17 Sep Best Tybee Island Restaurants
Whether you are looking for Tybee Island restaurants on the beach or which Tybee eatery has the best Lobster Rolls, we have the most up to date list of the best spots to grab a bite to eat on Tybee!
Everybody has their shore town. Summer after summer, memories of fried shrimp, local crabs, beer battered fish, pizza and ice cream. Things you tend to think about in the wintery cold of January. We eat differently in our favorite shore town. At home, it’s about newness and fresh experiences. In our favorite shore town, it’s about comfort and continuity.
When we’re at home in Charleston, Savannah or Hilton Head we keep our eyes open for the hottest new thing, the newest concept. In our beach places, we just check to make sure our favorites, the places we have been going to for years (sometimes generationally) are still there.
Great small beach towns come in many forms. But they also share many attributes: idiosyncratic charms, fresh local seafood and some chic and cozy places to bed down for the night.
From the course of my lifetime thus far, I hold many special places in my heart for my favorite beach towns: Provincetown, MA, Asbury Park, NJ, Bethany Beach, DE, Captiva Island, Key West, FL and Tybee Island, GA.
Just their names have me humming “Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra or “Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters. There is something about a beach town that makes you think of “Margaritaville” or the “Pina Colada” song.
I usually visit Tybee Island several times a year and since I hadn’t been there since September, 2019, I decided it was time to take a look at what was going on in dining – not just my favorites, but also anything that might be new on the radar.
You will find Tybee Island just 30 minutes from historic Savannah at the eastern most point of Georgia. A barrier island with wide sandy beaches, a laid back mood, and the right amount of strange.
There are plenty of hotels, but I have always preferred the picturesque pastel colored rental cottages with white Bahama shutters and white picket fences. What truly sets this tiny (only 21 square miles) island apart is it’s hipness. There is a down-home culture here and some of the best “dive” establishments in the U.S. That is meant as a compliment.
In my recent visits, I usually had one dining companion and sometimes two. This allowed us to sample many dishes and give you, the reader, a broader picture of Tybee’s dining scene. We did pivot from our normal dining lists.
To give you the clearest picture of Tybee dining in the summer of 2020 we decided to have three groups: Excellent, Good and Fair. If a restaurant made our list you can be rest assured that the experience will be satisfying within the guidelines we set forth in our reviews. But we thought it only fair to give credit to those going the extra mile.
How did we arrive at our groups? Service only had to be friendly and polite. Summer 2020 has been a trying time, and if you are eating out you must take into consideration the stresses of a server and restaurants that are short handed. We were patient and understanding. That said, food offerings must be up to standards. We are happy to return to restaurants and help the industry, but our favorite restaurants must reciprocate.
Many restaurants have modified and shortened their menus, and that might be a wise decision, but hopefully it will not become a crutch. Restaurants want us and we want them! But the food must be well prepared and at fair value.
Lastly, cleanliness. The usual best in Tybee is a de rigueur list. A little different this time. Conspicuous by their absence will be some long-time stand bys. It is not our intent in these difficult economic times to be a tiresome critic, but restaurants with filthy bathrooms are persona non grata.
During our visits, we returned two times to restaurants that had sanitary problems and both times they failed miserably. Maybe in the past this could be overlooked, but not anymore.So welcome to Tybee dining in the summer of 2020! Hopefully this guide will help you find whatever summery treat you desire. Restaurants in each group are in no particular order, but the three groups are a ranking.
NORTH BEACH BAR AND GRILL
Quaint beach shack by the sea. Recently remodelled deck provides covered outdoor dining, view of ocean. Quality all the way. Eclectic Caribbean menu fits well with the Tybee vibe. Don’t miss it. Lunch, Dinner, Late night. Indoor/Outdoor dining. Free Wifi. Full Bar. Live music. Vegetarian/Vegan options.
Ropa Vieja: the national dish of Cuba. Flank steak, onions, and peppers stewed in a tomato-based sauce served with rice and plantains. This dish rivals its counterpart in the best Cuban restaurant in NYC, Victor’s Cafe. (Side story – Ropa Vieja means “old clothes” in Spanish. As the story goes, a penniless man in Spain shredded and cooked his clothes to provide “food” for his family.)
