Media & Reviews
Barbara Jean’s is recognized by USA Today newspaper as one of Jacksonville’s 10 Best Homestyle Restaurants for 2016!
Read all about it here: http://www.10best.com/destinations/florida/jacksonville/restaurants/homestyle/
FLORIDA TIMES UNION
June 17, 2014
JACKSONVILLE MAGAZINE 2014
Jacksonville Magazine has named Barbara Jean’s as the Best Southern Cuisine in Northeast Florida for 2014!
The 75 Best Things to Eat in the River City
JUMBO Crab Cakes @ Barbara Jean’s
You all but expect a waterside eatery in North Florida to serve good seafood. At Barbara Jean’s on Roscoe Boulevard in Ponte Vedra Beach they don’t disappoint. The house specialty at the family friendly restaurant is crab cakes. The 7-ounce Eastern Shore style cakes are prepared with all lump back-fin crab. Lightly crunchy, warm and filling enough to be a meal by itself. $12.
WATER’S EDGE MAGAZINE
BY CATHERINE ENNS GRIGAS – PHOTOGRAPHY BY ED HALL
Forget foie gras and chanterelles. Barbara Jean’s dishes out meals like mother used to make … well, sort of.
If you judged a restaurant by a parking lot packed with luxury imports and a front porch ablaze with Lily Pulitzer and Ralph Lauren, you’d figure it caters to an upscale crowd; a restaurant boasting a menu of foie gras, fine wines and chanterelles.
But step inside Barbara Jean’s and you’ll discover the fashionable folks outside are here for something else – good, simple food at bargain-basement prices.
It’s no plain Jane, but Barbara Jean’s doesn’t boast anything more complicated than easy Southern dining in a casual neighborhood restaurant on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway. Since opening earlier this year, the Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, restaurant has attracted diners like ants to a picnic.
Although new to locals, Barbara Jean’s already had made a name for itself. Owners Barbara and Jim Barta opened their first restaurant in downtown St. Simons Island, Georgia, three years ago. The quality home cooking cultivated fans both far and wide, many of them from the Ponte Vedra area – who encouraged the couple to open another restaurant futher south.
Sure enough, by word of mouth alone, Barbara Jean’s is luring people from their Marsh Landing mansions – and beyond – to sample food like their mothers used to make.
Granted, the restaurant isn’t easy to find on a first visit. Drive down Ponte Vedra’s Roscoe Boulevard along the Intracoastal and you’ll find the restaurant set back along the water behind overhanging oaks where popular Old Ward’s Landing fish camp used to be.
Inside, the newly renovated building is a bright, open space with picture windows that open up to a wide view of the Intercoastal Waterway.
Outside, a big wooden deck offers outdoor dining in one of the most stunning natural settings around. Minus mosquitoes, it’s a pleasant place to wait for a table (and you just might have to on a busy Sunday night).
Across the coffee-colored water, palms, pines and a tangle of vines rise high along the sandy banks. Herons hunt for food and schools of fish ripple the water.
If the view puts you in mind of Florida the way it used to be, the restaurant’s menu likewise recalls the good ol’days. Fourteen vegetables, fixed from scratch, are always available. Dishes that are the staples of home cooking like pot roast slow-cooked for six hours, turkey and dressing and chicken-fried steak – are offered for around $8. The day we were there, the special was liver and onions. You’ve got to love a restaurant that proclaims “no pretensions, just food that comforts.”
And then there are the crab cakes.
That’s the item Barbara Jean’s brags about. Cards on the tables offer to package them and send them across country so that other souls can discover what they’re missing. The menu even declares, “If you don’t try anything else, have the crab cakes.”
We were happy to oblige with crab cakes and more.
Sitting in one of the yellow vinyl-covered bootbs, we started our meal with a cup of the she crab soup ($2.99, $3.99 for the bowl) and the soup of the day, cream of mushroom ($2.99). The cream of mushroom was homemade, but less creamy than just plain thick, with slices of fresh mushrooms and onions. The she crab soup was in a class by itself. Purists may note that it was not bisque and lacked the traditional touch of sherry. What it did have was so much crab, a spoon could stand up in it. Rich and creamy, with a slight, spicy bite, it was a hearty soup that could easily be a meal.
Just because Barbara Jean’s prices are a throwback doesn’t mean that the restaurant skimps on the details. For example, the bread basket is piled high with three different types of homemade bread and butter. The dinner roll usually gets overlooked for the pumpkin bread, which is warm, spicy and sweet, or the cornbread flecked with chopped jalapeno peppers and cheese.
