Great lunch

Nancy and I go out to lunch normally two or three times a week. More often than not we end up over at the beach. That can be anywhere from New Symrna to near St. Augustine – whatever strikes us. We have a few “must return to’s” and many more, “we need to try that some time’s”. We’re a fairly balanced team since Nancy tends to want to return to favorites and I tend to want more explorations. This week was a mix.

On Tuesday we headed to an old favorite – DJ’s under the bridge at Port Orange. We tend to go there when there is a sale at Hancock Fabric. It usually starts out as a trip to the beach and about halfway there, Nancy remembers the sale. Anyway, DJ’s is a hole in the wall right on the Halifax. Outside eating only, so it’s weather dependent. We like DJ’s a bit better than the “Deck Down Under” a few hundred feet away on the south side of the bridge. Deck Down Under is more commercial, quite a bit larger, a bit more crowded and louder. At DJ’s we always have a cup of the fish gumbo, which is the best we’ve found around. Nice and spicy. Along with that we had Buffalo Shrimp sandwiches. Nancy has had the bucket of clams but that’s a special occasion lunch – like the time Simon visited us.

Thursday we headed north towards Flagler Beach. About a month ago we had taken the same route. On that excursion, we did an appetizer of Calamari with a pitcher of brew at a place called AJ’s under the bridge – seems like we do these under the bridge things. This was the SR100 bridge over the Halifax. From there we headed north on A1A about 30 miles to Crescent Beach. I had heard about a place called the South Beach Grill from a guy at Lowes – the conversation had started about electrical fixtures but ended up with a beach restaurant swap. Anyway, we found the Grill just fine but also saw first hand that it was very popular and there was zero chance of finding a table. Along the way there we had spotted a place that looked interesting called JT’s Fishshack. It had quite a few cars but we decided it would be an easier lunch there than South Beach. What a great find. It doesn’t look like much but as soon as you go inside you notice that there’s a nice wine bar, a blackboard with a “wine special of the day”, and good looking food on every table. I ordered a crab cake sandwich; Nancy got a soft shell crab sandwich. Mine was good; hers was totally awesome. TJ’s became an instant “must return to”. So on this Thursday we decided to hit TJ’s. We passed it around 12:30 and it was jammed up tight so we decided to head further north and try South Beach Grill again. Being a Thursday in Sept and after 1PM, probably doable.

It was and we sat outside facing the ocean. Whatever the food, the ambience was perfect. Super menu so it all sounded good. We had a starter bowl of Minorcan conch chowder. There were two kinds of soup, the conch and blue crab. Nancy didn’t have her glasses so she didn’t see the blue crab and I preferred the conch. The soup was great but in hindsight, we should have ordered differently. I ordered a blackened fish wrap – it was blackened in a wine sauce with cajun spices, grilled pepper and garlic. Had a choice of wrap material – spinach, chipolte, tomato, and plain. Pasta salad came with it. Nancy got a steak wrap. This too was made in some kind of a wine sauce with peppers and onions. Both were incredible – maybe the steak was even more incredible than the fish. The wraps were really large as was the portions of pasta salad so we each ended up leaving about half the salad. Next time we’ll order a cup of each type soup and then split a wrap. On the way out we noticed that board had the early bird special – 8 jumbo fried shrimp platter with a bowl of Jambalaya gumbo. This place also had a fine wine bar with the wine served in giant glasses. I’m pretty sure both places – South Beach Grill and JT’s fishshack – are owned by the same people. Totally different menu’s but lots of similarities and in both places there are signs telling you how far it is to the other.

South Beach Grill is right on the beach entrance, about 100yds south of the highway 206 causeway. It’s a drive-on beach so a great day would be to get there in time for lunch, do the beach all afternoon, and then head back north on A1A and do dinner at JT’s.

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