Escovitch: a Jamaican-influenced, whole, fried fish topped with olives, peppers and onions steeped in vinegar. Served with red beans, rice and sauteed vegetables. If this dish doesn’t make you think of Bob Marley and Usain Bolt nothing will.
Jerk chicken: free-range, bone-in chicken marinated in housemade jerk sauce then roasted. Red beans and rice, sauteed vegetables. (Side story – the Penn Relays in Philadelphia are a three day track carnival – the largest in the world. The meet attracts 40,000 people a day, of which 50% are Jamaicans rooting on their high school teams. There are numerous food stands outside the Franklin Field Stadium serving up all kinds of street food with a heavy Carribean influence. The jerk chicken is special in Philly and it is special at North Beach Bar and Grill.)
Beer Battered Fish Bites: crunchy on the outside, all goodness on the inside. Make sure you order some horseradish coleslaw as a side.
Calamari,Octopus, Seaweed Salad: lots of chewy ocean goodness.
If you must, sample the marble cheesecake.
SALT ISLAND FISH AND BEER
A cozy beach cottage focusing on craft beer, craft cocktails and a made-from-scratch, locally sourced kitchen. Name derived from the Euchee tribe that inhabited the island in the 14th century. Tybee means salt in Euchee. Well-curated menu. Wonderful craft cocktails. Well thought out craft menu beer offerings. At the head of the class in Tybee. Lunch, dinner, brunch, full bar. Indoor/Outdoor dining with beautiful garden area. Parking. Vegetarian/Vegan options.
Fried Smelts (appetizer): a lightly fried, fresh-water fish enhanced by lemon aioli. Eaten whole. A little acid brings the fish to full flavor.
Blue Crab Poutine: pulled crab and french fries covered with a beer cheese, seasoned with Old Bay. A dish that originated in Quebec, but so glad it emigrated to Georgia. Luscious and decadent.
Poke: marinated chopped sashimi tuna, seasoned vegetables and poke sauce over jasmine rice. (Poke sauce: soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, lemon juice and chilli sauce) A favorite in Hawaii and a keeper in Tybee Island.
Fried Shrimp Platter: battered shrimp, vidalia onion rings, fried pepperoncini.
You know you are in Georgia when you are served a vidalia onion. The sweet onion and the understated heat of the pepperoncini is a special treat.
Kalua Pig: pork shoulder, rubbed with sea salt, wrapped in leaves and slowly cooked in an oven using liquid mesquite smoke. Light touch of kimchi and fried rice. This is as authentic as it gets – you will want to watch some old Hawaii Five-O episodes.
Fried Chicken: house brined chicken, sweet potato fries and hot honey. Eat this and you will not care if it’s a rainy night in Georgia.
AGAVE BAR AND GRILL
Friendly cantina atmosphere that can border on the boisterous. Nicely appointed space with vibrant coloring. A neighborhood place. Definitely put this on your list for go-to dining on Tybee Island. This is authentic Mexican, not some mushy food covered in salsa and cheese. Attentive staff. Have only touched on the depth of the menu. Far superior to a lot of seafood restaurants going through the motions. Lunch, Dinner, Full Bar. Small Parking lot. Vegetarian/Vegan options.
Carne Asada: grilled skirt steak, topped with rice and beans, Mexican salad, flour tortillas. Pure, succulent flavor.
Bistec and Shrimp: grilled ribeye topped with grilled shrimp, rice, beans, tortilla, Mexican salad. A sublime, south of the border surf and turf.
Bacon Burrito: burrito stuffed with chicken, rice, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, chipotle sauce and crispy bacon. Doesn’t bacon make everything better?
Mojarra Frita: fried tilapia served with rice, tortillas, salad and fresh avocado slice. Simple but satisfying.
Fried Ice Cream: vanilla ice cream with crispy fried crust topped with whipped cream. Completely and wonderfully classic…if you can save room for dessert!
GERALD’S PIG AND SHRIMP
Casual, family-friendly restaurant specializing in slow cooked meats and wild Georgia shrimp. Large, tree-shaded patio. Right across the street from Tybee’s salt marshes. Gerald’s is everything you want in a casual beach town restaurant.
Casual does not mean a lack of high standards (some shore restaurants act that way). Gerald’s is serious about the food they serve. It’s a quality restaurant. Just a tip, call ahead. If it’s later in the day and they were extremely busy, they can run out of their slow cooked meats…and that means none until the next day. Lunch, Dinner, Late night. Indoor/Outdoor dining. Onsite Parking. Live Music. Wine, Beer, Sangria.