Salads come with a choice of the honey mustard, bleu cheese or ranch dressings, which the restaurant makes itself, but we headed for the entrees.Besides crab cakes, there are fried entrees, such as shrimp (coated in buttermilk or coconut), fried catfish and cod. Tuna, salmon and catfish come grilled or blackened.
For old times’ sake, we ordered the meat loaf with brown gravy, mashed potatoes and squash casserole ($7.99). The meat loaf was a huge wedge of ground beef studded with onions and green peppers and smothered in a tasty brown gravy. The mashed potatoes were the real thing, tiny bits of potato skin declaring their origins. The squash casserole was cooked fresh squash, mixed into a buttery lightness.
For those who want to sample the best of Barbara Jean’s, the Coastal Platter ($ 17.99) is the way to go, offering a crab cake, fried large shrimp and fried fish all on one overflowing plate, along with a choice of two fresh vegetables. Cod is the fried fish, and it comes out moist and sweet, encased in a crunchy golden brown crust that seems just right for dipping into the homemade tartar sauce.
The “large” fried shrimp – as described on the menu – are that and then some. They’re some of the best around, moist and plump within a coating of buttermilk batter, fried until golden. The coconut shrimp, each rolled in coconut before frying, have just a touch of sweetness.
While the shrimp is good, the crab cake is something to behold. Little wonder that between the two restaurants, Barbara Jean’s goes through 31 tons of backfin lump crabmeat a year. Ordered alone, the crab cake comes in two sizes – jumbo at 7 ounces ($11.99) and regular at 5 ounces ($9.99). just crab, bound together with a touch of breading and spices, it is sautéed into a truly decadent patty that would give other, tonier, restaurants a run for their money. But the crab cakes should come with a warning. They’re addictive. Once sampled, they’re hard to pass up for anything else on the menu.
If there’s still room for more, dessert awaits. All homemade, the desserts aren’t fancy but Barbara Jean’s bread pudding, fruit cobbler and a chocolate lover’s fantasy – a creamy brownie topped with homemade whipped cream (all $3.99 for a howl, $2.99 for a cup) – should satisfy any sweet tooth.
Perhaps, though, the greatest satisfaction comes at the end of a meat, when you realize how well (and how much) you’ve eaten without having the bill take a bite out of your bankroll. Add to that a priceless waterfront view and you know you’ve discovered a rare restaurant – a restaurant that seems to view food as a simple pleasure, meant to be enjoyed with family and friends.
food finds: Barbara Jean’s
Planning a fall beach trip to St. Simons Island, Georgia? Pack an appetite for flavors from the sea.
If you want to forget froufrou, try this spot that welcomes flip-flops and families. It looks like the rich relative of a Denny’s with subdued tones, personal service, and fantastic old St. Simons photos on the walls. In an ode to the crustacean, I savored both the she-crab soup and the crab cakes, a local legend. (Forgive me, Alix, but these were the best.) The soup was thick and creamy with a little heat, but crab remained the star, as it should be. When I fork into a crab cake, I dream of seeing big lumps, not strings of crabmeat suspended in gummy breadcrumbs. Here, I was granted those visible lumps and a soft, creamy binding. Dessert, like all else, was unpretentious–a gooey chocolate brownie with real whipped cream, artfully named “Chocolate Stuff.” ‘Nuff said. 214 Mallory Street, St. Simons Island, (912) 634-6500. Entrees: $7-$17.
By Dana Adkins Campbell
GEORGIA TREND MAGAZINE
The Best All Around
Barbara Jean’s, St. Simons. Jamming in the locals at brunch, Barbara Jean’s fills the bill just about any time of day, with Southern-tinged specialties like greens and cornbread, served with the house specialty: simple, fresh lump crabcakes–so popular you can order them for delivery across the country.
SOUTHERN LADY MAGAZINE
Casual, Coastal Barbara Jean’s
BY AMISTA ROWELL MCMATH
When a charming ice cream shop went up for sale on favored summer getaway St. Simons Island, Barbara Barta couldn’t believe her luck. It was the property she had seen while on vacation, pointed toward, and told her husband, “That one.” The shop was her choice location for a restaurant, a little place she’d call Barbara Jean’s
“We started coming down here to St. Simons Island on vacation, and I just fell in love with it,” says Barbara Barta, a trained dietician who owned and operated a Virginia eatery called Black-Eyed Pea for ten years before opening up her namesake restaurant in coastal Georgia. “As soon as we got to the island the first time, my husband said, ‘This is where we’re going to retire.’ It took me longer. It took me fifteen minutes before I agreed.”
