Right On Course

Ponte Vedra is known for a few things—great golf courses, beautiful beaches and gated communities. Most of PVB’s restaurants (Medure, Caffe Andiamo, Ruth’s Chris, Aqua Grille) have been around for years, but the newest fixture on the fine dining scene offers yet another option for those craving a steak and a nice glass of wine or a platter of raw shellfish and a cocktail.
Vernon’s, the latest signature restaurant of the Sawgrass Marriott Resort, is part of a multi-million-dollar property-wide refresh that has transformed nearly every aspect of the resort—from the lobby to the suites—and is named for Vernon Kelly, one of the visionaries responsible for crafting TPC Sawgrass. The sleek entry hosts a dramatic indoor fire pit, modern decor, and a bar serving cocktails created by experienced mixologists. The menu features local seafood, chops and an impressive wine list, and the floor-to-ceiling windows, with views of the resort’s waterfall and lagoon, certainly add to the ambiance.
The restaurant’s impressive raw bar serves a host of selections, including tuna tartare with crispy wonton and Blue Point oysters with champagne mignonette. The iced seafood tower, priced at $22 per person, is a particularly indulgent choice, and comes with oysters, shrimp, crab and lobster.
For those who prefer their appetizers cooked, there’s plenty from which to choose. The lobster strudel, with boursin, lemon and chervil, is just as rich as it sounds and a filling alternate to some of the lighter dishes on the menu. If you just want a light bite, try the Prince Edward Island mussels, which come sautéed in white wine, shallot and herbs (with plenty of fresh bread to sop up all the delicious juices).
Speaking of sopping, you might want to save room for chowder—the chef’s chowder bar contains a rotating list of selections (think datil-spiced cioppino or gator tail gumbo), each of which is accompanied by chef’s sea salt crackers and comes complimentary with all entrées.
The entrée portion of the menu is divided into three sections. Meat-lovers will likely gravitate to the steaks and chops selection, which includes the usual suspects (New York strip, filet mignon) and some other hearty dishes, such as veal porterhouse and Colorado lamb chops.
Our money’s on the seafood. Vernon’s offers a rotating selection of seasonal fish and diners can choose from a number of “enhancements” to add to their filet of choice. The Nancy, a melange of smoked bacon, capers, blistered tomato and cippolini onion, is particularly good served over a heartier fish, such as swordfish. Diners can also choose from Vernon’s signature items, which run the gamut from a Minorcan bullabesa (a stew of shellfish, local fish, chorizo in a saffron and tomato broth) to a mushroom pappardelle pasta with truffle essence and black garlic.
Sawgrass Marriott Resort, Ponte Vedra Beach • 285-777, sawgrassmarriott.com 
Hours: Open nightly, 5-10 PM
Prices: Entrées range from $22-$50, but some fluctuate according to the market price of fish and lobster.
Parking: Though there is a parking lot located a short walk from the entrance of the resort, use the valet service (the hostess will validate your ticket).
Something Sweet: If you’re craving dessert, it’s best to order it around the time your entrées arrive. The signature desserts take about 30 minutes for preparation and selections include molten chocolate cake and Johnny cake cobbler with white balsamic gelato.
Wine & Dine: Vernon’s eases the wine selection process by including a range of prices and varietals, including a section devoted to $30 bottles, and one devoted to golf legends such as Greg Norman malbec and Arnold Palmer chardonnay.
by Virginia Chamlee  //  photos by agnes lopez