Duck Wings (Appetizer): slow smoked and very meaty. Faster than chicken wings.
Fried Shrimp (Appetizer): perfectly fried fresh shrimp with hush puppies.
Fish and Chips: Fried grouper or flounder and fries. The person in the kitchen doing the frying is a culinary artist!
Gerald’s Cuban: pressed hoagie with pulled pork, ham, swiss, cucumber salad and mustard. A classic sandwich done very well.
Beef Brisket Dinner: slow cooked beef brisket with green beans and fried okra. The brisket is all goodness. The green beans, with a touch of butter and garlic, are tantalizing. Hats off to the person who fried the battered okra.
St. Louis Style Ribs: slow smoked St. Louis style ribs with baked beans, housemade coleslaw and white bread. St. Louis style ribs can be tough unless cooked perfectly…and they are at Gerald’s. Love the house made mayo and vinegar dressing in the coleslaw. Baked beans with corn kernels and a bit of mustard is a keeper.
A-J’s DOCKSIDE RESTAURANT
Unpretentious atmosphere with wonderful water views. Beautiful beach restaurant setting. Overlooking the Back River. Compact menu of well-prepared fresh food. Absolutely the cleanest restaurant on the Island. Lunch, Dinner. Indoor/Outdoor dining. Full Bar. Late Night.
Blackened Shrimp and Grits: shrimp, grits, cajun cream sauce. A great, delicious appetizer to start your meal.
A-J’s Gumbo: rice topped with a stew consisting of sausage, chicken, shrimp and vegetables. Eat this and you will think you were born on the bayou.
Corvina (aka white seabass): covered in cream sauce with potatoes and vegetables. Tastes like grouper but deeper flavor.
Crab Burger: lump crab meat patty with remoulade on the side. The remoulade is Cajun mayonnaise.
Crispy Scored Flounder: a whole flounder fried and topped with a sweet chilli glaze. Crackling skin and the subtle, sweet glaze makes an outstanding dish. With potatoes and vegetables.
ROCK HOUSE ORIGINAL BAR & GRILL
A sports bar/pub atmosphere with an emphasis on nightlife and live music. I will always commend a place that knows what it wants to be. Rock House wants to be your friendly, local bar that can take you into the wee hours while serving basic, but solid, pub food. I have no complaints. Lunch, dinner, late night, live music. Indoor/Outdoor seating. Pool table. Full Bar. Parking available. Numerous TV’s.
Alligator Bites (appetizer): hand cut and handmade, breaded alligator tail meat tossed in a creamy, semi-spicy sauce. White tail meat, as tender as veal, in a spunky dressing.
Captain’s Platter: beer battered mahi mahi, tiger shrimp, calamari, hush puppies, fries and coleslaw. Fit for a captain when done right, but had a miss once. All in the frying.
Shrimp N’ Chips: beer battered shrimp, fried to golden brown, with fries, coleslaw and hushpuppies. A real shore meal.
The Beast: ½ lb hamburger patty, ¼ lb Nathan’s hot dog, 2 slices of bacon, slice of pepper jack, slice of American, served on a kaiser roll with thousand island dressing, lettuce, tomato and onion. We all need to let our hair down once in a while.
COCO’S SUNSET GRILLE
Nestled in the marsh on the shores of Lazaretto Creek. Beautiful views of creek and marina. Incredible sunsets. CoCo’s can be a puzzle. Most of the time it is a well oiled machine, but sometimes it’s hit or miss, which is frustrating. Solidly in the good column, but a little more attention to detail and it could be excellent. If you aren’t hungry, stop by for a drink and the best sunset on Tybee Island. Lunch, Dinner. Indoor/Outdoor dining. Full Bar with specialty cocktails. Limited parking on site. Vegetarian options. Live music.
Shrimp Cakes (Appetizer): Homemade shrimp cakes with fiery chipotle aioli. The sweetness of the shrimp and the heat of the aioli work well.
Seared Shrimp and Scallops: served over angel hair pasta with a lemon sauce, fresh basil, tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Hits all the right notes: sweet seafood, creamy fragrant sauce, and al dente pasta.
Bourbon Glazed Salmon: fresh grilled salmon topped with green beans in a garlic bourbon teriyaki sauce with mashed potatoes. Japan meets Tennessee in Georgia.
