Happy Tomato Courtyard Café and BBQ

Last week we drove to Amelia Island and had lunch at the Happy Tomato Courtyard Café and BBQ.  We met our friends Wendy and Ron Bower at the Happy Tomato.  They were renting a condo on Amelia Island for a month.

Ron and Wendy Bower

Tom and I have been to Amelia Island several times.  At this point, there doesn’t seem to be a place within two hours of St. Simons Island that we haven’t explored.  But there are always new restaurants to try and new shops to explore.  Plus we jumped at the chance to spend the afternoon with Wendy and Ron.

Downtown Fernandina Beach is tourist central on Amelia Island.  It always feels very crowded with people and there is lots of traffic congestion.  The last time we were on Amelia Island, we had the big truck and it was very difficult to find a parking space.  This time Tom pulled the Prius into a little spot just a block from downtown.

We walked down a block and did some people watching while we were waiting for Ron and Wendy.  They were two of the people we watched.  We saw them in their car crawling along the main street looking for a parking spot.  A few minutes later they came walking down the street toward the Happy Tomato.

Happy Tomato Courtyard Café and BBQ has a couple of tables for indoor seating, but most of its seating is in a shaded courtyard.  We went into the small building to order.  Ron and I both ordered pulled smoked turkey BBQ sandwiches.  I got potato salad with mine instead of a bag of Lays chips.  Tom got The Max:  pulled pork with homemade pimento cheese on wheat bread.  Wendy doesn’t like smoked meats, so she got a grilled chicken sandwich.  We also got two walnut chocolate chunk cookies to share.

Place your order
Grilled chicken
The Max
Smoked turkey

After we placed out orders, we got a number and went out to the courtyard to get a table.  The courtyard was shady and protected from the wind, so probably a good place to eat most of the time.  A server brought our food and we dug right in.  The sandwiches were good and the BBQ acceptable.  The smoked turkey was very moist – better than most I’ve had.

Best of all was the company.  Although we see Wendy several times a year, Ron is rarely able to get away.  It was a delight to have him along.  Good company always makes good food even better.  The walnut chocolate chunk cookies were also very good, but I rarely meet a cookie I don’t like.

Story and Song

After lunch Ron headed back to work.  Wendy, Tom and I set off to explore a little more of the island.  Wendy had done her research and suggested checking out a place called Story and Song Bookstore and Bistro Center for the Arts and Culture.  Talk about an ambitious combination.  In order to enter the building, you walked through a courtyard with tables where people were eating.  As we entered, there were shelves with books and a good selection of bestsellers.  There was also a good selection of books about the local culture.  But, in general, the bookstore part was disappointing.

Small bookstore area

Around the edges of the bookstore was an extensive card store.  I love finding birthday cards that aren’t Hallmark or American Greetings.  I spent a lot of time looking at the cards and picked out a variety that will be fun to send.  But then I had to wait in the bistro line (the only cash register) while a group of women each ordered fiddly lattes and soups with lots of individual additions.  This group of women also sat at a table that totally blocked an entire section of the store.  The store has an upstairs area where they have programs, but there wasn’t anything going on the day we were there.

Cash register and bistro

I usually love small, independent bookstores.  But this one was trying to do too much.  If they had expanded the bookstore upstairs, it might have been a decent bookstore.  If they made the entire downstairs a bistro, it would have been a good bistro.  But cramming so much into a little space just made it crowded and uncomfortable.

We ended our visit to Amelia Island by sitting and talking at Wendy and Ron’s condo.  I also got to meet Jolene, Wendy’s dog, who I had not met before.  It was great to spend time with Wendy and Ron.  I would be glad to eat again at Happy Tomato any time, but will definitely skip a return visit to Story and Song Bookstore.

Artwork outside Story and Song