Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River // Palatka, Florida

Corky Bells on the St. Johns River, Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River // Palatka, Florida

Dependably good and fast, Corky Bell’s on the River never fails to deliver. When you want to hear Southern spoken, see some alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the St. Johns River, and eat something delicious, this is the place. Right now, they do offer carry out, and hopefully we can enjoy their riverfront views again very soon.

Corky Bells on the St. Johns River, Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River // Palatka, Florida

Riverfront Views From All Tables

Start with ordering a truly Southern appetizer while you’re waiting for your sweet tea and admiring the views at Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River. Alligator, frog legs, soft shell crab – if it lives in the water, you probably can order it as an appetizer here.

For entrees, there’s everything from platters for two that actually feed five or six, down to smaller senior portions on everyday favorites.

My go-to order here is fried shrimp, hush puppies, green beans, French fries or cheese grits. I don’t eat much fried food, but when I do, I don’t hold back. Usually, their portions are so generous that you should plan to bring a container for your leftovers.

What to Order

When you are preparing to order your meal, make sure to select a couple side dishes, since most meals come with two. If there’s anything with the word “casserole” in it for the daily side dish special, jump on that. It’s going to be good, and it’s probably going to run out by the time everyone else at your table orders.

They have a house salad dressing, though ranch is probably the most-ordered here. However, this isn’t the restaurant you visit for a salad, so keep looking.

Corky Bells on the St. Johns River, Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River // Palatka, Florida

Seafood Prepared How You Like It

Shrimp, fish, gator, clams, oysters, you name it – they’ve probably got it, and you can order in a dozen ways. Fried, grilled, blackened, steamed, poached, sautee’d, baked… they can do it. Heck, if you want half your shrimp blackened and half grilled, they probably would do it.

Some of the favorite specialty dishes at Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River are Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Creamy Seafood Alfredo’s, Corky’s Stuffed Fish and Swamp Treats like Gator Tail and Frog legs.

Desserts – if you even have room after the generous portions – are pretty standard, and their Key Lime pie always is a nice palate finisher.

If you are fortunate and eating at Corky Bell’s on the River around the holidays, look in the lobby for the display of fruitcake. They go fast. Take one home, soak it with a quarter cup of rum this week, a quarter cup of bourbon next week, and your Christmas Eve last-minute gift wrapping will go very well.

Corky Bells on the St. Johns River, Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River // Palatka, Florida

Endless River Views

There are a couple inside dining rooms for the four days a year that Florida does not boast perfect weather, and an inside bar. Outside, there is an acre of deck with spectacular views of the St. Johns River. The decks are divided, so that only three to six tables are in any one area, so you never feel crowded or experience too much noisy chatter.

Grab a table with an umbrella by the river, and feel like you have the place to yourself! There is an outside bar as well, and sometimes there’s live music.

Corky Bells on the St. Johns River, Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River // Palatka, Florida

Wildlife Sightings

You might spot a lazy alligator lounging along the bank of the river, absorbing some heat from the Florida sun, and if you are patient, you are sure to see either egrets, osprey, bald eagles, herons, or all of those. The navigational markers on that stretch of river are full of osprey nests, and the restaurant is situated in the curve of the river called “Devil’s Elbow.”

Corky Bells on the St. Johns River, Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River // Palatka, Florida

View From the River

When we run the Pride of Palatka, a favorite spot to cruise past is Corky Bell’s. We usually toot the ship’s horn a couple times and wave. Our passengers love seeing Corky Bell’s from the river; it’s a very different perspective from shoreside. You can read more about that here: St. Johns River // Bartram Frolic // Riverboat Tour in Palatka, Florida.

Corky Bells on the St. Johns River, Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River // Palatka, Florida

Riverside Dining

Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River is a local favorite because prices are very reasonable, and the service is quick and efficient. You’ll be surprised how fast your food arrives.

Portions are generous – might as well ask for a “to-go” box right when you are ordering. Better yet, bring your own and eliminate a single-use takeout container. Plus, the view is fantastic, under the old oaks on the river.

Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River

Charles “Corky” Bell opened his first restaurant at Pacetti’s on Trout Creek in 1979. He and his wife Betty opened Corky Bell’s in Palatka at Gator Landing across from Devil’s Elbow – a bend in the river.

The Devil’s Elbow was a marine repair and supply yard from 1938 until 1995. Owner Frank Oliver built a restaurant with a view of this section of the St. Johns River, and now the restaurant is Corky Bell’s.

185 South Highway 17, East Palatka, Fl 32131, 386-325-1094, 386-329-9300

Hours of Operation are usually Sunday-Thursday 11:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. and Friday & Saturday 11:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. However, currently they cloase at 9:00 p.m. daily due to Coronavirus restrictions.

Corky Bells on the St. Johns River, Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River // Palatka, Florida

Reef-Safe Toiletries and Sunscreen

When you travel, don’t forget to bring a small backpack or bag for carrying a few items to the pool or river with you. A dry bag gives you even more flexibility and security.

My Stream2Sea dry bag is the perfect size for all my sunscreen, bathing suit or foundation garments, sunglasses case, a book, and a few other items for excursions to the pool or gym. My discount code “DeepWH” gets you 10% off everything.  Stream2Sea have reef-safe hand sanitizer, sunscreen, leave-in conditioner, lip balm, shampoo, body wash, and even mask defog! Using my link won’t increase you price, and I might receive a small incentive for introducing you to reef-safe sunscreens and more.

Corky Bells on the St. Johns River, Corky Bell’s on the St. Johns River // Palatka, Florida

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