Fried Flounder: fried filet with french fries, coleslaw and hushpuppies. Simple, but that’s what you want in a beach restaurant.
Mojo CoCo: Skyy Dragon Fruit Vodka, lime, soda water, simple syrup and fresh mint. Take a sip and Seals & Crofts “Summer Breeze” will come to mind.
HUC-A-POOS BITES AND BOOZE
A roadhouse in a beach town. Dive bar heaven. It is what it is: a local place that welcomes everybody. Eat and drink where the locals do. If a place is being honest in who they are, then who are we to question? The food fits the place. Don’t worry, be happy. Lunch, Dinner, Late Night. Full Bar. Indoor/Outdoor seating. Live Music.
Pizza, Pizza and more Pizza! Try the Omnivore: a mess of veggies and meat.
On, On Carnivore: meat, meat, meat! What did you expect?
Nachos with ricotta cheese: it makes all the difference.
How about a chef’s surprise: you order and they decide. My group was served Greek pizza with black olives, feta cheese, spinach and tomatoes.
THE DECK BEACHBAR & KITCHEN
Casual beach bar. Location, location, location. The views are great. Extremely small menu. This is the kind of place to run off the beach and grab a bite and a drink. The Deck can thank their location for making our list. Lunch, Dinner. Full Bar, Indoor/Outdoor seating. Parking available.
Red Fish Tacos: blackened redfish, poblano mayo, marinated onions, cabbage. This is quintessential beach town food. (A little history: Paul Prudhomme, the legendary Louisiana chef, who would have been 80 on July 13 (passed 5 years ago), made blackened redfish so popular that it actually put a deep strain in the fish’s population in the Gulf of Mexico.)
Low Country Boil: shrimp, red potatoes, corn, smoked sausage. Nothing is more low country than this.
Nashville Hot Chicken: buttermilk fried chicken, ranch dressing, dill pickles. (As the story goes…an angry wife, tired of her husband coming home late every night, cooked some fiery chicken for dinner to match her fury.) If you’re over in Nashville, check out Hattie B’s Hot Chicken at various locations all over town.
The Deck’s Rum Punch: secret house blend, coconut and dark rum, fruit. When the sun beats down, you will thank me.
A somewhat goofy, weathered, fish camp ambiance with a ramshackle sprawl of screened porches and open air decks. Large capacity (700) on Chimney Creek with great views. Gator lagoon contains 70 plus baby alligators and an aviary of exotic birds. Their motto, “Where the elite eat in their bare feet.” We want to love the Crab Shack, but they need to get up to speed. One time a dish will be great, another time not so much.
Why have an expensive item like Dungeness Crab on the menu unless you can ensure its freshness? Large capacity brings large crowds and during these trying times you need to keep facilities up to snuff. That said, you can cobble together a satisfying meal and the ambiance is alluring. Just hope they can get to another level. Lunch, Dinner. Full Bar. Indoor/Outdoor seating (ample). Parking available. Unique Setting.
Deviled Crab (appetizer): straight forward and well done.
Brunswick Stew: tomato based, beans, vegetables and chicken. Traditionally, game is the protein so this version was a little tame.
Captain’s Sampler Platter: Snow Crab, Rock Crab, Mussels, Crawfish, Shrimp, Corn, Potatoes and Sausage. Nice variety. If you order this dish tell the waitperson to make sure it’s seasoned.
FANNIE’S ON THE BEACH
A funky kind of bar/restaurant across from the beach. Fannie’s know how to stay in their lane. This is a place for a simple bite and a drink, no more, no less. Lunch, Dinner, Late Night. Full Bar. Live Music. Indoor/Outdoor seating.
Blackened Mahi Tacos: blackened mahi on a bed of coleslaw, pineapple salsa, fried cilantro. This is beach food!
Coconut Shrimp: with pina colada dip. A ‘shore’ thing.
The Great Big Fannie: fried chicken tenders, tomato, cucumbers, blackbean/corn salsa, BBQ ranch dressing, fried onion rings on top. Nice bite without pretensions.
A FEW EXTRAS….
Hope this was helpful. This is eating out on Tybee Island in 2020. A different year, for sure, but if we are careful we can still dine, drink and do the shag. Stay safe, eat well, relax, and love your beach town.