple Puree. With both indoor and outdoor seating, you can take advantage of the refreshing evening breezes or enjoy the view from inside. ECHO also hosts corporate dinners, private dinners, and bridal parties.
Have you visited St. Simons Island? What is your favorite restaurant?