Barbara and her husband, Jim, “retired” to the island in 1998 and promptly started serving down-home comfort foods alongside seafood specialties at their restaurant, which quickly became a local favorite. So successful was Barbara Jean’s that the couple, along with their business-partner son-in-law, opened four additional stores throughout the Southeast.
“We don’t have anything on the menu that doesn’t sell,” says Barbara. “Everybody raves about all the items.” And rightly so. Virtually everything is made from scratch, including the delicious sweet rolls, jalapeño cornbread, and pumpkin bread served as soon as customers settle into their seats.
But as tempting as the bread basket is, it’s not what Barbara Jean’s is famous for. instead, crab cakes steal the show and have become so popular that the business opened a packing facility to accommodate the requests they receive. They now ship the savory cakes all over the country.
Barbara reveals that the restaurant’s mainstays weren’t original offerings. “All three of our signature items were not on our menu when we first opened,” she says. Barbara whipped up the recipe for She-Crab Soup after a patron said he couldn’t eat at her restaurant five days a week because once a week he had to go somewhere else to get his favorite-soup fix. “I thought, ‘Why can’t I make it?’” recalls Barbara. So she did.
The Chocolate Stuff, a rich, gooey, secret-recipe brownie topped with whipped cream-homemade, of course-was born after a customer said she wouldn’t come back until Barbara Jean’s had a chocolate dessert. the famous crab cakes were originally offered as a special but were quickly added to the regular menu after a friend who’d tasted a sample at Barbara’s home couldn’t stop raving about them. Other menu items include not-so-fancy favorites such as meat loaf, squash casserole, chicken salad, pork chops, and pot roast.
“We’re not a dining experience; we’re a food experience,” says Barbara, who points out that their prices reveal customers won’t be eating from fine china. But the laid back atmosphere only adds to the appeal of Barbara Jean’s, a place perfect for summertime-make that anytime-casual dining.
SECRETS OF THE SOUTH MAGAZINE
Barbara Jean’s Homecookin’
by NANCY LAWSON REMLER
We all love traditional, home-cooked Southern meals. But, these days few people can spend hours in the kitchen preparing them. Now, we don’t have to. We can take a short drive down Johnny Mercer Boulevard and visit Barbara Jean’s.
That’s right. The popular St. Simons Island restaurant has opened a local establishment-it’s sixth location-on Wilmington Island.
“We’re really good old American fare,” said Howard Graham, Vice President of Operations for Barbara Jean’s, as well as son-in-law to Jim and Barbara Barta, owners of the family-owned business. “Because of our geographic location, we’ve been cast as Southern, and we’ll take that,” he said.
Best known for it’s crab cakes, some patrons order her crab cakes from all over the country-and Barbara Jean packs them up for some truly “long distance” home delivery.
In addition to crab cakes, popular menu items include She Crab soup, pot roast (cooked overnight), pumpkin bread, and Barbara Jean’s famous Chocolate Stuff dessert.
Barbara Jean’s emphasizes the importance of fresh vegetables and home cooking. “Everything is made from scratch from our kitchen every day. That’s unusual for our price point,” Graham said, noting that the average price for meals at Barbara Jean’s is $13.00-$15.00.
Overlooking Turner Creek, just past the bridge on Johnny Mercer, Barbara Jean’s offers delicious food in a breathtaking atmosphere along the marsh’s edge on the Intracoastal. Just a short drive from home.
SOUTHERN HOMESCAPES MAGAZINE
What’s for Thanksgiving?
BY DON VARNADOE
There are many stories about what could have been the first Thanksgiving and where it happened and what foods were used in those celebrations. To give us direction, the United States Congress in 1941 established Thanksgiving to occur annually on the fourth Thursday of November.
Usually, we think of the celebration that the Pilgrims and Indians had as the first Thanksgiving and we think of turkey as part of the food. Historians indicate that turkey, as we know it, was not a part of that celebration. However, traditionally we seem to think of turkey as the leading meat for the annual feast of thanks.
If you are looking for a change, Barbara Barta of Barbara Jean’s Restaurants has some suggestions and they are all great! How about crab cakes or pork loin and some She Crab soup? Well, your next thought should be, where do I get these items or how do I make them? The answer is easy.
