We’ll be featuring local restaurants from time-to-time, and today it is T Ray’s. Located in the next block over from the Inn on 8th Street, it obviously isn’t the stereotype of a restaurant. In fact, there is virtually no signage and yes, it looks pretty much like an Exxon gas station. Ray Sr. has owned the station since 1969 and it was originally a full service station with two bays for typical car maintenance and repair. After T Ray started working with his father, they realized that it was going to be a challenge providing for all their family needs with the thin margins of pumping gas and car repairs. So they looked at a lot of options including a convenience store, grille, gift shop and finally decided on a restaurant. The goal was a combination burger joint, down home cooking, and fresh local seafood. T-Ray began closing in the bays and over the course of months converted it into a kitchen and seated restaurant. And…that is pretty much how it is today. They always say you can tell a good eating spot by seeing where the locals and construction people eat, and there are plenty of both every day at T Ray’s. However, T Ray says the mix has grown from 98% locals a few years ago to about 50/50 locals and tourists as notariety and referrals have increased.
I can tell you from personal experience the burgers are great, the fried chicken awesome, and the fresh fried local shrimp “to die for”. The catch phrase “Eat here and get Gas” was of course a play on words since you could indeed gas up your vehicle and have lunch at the same place. Unfortunately that ended in August when new rules were enacted that required double walled fiberglass gas storage tanks for gas stations. The installation was a bit too pricey versus the limited sales of fuel in recent years. So..the old tanks came out of the ground in August of last year and now it is just a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. You can still get T shirts and hats with the logo and it makes a very unique gift for that favorite person you know back home.
Both breakfast and lunch are served and most days if you arrive at around noon, you’ll be standing in line to order and most of the seats are occupied. A lot of local business and talk goes on here as well as some serious football discussions. Most days there are specials (like chicken and dumplings or barbeque) in addition to the regular menu. It’s always fun to take out of town visitors to T Ray’s, pull in by the gas pumps and watch their faces as you explain that this is indeed the restaurant. Haven’t had anyone yet that didn’t enjoy the food and the uniqueness of the venue!
I can remember when growing up the small local diners and grilles my parents would fequent on Friday nights. T Ray’s brings back a lot of those memories. So when you come stay with us, get ready for a unique and fun eating experience that will truly be different than most others you have here on Amelia Island and probably anywhere else you travel.