Our First Blog Trip to the Golden Isles

The interesting thing about Jekyll Island is how little of anything is there. I spent a week there at summer camp when I was my son’s age, but I don’t remember it being so barren and isolated. By state law, two-thirds of the land can never be developed, so it sits in sharp contrast to the dense St. Simons Island just north of it. There are miles more public beach on Jekyll, and far fewer people. There are a few hotels, and an small village of hundred year-old laborer’s houses that has been converted to an avenue of tourist shops that sell inessential nicknacks, a small water park and perhaps a dozen restaurants.

Marie’s family lives on St. Simons and we’ve gone down to visit perhaps a dozen or so times since we hooked up, but we never visited the island’s little neighbor together before. Last Friday, we picked up Marie’s mother and drove across the really amazing bridge, and six mile causeway through the marsh, to go sightsee, and to visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which is certainly worth a trip. It struck us that the nearly fifteen mile trip could have been avoided had somebody started a sensible ferry service connecting the St. Simons pier to Jekyll’s north shore; they are only a mile and a half apart. Some old-timer could probably let me know that they discontinued ferry service in 1958 or thereabouts.

We really didn’t know where to eat on Jekyll, and didn’t get any recommendations beforehand. There’s not a lot of choices here – there do not appear to be any chain business other than the hotels, and not even a gas station on the island. When you pay your $5 parking fee coming onto Jekyll, they give you a little tourist booklet that seems to detail all ten or twelve restaurants available to you. I think that I was in too relaxed a state to even ask the nice clerk in the old village bookstore for a recommendation; I just sat on the gorgeous old patio and unfolded the booklet and asked Marie, once she finally emerged from browsing, what she thought.

From our choices, the one that stood out as inexpensive, quick and light was Zach’s Eats and Treats. This turned out to be in a little strip mall on the island’s east shore – Jekyll is quite small, and there are very few roads, so it’s not really possible for any place to hide from the public – just a few doors down from a seafood restaurant called Zachry’s. We’ll pause there for a minute and ponder how damnably unfair it was for me to spend four days on the south Georgia coast and not enjoy a single meal of fresh seafood, and also suspect that the same fellow owns both places.

It actually occurred to me to ask and confirm that, but Zach’s Eats and Treats was so incredibly packed that there wasn’t a chance to chat. There are only ten little tables in the place, most of them tables for two, and a line out the door for people taking their sandwiches back to their hotel. They do no-frills pizza and piled-high sandwiches and I couldn’t really tell you the difference between what I had here and the last Blimpie sub I tried.

While not bad, it was an efficient and characterless meal, no more, although Marie’s mother did say that she enjoyed her clam chowder a good deal. She couldn’t finish her egg salad sandwich and so I did. It was much smaller, but considerably more interesting than my piled-high “Italian” Sysco sub. Perhaps we should do a better job of trying egg or chicken salad when our out-of-town travels take us to sandwich shops; as these tend to require recipes rather than assemblage, we might find more interesting results. I certainly wouldn’t say no to a second Zach’s egg salad sandwich.

As for the pizza, my daughter had a slice, and it seemed to come from somewhere between a cafeteria and a Papa John’s, blandly inoffensive.

After some shopping, we returned, dropped Marie’s mother off, took a nap and reconvened for a trip to Florida, about which more next time. The following morning, we were summoned by our daughter and Marie’s father to join them for breakfast at Sandcastle.

Bleary-eyed and stumbling, we walked the three or so blocks from Marie’s father’s guest house to the St. Simons village. Sandcastle is a couple of doors down from the pier on the right. That daughter o’mine was waving from the patio, where she’d grabbed a table, yelling at us to hurry on, because they didn’t appreciate seating an incomplete party.

There are a few breakfast places in the St. Simons village, none bad and all with ample character and charm, but none can stuff you quite like this place. Sandcastle is the only one with a morning buffet. You can get your eggs scrambled from the line or order them as you like, and they also bring you pancakes, waffles or French toast.

Marie’s happier with fruit for breakfast than a big plate stuffed high with corned beef hash, grits, home fries and lots of meat. It was all very good, particularly the hash, but this is why Marie’s in much, much better shape than me, too. On the other hand, we were still so full from breakfast that even after we burned off some of those calories and carbs on a lengthy walk on the beach avoiding jellyfish, we didn’t need lunch, only a handful of potato chips for a midday snack, and were still pretty stuffed by the time supper rolled around. That’s probably not the most sensible way to diet. It also robbed me of a potential Saturday lunch at Brogen’s or Iguana’s or some place. The corned beef hash is good, but I don’t know that it’s that good.

Zach's Eats & Treats on Urbanspoon

Sand Castle Cafe & Grill on Urbanspoon

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