So that you can enjoy the day, Barbara, her husband, Jim, and their Southern-trained staff will help you. Their restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to serve you, or you can call in for a “pick up,” or some items can be ordered online at www.barbarajeans.com and be prepared at home. Barbara is so dedicated to her customers that she has turned her family Thanksgiving over to her daughter, Lisa. To go along with her big meal, Lisa makes cranberry-orange sauce and bakes cranberry nut bread.
The Thanksgiving menu at Barbara Jean’s will offer roasted turkey breast and pork loin roast with a special apple-rosemary sauce to go with the cornbread dressing and fresh vegetables. Dessert will be peach cobbler- Yum Yum!! Now if you are still looking for something different and passed on the crab cakes and She Crab soup, how about the coconut fried shrimp and some chocolate stuff? As always, there will be freshly baked pumpkin bread, homemade wheat rolls, and sweet jalapeño corn bread.
Since Barbara, Jim and their family opened their restaurant on St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1998, they have made a great name for themselves as they feed the hungry locals and visitors. If anyone is looking for a great place to eat in the Village, they are told to look for the crowd on the corner waiting to get inside. The family now has six restaurants, three of which are in our area and have a booming online business that ships overnight. Barbara emphasizes that her signature crab cakes are fresh and never frozen.
As a thank you to many hardworking people who have to toil on Thanksgiving Day, Barbara Jean’s gives a card to employees at St. Simons’ hotels where there is no restaurant for a complimentary Thanksgiving dinner. Most of them pick up the dinner, so even if they can’t be with their families, they still have a great meal on that special day of thanks.
Because everyone can’t make it to one of their restaurants, and Barbara and Jim can’t place everything on the menu, she was encouraged to write a cookbook. She did and can you guess the title-Barbara Jean’s Cookbook! She declares that she has gotten to where she is with “lots of hard work and creativity. And by the way, I’m not a chef. I’m a cook. A really good cook.” The hardback book is almost 200 pages of “mouth-watering” recipes, wonderful color pictures and neat stories. It too is available online.
If you are fortunate enough to eat some of Barbara’s food, you will agree that she is a “really good cook”! Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!
Savannah Morning News
Diversions July 20-26 2006
Crab Cakes and Chocolate Stuff
by Renee Layne
WHETHER YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR SEAFOOD OR MOM’S HOME-COOKING, A TRIP TO BARBARA JEAN’S WILL SATISFY YOUR HUNGER.
Barbara Jean’s is a Southeastern chain of restaurants serving home-style cooking and seafood, and it recently opened an eatery on Wilmington Island. After hearing a friend rave about its dessert, The Chocolate Stuff, and finding out that the restaurant is famous for its crab cakes, Mr. Layne and I couldn’t wait to visit.
We finally got our chance on a recent Sunday night, and arrived to find a short wait. Much to our delight, we were seated outside on the restaurant’s back deck, overlooking the marsh. Even though it’s the middle of July in Savannah, the back deck was comfortable with cool breezes and overhead fans kept the bugs at bay.
We started our meal with the Try Them All Chicken Fingers ($8.99), which featured two each from the menu’s selections of chicken fingers: fried, pecan-coated and buffalo-style. The appetizer came with honey mustard, ranch and barbecue dipping sauces. The chicken fingers were large enough to be an entrée. We tried a little bit of each one, and ended up taking most of them home. Beverages ($1.99) are served in 32-ounce glasses, making refills almost unnecessary.
Mr. Layne debated between the Meat Loaf ($8.99) and the Pot Roast ($8.99). He eventually ordered the Pot Roast with carrots and mashed potatoes, simply because he couldn’t decide if he wanted tomato sauce or brown gravy with the Meat Loaf. I took the advice on the menu: “If you don’t try anything else, have the Crab Cakes!” I ordered one jumbo 7 oz. Crab Cake ($12.99) with mashed potatoes and broccoli & rice casserole.
Our dinners were preceded by a basket of bread that was heavenly. The basket included a huge wheat roll, reminiscent of the yeast rolls served in school cafeterias, a square of pumpkin bread and a square of jalapeño cornbread, along with a small container of cinnamon butter. the bread was warm and moist, tasting like it was just pulled out of a hot oven. We both loved the wheat roll and pumpkin bread, but had mixed feelings about the jalapeño cornbread. Neither of us is a true fan of jalapeños, so we would have preferred plain cornbread. But it was tasty, nonetheless.
When our entrées arrived, the food, particularly the Pot Roast, smelled wonderful. The meat was tender and juicy, easily falling apart as Mr. Layne cut through it. He was quiet through the first few minutes after the entrées arrived, quietly savoring each bite. He claimed that the Pot Roast was so good that it rivaled the pot roast he or his family members make.
