Aboard the Emerald Princess II cruise ship, two gaming decks host bingo, roulette, craps, and slot machines. Dealers also facilitate card games including blackjack, Texas hold'em, and stud poker—which is always played between two layers of drywall. A bistro grants a restorative break from the gambling, also attainable on the Emerald Princess II's open-air observation deck. Here, scenic views of the Atlantic Ocean abound as the 200-foot vessel cuts through the water. The staff approximates the dress code to that of a nice restaurant, so guests should refrain from wearing cut-off shorts or beachwear.
Once a general store that had only two microwaves and cold beer, Brogen's has expanded into a pair of good-timeries with a menu that blends island atmosphere with Southern charm. Raising the stomach's velvet curtain with chili-cheese fries ($4.50), bacon-sprinkled potato skins ($6.25), or onion rings ($4) gives the chefs time to hand-make a burger patty and cook it into the Kokomo burger ($7.50), which hoists a thin slice of ham, cheddar cheese, and a sea of barbecue sauce atop its sizzling shoulders. Brogen's catch of the day ($8.95) arrives fresh—and often still trying to figure out where all the water went—to be blackened, fried, or grilled as diners see fit. To keep a hand open for impromptu swashbuckling, the Brogen's club ($7.50) stacks ham, turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, swiss, and american cheeses between a choice of breads. Beers arrive frigid and dotted with condensation, putting patrons in the right mindset for nightfall when Brogen's becomes the epicenter for some of the island's wildest bootyquakes.
Exposed-brick walls bearing dartboards, colorful paintings, and flat-screen televisions anchor Dog Star Tavern's rustic, playful character. Bartenders stand behind a glossy bar top, filling shakers with selections from 50 rums and 25 vodkas and washing aged scotch over ice cubes. Frosty mugs fill with 16 draft beers, ideal for sipping on hot nights in the beer garden or after dancing up a sweat to live music Thursday–Saturday.
With its ocean-abutting locale and umbrella-shaded beach seating, Sandy Bottoms combines tempting surf 'n' turf with the relaxing backdrop of the Amelia Island seashore. The varied menu siren calls with starters such as quesadillas ($7–$12) and fried Krabby Bites ($8). The eatery’s arsenal of fishy dishes, including mahi-mahi ($14) and the hearty seafood platter with fish, shrimp, scallops, and oysters ($24), diverts mouth while ambidextrous toes construct miniature sand castles under beach-planted tables. With three bars assembling a wealth of beverages, guests can indulge in thirst-quenchers that complement each dish, from the Texican burger and its ensemble of chili, cheese, and jalapenos ($9.50) to a grilled-scallop po' boy ($11).
The menu at 3 Lions Sports Pub & Grill hits all the bases with a full spectrum of pub food. Those looking for American classics can select a specialty burger, chicken wings, or chili. British-inspired items include bangers and mash and shepherd’s pie. The eatery also sets itself apart with items not typically available at traditional grills, such as pub fries with curry sauce and hawaiian pizza. Beneath spotlighted football helmets, bartenders serve bottled brews as well as draft selections such as Guinness, Harp, and Newcastle.
Just as engaging as its eats is 3 Lions' ambiance: it's a classic sports grill with dark wood accents and widescreen televisions that hug the exposed brick walls like spies hiding from people wearing 3-D glasses. Shiny black tables reflect the glow of neon signs and broadcasts of games from NFL Sunday Ticket and Fox Soccer Channel. For further entertainment, a calendar of special events includes regular happy hours, poker nights, and live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
Jacks or Better Casino explores the waters stretching from the Mayport area down the coast. The boat stretches 155 feet from stem to sternum and contains a whale-sized supply of Vegas-style casino gaming. Deft dealers engage lucky streaks on a variety of table games, from blackjack and roulette to traditional poker, video poker, and fireplace poker. With visions of cherries and triple-bars dancing in their heads, slots fanatics sidle up to dual-screen Modern Gaming slots such as Four Leaf Fortunes and Jackpot Galaxy. Jacks or Better's slots paid out jackpots totaling $3 million in 2011. Special events and attractions include a craps tutorial with limits ranging from $5 to $1,000, ensuring comfortable stakes for anyone, from the novice dice slinger to the local Yahtzee grandmaster.
The Gourmet Grouper was born out of a fruitful business partnership between veteran seafood-market owners John Shuler and Jason Arteaga, along with Christina Monas. The three set out to create a curated supermarket utterly unlike mega-groceries—one that could provide shoppers with a tailored selection of high-quality meats, seafood, and drinks from both distant climes and local markets. "We wanted to build a grocery store that we would like to shop at," John told the Beaches Leader. Along with his childhood friend and business partner, Jason, he procures gourmet goods from his network of local and worldwide farmers, fishers, and food artisans. The result is a smorgasbord of upscale groceries that tempt shoppers with fine cheeses, dry-aged Montana beef, Gulf stone crabs, and Louisiana crawfish. The goods are ideal for planning an elegant dinner party. Seasonal potatoes and vegetables can accompany lobster tails or Chilean sea-bass filets alongside craft beers and fine wines. The market even has artisanal snacking covered with gourmet pickles crafted by local picklesmith Tim Baker, who locks the fresh veggies' flavor into delicious stasis with careful brining and mild witchcraft.