Serving all your Southern favorites with a New Orleans flair, Lagniappe offers delicious seafood creations, house-smoked meats, special cocktails, and a lively atmosphere.

Do you like fun events and special occasions? Either throwing them or attending them? If so, have I got the place for you! Lagniappe, sounds like /lan-yap/ for the Creole-French noun, means “a little something extra.” The restaurant and cocktail bar on First Coast Highway is very popular, but owners Melanie and Brian Grimley are happy to arrange for you any special event you can imagine.

The secret has been out for years. With regulars visiting Amelia Island year-round, Lagniappe is sometimes booked. It’s best to book your reservation as far in advance as possible through Open every night, they serve 4–10 p.m. on weekends, 4–9 p.m. weeknights, and 3–9 p.m. on Sundays. A lively cocktail bar with steadfast regulars, Lagniappe has extensive wines and spirits from which to choose. The 13 cocktails include the “L”-Fashioned, French Quarter Mule, and “America’s first cocktail,” the Sazerac.

Chef-owner Brian is English, but he’s acquired strong skills treating Southern favorites with a French Creole take, like Fried Green Tomatoes, Short Ribs, Chicken Fried Oysters, Mayport Shrimp & Grits, and Pecan-Crusted Rainbow Trout. But how? He earned his chops in New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah, crafting his personal style from what he learned from Paul Prudhomme and Jacques Pepin, among others. Also key to Lagniappe’s success is Chef Brett Heritage, a Fernandina local who began cooking in the FBHS Culinary Program, graduated from FSCJ culinary school, and has worked in island kitchens since. The restaurant uses the freshest local ingredients and gladly accommodates vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free needs.

On Mardi Gras last month, Lagniappe was the place to be! The party was already going when Karen Langshaw and I arrived around 5 p.m., and we were perfectly seated for people-watching: Party people poured in wearing purple, green, and gold. Melanie merrily managed Mardi Gras from behind the bar.

The night’s special menu included Gumbo, Boudin Balls, Crawfish-stuffed Mirliton, Trout Meunière, Cajun Butcher’s Platter, and several classic desserts. The band Big Gabe & the King Cakes featured another FBHS graduate Gabriel Arnold on saxophone; Ample Angst, the lead singer of Spice & the Po’ Boys, had the whole room singing “When the Saints Go Marching In.” It was glorious! Mark your calendar for next year’s Mardi Gras party so you too can laissez les bons temps rouler.

To begin, Karen and I enjoyed Mardi Gras Sazeracs: Remy Martin Cognac with simple syrup, Peychaud bitters, Absinthe wash, and a lemon twist. Appetizers were Boudin Balls and Creole Mustard Cream. Karen’s Porkchop with Apples was simple and delicious, just what she wanted. Knowing how chefs focus on their daily specials, I choose the fresh catch: this night’s was Flounder served on Jimmy Red Corn Grits with Grilled Asparagus, Smoked Tomato Cream, and Microgreens Garnish. These grits were worth seeking out another time.

King Cake and pots de crème were a perfect end point. The party was still rocking when we left. We had so much fun I joined their mailing list so I will know what is going on at Lagniappe. They know how to throw a party. My family has enjoyed a sweet birthday party on the porch. Christmas parties and rehearsal dinners work nicely in their dining rooms, too. Lagniappe is located at 4810 First Coast Highway.