The jumbo crab cake was most certainly jumbo, taking up a big portion of the plate. It was also tender and fresh, and cooked just perfectly giving it a crisp, but not burnt, top and bottom. The crab cake was served with tartar sauce instead of the more traditional remoulade sauce, which left me wishing for the latter.
The mashed potatoes tasted homemade. However, they were more like smashed potatoes, in that they were chunky and contained bits of potato skin. No matter what you call them, they were tasty and fresh, and served as the perfect companions for both the pot roast and the crab cake. Neither Mr. Layne nor I ate much of our other side dishes, but the couple of bites we had proved them to be delicious as well.
Even though we were quite full at this point and already had leftovers to take home, my friend who raved about The Chocolate Stuff had insisted that we try it. Desserts are available in either a cup ($3.99) or a bowl ($5.99) We both opted for a bowl of The Chocolate Stuff, which proved to be too much. When the bowls arrived, they were overflowing with the dessert. The Chocolate Stuff is difficult to describe. It’s sort of like a brownie, but much better, with a gooey chocolate center and topped with chocolate sauce and homemade whipped cream. It’s simply one of those desserts that you just have to taste. And taste it we did, but we ended up taking most of it home as well.
The service was impeccable, the ambience was lovely and the food was to die for. It’s rare that a restaurant can pull off doing both seafood and home-style cooking and do both very well, but Barbara Jean’s does just that.
The reviewer uses a pseudonym to protect her anonymity. The newspaper pays for all the meals.
SOUTHERN LIVING WEB SITE
Our Favorite Regional Restaurants: Georgia
Check out Southern Living’s picks for our top regional restaurants.
Barbara Jean’s (Traditional Southern): 214 Mallory Street, St. Simons Island; (912) 634-6500 or www.barbarajeans.com. This small family restaurant with comfy booths stays crowded. Homemade soups, pot roast, and veggies are standouts, and the crab cakes melt in your mouth. For lunch, try the meat and two and a berry cobbler. Other locations: Amelia Island and Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida; Beaufort, South Carolina. Lunch, dinner.
SOUTHWEST GEORGIA LIVING MAGAZINE
Island Time Georgia Style
BY K. K. SNYDER
Regardless of how you spend your day, you’re sure to get hungry at some point, and if you’re surrounded by salt water, eating seafood is a must, unless you’re apt to break out in an allergic fit. Those of you not prone to rashes and swelling airways at the sight of seafood should head straight for Barbara Jean’s.
It’s a popular spot and there’s usually a waiting line, but don’t let that deter you. Once you’re seated and place your order for the tastiest crab ever, you’ll be treated to a generous basket of Barbara Jean’s fresh baked bread–pumpkin bread, sweet jalapeño cornbread and homemade wheat rolls. The breads are so popular that beginning this October the restaurant will offer the bread batters for sale in its online store. But don’t fill up on this delicious treat, save room for the feature attraction.
Those who consider themselves something of a seasoned she-crab soup and crab cake aficionado will see the light with just one bite. You will never taste crab like you taste crab at this local favorite.
“The secret ingredient is crab meat,” teases Barbara Jean Barta, who has owned the island eatery with hubby, Jim, for the past eight years. “If you don’t use it, they don’t taste the same.”
Her tongue-in-cheek attitude about the masterpieces she creates is well deserved. These filler-free crab cakes are so nearly pure crab meat that you’ll want to eat it painstakingly slow and savor every morsel. So popular are they that the Bartas will ship them to you on dry ice lest you faint dead away before you get back to St. Simons to eat them again. These, too, are available through the Internet, and come with a DVD of Barbara Jean demonstrating her crab cake cooking techniques.
America’s Favorite Seafood Dives
Barbara Jean’s, St. Simons Island
What’s now a small, family run chain began here. The crab cakes get star billing, along with the bread, but save room for the Chocolate Stuff dessert, topped with homemade whipped cream..
St Simons Island in 48 Hours
St. Simons Island is a favorite destination for lovers of great food, world-class accommodations and outdoor fun. Because this island has so much to offer, we have created a 48-hour to-do guide to help you make the most of your time while searching out local culinary and cultural favorites. Don’t forget to take time to sit, walk and play on the beach too!
Friday 12 p.m.: Barbara Jean’s, Mallery Street, St. Simons Island. A local favorite for lunch and Dinner, the crabcakes and she-crab soup are out of this world.