By: Katherine Coffey Jones
They don’t call it the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party for nothing.
On Halloween, the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators take the field — and football fans take to eating, drinking and, of course, cheering. Whether you’re braving the heat of game day in Jacksonville or heading to St. Simons Island to join in the revelry, there are plenty of options to enjoy yourself in both cities. But doing a little research on restaurants and bars before you go can save precious time — time better spent rooting for your favorite team. Here are a few suggestions:
St. Simons Island
1. Southern Soul Barbeque
Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
2020 Demere Road, St. Simons Island. 912-638-7685, www.southernsoulbbq.com.
The most popular barbecue spot on the island, Southern Soul Barbeque is not to be missed. It is a good idea, however, to plan ahead because the lines can get long. Although you can wait to enjoy your brisket, pulled pork or ribs at the bar, inside the restaurant or at the picnic tables under a covered patio, consider calling ahead for takeout. Then enjoy your smoked turkey breast and fried green beans picnic-style at one of the many public green spaces on St. Simons. The barbecue joint also has a full selection of craft beers, cold drafts and wine, so don’t forget to grab a drink while you wait.
2. Rafters Blues & Raw Bar
Open 2 p.m.-2 a.m. daily; opens at noon Saturday.
315 1/2 Mallery St., St. Simons Island. 912-638-3883.
This is a great local spot for reasonably priced drinks and a buzzing atmosphere. If you’re looking for a place to talk to someone new, hear live music and eat a cheap burrito, this is it. There are no frills, but no fuss, either. It’s equipped with pool tables and room for dancing. Rafters is open until 2 a.m., so there’s plenty of time for one more round. Just watch out for the stairs.
3. Latitude 31 & the Rah Bar
Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
370 Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island. 912-635-3305, latitude31jekyllisland.com.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path option, this crab shack fits the bill. The small restaurant and bar, on the wharf in the Jekyll Island Historic Landmark District, has been in business for more than 20 years. With its Oct. 30 bash — which includes a costume party, live music starting at 7 p.m. (winners receive a $50 bar tab) and $8 pitchers of beer all day — this could easily be your pregame hangout. Crack open some crab legs on the deck’s picnic tables and enjoy the spectacular view of Jekyll Creek. Dogs are welcome.
1. The Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails
Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
400 N. Hogan St., Jacksonville, Fla. 904-353-9717, candyapplecafeandcocktails.com.
Voted the Best New Restaurant for 2015, the Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails serves breakfast, brunch and lunch. With its menu of French and Southern fusion cuisine and a bar filled with beer, wine and craft cocktails, this restaurant offers an upscale game-day experience. And since the game is on Halloween, don’t miss the candy cocktails such as the Pop Rockadopolis made with vodka, Cointreau, lime juice, cranberry and Pop Rocks straight in the glass. This downtown spot is popular, so reservations are strongly suggested.
2. Burrito Gallery
Open 7 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
21 E. Adams St., Jacksonville, Fla. 904-598-2922, www.burritogallery.com.
Burrito Gallery boasts burritos, tacos and quesadillas as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. The Tex-Mex spot is located downtown, and it features local music, a full bar and patio for outdoor dining.
3. Black Sheep Restaurant
Open 10:30 a.m.-midnight Friday; 9:30 a.m.-midnight Saturday; 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday.
1534 Oak St., Jacksonville, Fla. 904-380-3091, blacksheep5points.com.
If you’re looking to escape downtown, this Riverside neighborhood restaurant is a great option. It offers a rooftop bar with a spectacular view of the St. Johns River. Black Sheep sources most of its ingredients from local and regional farmers and purveyors. While you’re there, indulge in a cocktail such as the House Recipe Rock & Rye, with peach- and cherry-infused Bulleit rye, orange and lemon oil, rock candy and spices.