I had a couple of hours to spare on Saturday, so we headed out to Fernandina Beach located on beautiful Amelia Island in the northeast corner of Florida. The primary route to Fernandina Beach is A1A. If you’ve never been you start to wonder what you are getting yourself into on the way there. Traveling over the John Shave bridge, you see the first glimpse of a beautiful paper mill with smoke rolling out its stacks and blowing direct over the Intracoastal Waterway. However, once you arrive, it’s a quaint town with an eclectic shopping district in the downtown area. You can shop for jewelry, clothing, pottery and just about any type of artwork.
We parked and started our walking tour around the town. Immediately we discovered the Federation of Petanque world championship tournament. People had flown in from around the world to play this French version of the “Bocce like” game (although I was advised not to mention Bocce too loudly). We soon learned that Petanque is a game where you stand with your feet together in a small circle and then throw hollow metal balls with the object of getting the metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (jack). It looked like a good way to spend a sunny afternoon outside.
From there we strolled around the docks and then it was time to get some grub. We stumbled upon the Happy Tomato Courtyard Cafe and BBQ restaurant. As an avid BLT lover and the words “happy tomato”, I felt that I had found my destiny.
This is an outside eatery and although it was the 14th of November, the temperature was 75 degrees and perfect for an afternoon, patio lunch.
The atmosphere is very casual and welcoming. You order at the counter, receive a number and find a table of your liking in the courtyard. When your fare is ready, it’s delivered to your table.
Hmmmmmm, what to order? The Happy Tomato menu includes a wide variety of salads and sandwiches along with rib, chicken, pulled pork and turkey from their on-site smoker. In fact, when we approached the counter they were plating some fresh BBQ ribs right off of the smoker. Should I order the Trio Salad with pimento cheese, chicken salad, tuna salad, egg and crouton? BBQ? The Plain Jane vine ripe tomato sandwich or my favorite sandwich of all time?
Predictably, I ordered the BLT. After all, doesn’t bacon make the world go around? There are several side order options including potato salad, macaroni salad, chips and cole slaw. Our orders were delivered in hardly any time and the sandwich was as delicious as it looked. I decided on the macaroni salad with my sandwich which included squash, broccoli and cauliflower.
As we were finishing lunch the owner, Richard, brought us a sampling of his pulled pork and homemade mustard-based BBQ sauce. All I can tell you is that although I thoroughly enjoyed the BLT, I was wondering if I should have ordered the pulled pork!
Being the sauce entrepreneur that I am, I immediately learned that if you want to enjoy this BBQ sauce then you have to visit Richard’s restaurant (it’s not available for resale).
By now you’ve concluded that I am not one of those restaurant reviewers that has mastered the use of culinary adjectives, but I can tell you this……If you are ever in Fernandina then you might want to stop by The Happy Tomato Courtyard Cafe and BBQ for a nice, leisurely lunch out on the patio. The staff is very friendly, the food is great and you certainly can’t go wrong with the BLTs or Pulled Pork.
At a time when our nation’s unemployment has surpassed 10%, home foreclosures at all-time highs and with the children of mother’s and father’s defending our freedom in places like Iraq and Afghanistan it is sometimes difficult to be thankful. It’s easy to find 10 other people that have it better than myself, but if you take the time to look it is not hard to find 20 other people with struggles.
What I am thankful for these days has certainly changed from what I might have been thankful for earlier in my life. These days enjoying a camping trip with my kids or spending a nice, pleasant afternoon in Fernandina with great company brings me reason to be thankful. Is that what my grandparents referred to as wisdom? I hope you find reasons to be thankful this holiday season and every other day of your life. I certainly wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.