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Amelia Islander

Joe's 2nd Street Bistro

By Michael Gass • Photo by William Raser

Life doesn’t always allow us a lot of free time, but every now and then, we’re reminded to slow down and make time for what is important. Running into an old friend is just the thing to bring our priorities into focus. And so it was on a busy Friday recently when I dropped by Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro for a bite to eat on my way out of town.

Joe’s Bistro is located at 14 South 2nd Street in downtown Fernandina Beach and has defined quality on the local culinary scene for more than 20 years. Chef Ricky Pigg is an island native. He and his wife, Mari, cultivate relationships with their customers, making every experience at Joe’s Bistro memorable.

On this particular day, I was looking forward to a weekend paddling on the Withlacoochie River, but I was starving and needed to stop in and see Ricky before hitting the road. I tried to slip in the back door like I did in the old days, but it was locked and I had to come in through the front door like a good boy. I said hello to the hostess, a former student, and made my way to the kitchen to find the chef and his crew busily preparing for the coming lunch rush. I hid in a little nook between the ice machine and the sink and tried to stay out of the way.

The lunch menu at Joe’s Bistro has something for everyone. It includes standards like Crab Cakes and Caesar Salad, and more intriguing options like an Ahi Tuna Martini or Chicken and Andouille Wontons. Ricky figures they’ve made over 58,000 wontons in the last two years; they’re pretty popular. The menu also features delicious entrees like the Fernandina Mac & Cheese with Fresh Lobster, Shrimp with Penne and a Three-Cheese Sauce, and a Petit Filet Mignon. I opted for the Grilled Salmon BLT.

The Grilled Salmon BLT is served on thick-sliced whole wheat toast, with a tangy remoulade sauce, crisp micro greens, tomato, applewood smoked bacon, and feta, with the fillet of perfectly grilled Nova Scotia salmon. I took my sandwich with a side of crunchy-hot fries and ducked out into the dining room to enjoy it. Eating in the dining room feels a bit like eating in Ricky and Mari’s home; it has a white linen aesthetic with a kitchen table feel.

As I finished my lunch, Ricky came out and joined me for a few minutes and we had a chance to catch up before things really got going. We talked about the sense of camaraderie the restaurants downtown share, which is fairly uncommon. He talked about his love of community, and how he enjoys nurturing local talent to grow into the next generation of restaurateurs and chefs. As these words left his mouth, as if on cue, another former student appeared at the hostess stand, this time for an application to work in the kitchen. The future is in good hands.

Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro is open for lunch and dinner six days a week, closed on Tuesdays. They have banquet space available upstairs and a full bar. Make a reservation or just drop in anytime.