Best Restaurants in Golden IslesOur favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
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That men are required to wear jackets for dinner hints at the ambience you can expect in the Grand Dining Room of the Jekyll Island Club Resort on Jekyll Island. Fireplaces, richly carved woodwork, towering columns and an attentive waitstaff set the tone for an haute-dining experience. The menu evokes a time when club members hunted and fished for sport by day and dined throughout the evening on fresh game and seafood. Choices might include escargot pinot noir in puff pastry followed by Southern fried quail salad and an entrée of jerk-seared jumbo scallops with apricot and apple chutney. Any meal in the Grand Dining Room is an event, but Sunday brunches are legendary.
Where to Eat
If you're in the mood for surf, turf or both, follow Jekyll Islanders to The Driftwood Bistro at Villas by the Sea for grilled or blackened USDA Choice Black Angus cuts and seafood favorites. Appealing appetizers, salads and side dishes support these and other entrées.
Barbara Jean's Restaurant & Bar, on St. Simons Island near the historic lighthouse, is one of those homey eateries you'll want to frequent. And you won't need convincing after sampling signature dishes such as thick she-crab soup, oversize crab cakes, hearty meatloaf or slow-cooked pot roast reminiscent of Sunday dinner at Grandma's house. A trio of homemade breads—wheat rolls, pumpkin bread and jalapeño cornbread—complements the meal. Owner Barbara Jean's home-cooking style is a favorite among locals. If you're willing to wait, the rewards are great.
Tucked away in a chic shopping and dining enclave off Frederica Road on St. Simons Island, Delaney's Bistro and Bar offers a distinctive fine-dining experience for lunch or dinner. While the cuisine is classified as American, entrées ranging from herb-crusted lamb in wine sauce to veal scaloppine topped with crabmeat to the restaurant's signature grilled duck breast in Thai sauce represent the chef's innovative approach to food preparation.
Loyal patrons of Crabdaddy's Seafood Grill praise the quality of food and service at this informal seafood grill on St. Simons Island. Fresh catches from the Carolina coast include grouper, mahi mahi and Gulf Stream tuna available grilled, blackened or steamed. The menu also features Southern-inspired dishes—shrimp and grits and New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp, for example—as well as a few pasta favorites. And for dessert, try Crabdaddy's take on bread pudding. A wine list is available.
Fun Local Restaurants
Since 1955, Bennie's Red Barn Dinner Club on St. Simons Island has specialized in hand-cut steaks grilled over a wood fire, catch-of-the-day seafood preparations and a tall order of Southern hospitality. A large, open fireplace dominating the dining room of the barnlike structure adds to the welcoming atmosphere. In the longstanding Bennie's tradition, servers recite the nightly specials in lieu of handing out menus.
Constructed of salvaged cedar and cypress, The Frederica House on St. Simons Island resembles an old island homestead. Specialties include crab stew, seafood platters with the freshest catches, and steak and chicken cooked over a hickory pit. Then there's the chocolate peanut butter pie. The Frederica House opened more than 35 years ago and serves only dinner, with early-bird specials before 6:30. A welcoming atmosphere here bespeaks informal dining.
See all the AAA Diamond designated restaurants for this destination.
Golden Isles, GA
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.