On most days, Ernie operates Just the Cook from the St. Andrews Marina, docked to serve breakfast and lunch to nearby workers.
At 11 a.m. Tuesday, I parked at the marina and walked down to the 25-foot
“The Diver Down Burger is awesome,” said Ernie, who could be heard on speaker. “It is 5 to 6 inches tall when it’s all put together.”
The 8 ounce burger is topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, bacon and an egg.
“I did not want to just do burgers and dogs unless they were elevated,” said Ernie, who makes the eight-hour trip to
“I know the burger sounds weird with an egg,” Jim said. “But it’s so good, an overeasy egg. The first time I had one, I think I ate it for eight days in a row.”
Breakfast items, such as the popular chorizo burrito, were still written on the chalkboard menu hanging on the outside of the boat.
“Everything has to be in the hand when you’re standing around and don’t have a plate,” said Jim, as he pointed out the words “En La Mano!” written above the door frame inside the boat.
When the boat is docked at the marina, a couple of sets of white plastic tables and chairs are set out for customers. Depending on the weather, you also might find Just the Cook out at
On Wednesdays, Just the Cook joins up with the St. Andrew Bay Ferry to serve guests from Marriott’s Legends Edge Sunset, Dolphin and Dinner Cruise to
“I add specials like Avocado Crab Stack with Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup. Cheesy Serrano Polenta with Sautéed Shrimp, Wild Warm Mushroom and Goat Cheese Salad with a Balsamic reduction,” Ernie said.
On Tuesday, Brandi Carter, who had been helping
“It’s pretty neat, a floating restaurant,” said Brandi, a
“Good choice,” Jim said, as he grabbed everything out of the refrigerator, which had a Salt Life sticker on it.
All drinks are free with meals, from soda and water to sweet tea and beer, which they just started giving away Saturday from the iced down keg on board.
Jim sliced the large white onion as I sat in one of the chairs on the deck. I started to smell the burger cooking on the Blackstone gas griddle, which he set a frying pan on to cook the egg in.
“We can’t have cross-contamination,” Jim said. “Ernie’s a real stickler about everything. Everything is cooked on demand, nothing precooked. So, you do wait a little longer, but everything’s fresh.”
Burgers take about 15 minutes, while burritos about 10. “It also helps keep consistency in
The Weapon of Mass Destruction is filled with Mexican pulled pork, Heirloom tomatoes, onions, cilantro and Mexican table cream, stuffed in a 9-inch burrito.
For a 17-pound pork butt, Ernie adds a half a cup to a cup of tella cherry pepper.
“I coat it, bury it, then fry it to sear it into the meat,” said Ernie, who also adds cayenne, cumin, ancho chili peppers and chipotle peppers. “I cook it six hours, then pull it, squish it and cook it another three.”
I looked over and noticed Jim had a popcorn machine going in the boat. All lunch and dinner meals are served on a bed of gourmet popcorn sprayed with truffle oil.
Ernie doesn’t have a fryer on the boat, but that’s about to change. About three weeks ago, Emeril Lagasse docked his boat, Ole Miss, next to Just the Cook at the St. Andrews Marina.
“ ‘He said, ‘That is crazy smart!’” Ernie recalled.
When Emeril found out he didn’t have a deep fryer on board, he said he would have one of his signature deep fryers
Though Ernie will keep making popcorn, “such a novelty thing,” he is excited about new possibilities, such as Parmesan fries and battered shrimp.
On Tuesday, when the burger came out on top of the popcorn, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get my mouth around it.
“That’s a big man burger,” Brandi said.
JUST THE COOK
What: Floating restaurant
Specialties: Dorado Con Crema Mahi Fish Tacos, Mexican pulled pork
Hours: Opens at 8 a.m. daily for breakfast and lunch; dinner served on weekends
Details or to-go orders: 610-1775 or Ernie@JustTheCook.com