What You Won’t See on the Food Network…

… is a diner I drive past every day and was the very first place I stopped to eat on my first trip here, when I was on the cusp of calling the beaches area home.  I sat inside The Sun Dog Diner with my  two toddlers, my babies who are now 13 and 12, while my husband took a conference call in our parked car, outside.  The diner’s interior is unchanged from that day, when it was so homey and unique, and my children were given a basket of crayons to color on the place mats while I contemplated the generous menu and a whole new life in a warm climate by the sea.
I probably ordered one of The Sun Dog’s juicy hamburgers, which are famously prepared in any number of ways, as I’m sure I wasn’t on a diet (judging from the pictures of me in early 2000) and no doubt, the requisite basket of fries that any good diner serves up.  I remember the afternoon sun of an early January day coming in through its western facing windows and it was probably after the actual hour for lunch because the place was relatively quiet, as it was the other day, when I stopped in to get the skinny on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, the Food Network’s program with Guy Fieri.  The Sun Dog had been chosen as a featured location, along with a couple of other Atlantic Beach restaurants, and I knew the crew had been there earlier in the week, filming.  It’s all very exciting to know that any local place will be aired on the program. It’s just that the The Sun Dog’s  an integral part of my neighborhood, so imagine my disappointment (mine? how about theirs?) when the bartender chatted with me and said that the production crew had decided against filming in the Sun Dog and moved on to another location.  The production crew had chosen certain items from the menu for the food prep portion of the show, while the Sun Dog staff thought privately that perhaps the art of preparing another of their popular menu items would provide more entertainment value. But naturally they complied with the production team, and in the end they weren’t chosen because, indeed, the menu items were just too simple (but no less delicious) for featuring on television, I suppose.  The Sun Dog offers a truly diverse selection of foods that cater to a variety of foodie preferences in casual dining but singularly cooked to perfection, and certainly not just burgers and fries. But you know how it is in television … “one day you’re in, and the next day, you’re out…” so the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives crew moved on to their next local venue (another feature for a different post), and leaving ‘atlantic beachlife’ to bring you my version of The Sun Dog: ten years of food and fun.
The Sun Dog is definitely a local favorite. You can get lunch and dinner, and stay right on into the night, when the music starts up.  I’ve taken nearly every visitor I’ve had in the past ten years for a a meal at The Sun Dog and I can’t think of a single one that we haven’t enjoyed in all that time.  
What I’ve appreciated about the place, too, is its nightlife, close to home.   Whether you’re 21 or 71, you can find your tribe there.  It’s one of my favorite bars for people watching later in the night, and even more fun?  The ladies room conversation during a weekend night, anytime after  about 10:30pm.  The sweet spot for powder room confessionals is probably 10:30pm – 12:30am because between those hours, the girls and women are still hopeful for a good outcome – if they’re looking for one.    It can be all rather poignant really, for after a bit of private, ladies’ room girl talk, I can then monitor the goings-on from my perch at the bar. Hey, I’m entertained by all the male and female posturing and flirtation, while my husband is just enjoying  the band, where the music is live, the talent is local and the kitchen stays open til late to accommodate those appetites that will inevitably crave quick, and casual food after a few drinks and the night’s worn on.

Not to worry: there are always cabs circling the block, looking for people to drive home if you  decide that the better choice is to leave your car parked until tomorrow.  What makes Atlantic and Neptune Beaches such a great place to visit – apart from the sweet sandy oceanfront and high/low choice of accommodations – is the ability to shop, dine, and stay out late to dance until closing time while visiting several local night spots on foot (to call them merely bars does them a great disservice)  and walk the one block back to  your hotel or motel.  It’s all right there, variety, in a lovely, small town environment.  When was the last time you could say that  about your vacation spot?  Just another reason why it’s so great to live here, too.

The Sun Dog Diner: the family diner with live music and a bar scene that kicks in long after your kids should be in bed anyway.  A Neptune Beach institution for over twenty years, it’s just an everyday part of our small town, and across the street from the beach.

Unfortunately, you won’t see it on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, but the next time you  come out to the beach you will.  Call me.   I’ll meet you at The Dog.


  1. Sammi says:

    yum yum yum sounds delicious

    (hello by the way, i havent been here for a while- my internet usage has been seriously down due to ridiculous amounts of working hours

  2. Karen says:

    Hope to meet you there someday when we're brousing REAL ESTATE!!!… *sigh*

    Have I told you lately how tired I am of this cold grey weather? Let me tell you again…

    Loved your memory of that first time at the diner…the promise of things to come. 🙂

  3. AFlowerWithoutAName says:

    Seems as if they missed a good place.

  4. Maya @ Completely Coastal says:

    Love a good diner!! I browsed through your site…, Neptun Beach sounds like a great place to live! And I saw a new side of Florida too, the Springs! Wonderful. I hope to one day live in a warmer climate, so I'm always on the look out for great coastal towns.

  5. genieo says:

    Looks yummy! and what a yummy spot to stop, your website is!

    When I lived in Tahoe it would have been fun to do vacation spot blogging – a great way to love where you live more. Hmm, maybe I can still do it…

    Wonderful job Jeanne!

  6. Terra says:

    This is a fun glimpse.

    Jeannie, as an aside, the comments on my blog are washing in and then out again, like shells on the beach.

    This morning the five original comments were back, but your newest one was gone. And a few minutes ago, another another one must have washed out to sea because there were only four. Comments on all of my posts are like this, they come and go.

    Alas. I'm laughing now, and feel open to whatever comes in or goes out, like the beach. 🙂

  7. Bev says:

    I love the Sundog!!

  8. 01001111 says:

    My interest is piqued and now I'm eager to give this place a try. Great picture of the interior.

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