The History of Bennie's
Bennie’s Red Barn is the oldest, privately owned restaurant on St. Simons Island. Bennie & Louise Gentile built the barn to be a restaurant. When Bennie was in the war in Germany, he took cover in an old barn. It is said the interior of that barn, was his inspiration for building this restaurant. The wood in the main structure was cut & milled on St. Simons Island. The large driveway posts were recovered from the original wooden causeways over to the island. Many of the bricks were repurposed from old warehouses in middle Georgia. You may even find yourself sitting in a chair from the grand dining room of the historical Oglethorpe Hotel.
The Barn opened for dinner New Year’s Eve 1954. The Escorts, an important social club back in the day, had their holiday party at Bennie’s that night. To this day, they still rent out the restaurant each winter for their annual supper party. Alvin Davis, a local icon came from the old Frederica yacht Club with Bennie, Bennie, known as Papa, and Alvin have both since passed away. Today, the second and third generations operate the family business.
In the winter, there will be a roaring fire in the giant fireplace. Many couples have become engaged in front of the fireplace and return each year for anniversaries. At Christmas, there is a huge tree in the middle of the dining room and Santa Clause visits with guests on Christmas Eve. For more than 60 years, locals and visitors have celebrated special family gatherings at Bennie’s Red Barn. The private Loft upstairs & “The Club” area in the lean-to are unique settings for weddings, rehearsal dinners and other special events.
Back in the day, Bennie required coat & tie attire. Today, things are a bit more casual but the family & staff try to keep many of the old time traditions alive. For instance, the house salad is still marinated in a garlic, vinegar & olive oil dressing and is intended to be served somewhat wilted. The servers will still greet you in their coat and tie and recite the evening’s menu tableside. Many of the team members have been dedicated to giving fine southern hospitality for more than 25 years! To top off your visit to Bennie’s, you may want to try the world famous, historical “Raccoon”. This after dinner treat was created especially for a group of local businessmen who have met at the same table, (also named after them) at the same time every week for many generations.