New To Jacksonville -- Suggestions?
My fiance and I just moved to Jax, out by the beaches, and are looking for great places to eat. We're both NYC-transplants, and love to eat, especially more adventurous fare. I'm a vegetarian, but he's a big meat eater and loves BBQ. I would love any suggestions, especially sushi, Thai, and, burrittos!!
thanks for the suggestions; i was able to visit sierra grille, taste of thai, and ragtime during my 24 hour trip. my overall impression of jacksonville eating is that it's fairly generic, but i'm trying to be optimistic in that there's a lot of room for growth!
at sierra i had a spicy shrimp and a grilled fish taco. the place reminded me of being at a baja fresh, with the salsa bar. fish was tender and not at all overcooked. shrimp had a little smokiness/grilled flavor to it, which was nice. i was so hungry, i inhaled the tacos down. and i was thankful to see sweet tea. :)
at taste of thai i had the tom yum gai soup and nam sad (pork/ginger/onion/cilantro salad). since i walked in at 8:30 on a weekday night, i was worried about it being too late to eat. but the owner (?) welcomed me warmly, and made sure both dishes were plenty spicy (they were!). another couple walked in after me, and chatted with the owner over their dinner. i have a feeling this is a very neighborhoody place.
i ended up at ragtime tavern for lunch--had the lobster taco, blackened scallops, and on a whim, beignets. the housemade salsa served with the lobster taco was nice and spicy. blackened scallops were cooked just right. beginets were a little doughy and served with a warm chocolate dipping sauce. service was efficient and friendly.
coming back in two weeks; on the list is aurathai, mojo's , cilantro. possibly blue bamboo... if anyone has other (southside/deerwood/UNF) suggestions, please let me know!
Some thoughts on burritos etc. I agree with the comments in this thread on the lack of good Mexican food here. But sometimes we just've GOT to have tacos or a burrito (usually about once or twice a week). And then what? I would love to hear others' suggestions.
We usually go to Nopalera (on Hendricks Ave. in San Marco, though the other locations around town are just as good) for tacos (the tacos al pastor are usually, though not always, great) and cheap beer. The burritos aren't very impressive, though.
Sierra Grille may be a big chain, but we think they make a reasonably good fish taco -- hard to find around here.
Burrito Gallery downtown on East Adams is one of the more interesting taquerias around town: they make a good burritos and tocos, and they have some interesting options (including curry chicken and blackened mahi). The owners are Guatemalan and they were promising for a while to open a more upscale Guatemalan restaurant upstairs from Burrito Gallery, but we've seen no signs that they're moving in that direction.
Sorry I haven't weighed in. I'm not particularly up on what's current at the Beaches, but tell your hubby that there's a new location opening for Mojo's BBQ on Beach Blvd. east of the Homestead somewhere. You'll likely find it in one of the new strip malls opening up along that stretch before you get to the cemetery, I believe. I just had a killer chopped brisket sandwich for lunch today - the meat was so good I just pulled it out of the sandwich and started to eat it as is - the sauce would just get in the way. They should open up sometime before the end of November.
I know the Al's Pizza over here in Riverside is pretty reliable for a nice thin crust pie that has real character - there's at least one out there in you part of the world. Take your hubby and advise him to order the cheese steak calzone - steak, mozzarella and onions in a really nice calzone crust. Murder.
I think the sushi here is pretty bad - ditto for thai food - and I stay away from Mexican food. But no one here has mentioned the following on the beaches. In no particular order - Eleven South (very good - upscale); Village Inn and Waffle House for greasy spoon breakfasts whenever you want breakfast; Sneakers (great sports bar with so-so food but the basics are ok); Beach Diner (one in Atlantic Beach - one in Ponte Vedra - decent diner type food); Mezzaluna (very good Italian food - chef used to be executive chef at Augustine Grill).
Medure's in PVB is upscale - variable - sometimes it's very good - sometimes not. But I agree that Opus 39 is currently the best upscale restaurant in the area - and - if upscale dining is an occasional splurge - I'd splurge at Opus 39. Note that the owners of Opus 39 have opened a second more casual restaurant - The Tasting Room - in St. Augustine. Got good reviews. Haven't tried it yet. Ditto with Salt - the new restaurant at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island.
The best dining in Jacksonville is - in general - not on the beaches. The usual suspects - Bistro Aix - bb's - Biscotti's - Pastiche - etc. They are kind of far to drive for dinner - but we frequently combine lunch or dinner with shopping - a show - something at the convention center - etc.
By the way - I don't know if you're beer drinkers - but there are some excellent microbreweries here - Ragtime - 7 Bridges - A1A in St. Augustine - and River City Brewing.
I suggest subscribing to Jacksonville Magazine and looking at its web site. You can slog through the restaurants listed there (especially its top 25) over the course of the next few years - find the ones you like - and the ones you don't like.
You absolutely must go to Ragtime Tavern at the beach and have their daily tuna special. Its something I look forward to every Friday after work.
Also near the beach is a local favorite for breakfast, The Beach Hut. There's nothing special about it, but its something you have to do if youre at the beach. I recommend getting the fruit bowl, not the fruit cup, but the fruit bowl as part of your breakfast. A whole cantelope carved out and filled with fresh fruit and topped with shredded coconut.
Don't go to St. Johns seafood. There are some dives near mayport that have fresh shrimp and crab. The tuna at Ragtime is consistently better than Seven Bridges near Tinseltown and AIA in St. Augustine.
I'm a huge fan of Bistro Aix in San Marco.
For CHEAP, quality seafood I recommend The Seafood Kitchen on Atlantic Boulevard right by where it intersects w/ Penman Rd - It's a fantastic lunch spot. Just don't look at the kitchen too closely.
As a previous poster mentioned, Chizu is good. For thai, I really like Old Siam.
We're also NYC transplants to Jacksonville, and (having been here eight years now) all we can say is that the eating is getting much much better -- though we still have a long distance to go.
Here are some of our recent favorites:
Cilantro (Indian, on San Jose in Mandarin): a menu that you'll recognize from Sixth Street (plus a little more Southern Indian), but (very surprisingly) better Indian than just about anything we ate in NYC. We recommend this place highly.
Blue Bamboo (Pan-Asian, on Southside): no major surprises, but plenty good enough. If you order their Indonesian entrees, ask for Indonesian preparation/spicing, or else you you won't get it.
Saigon Cafe (Vietnamese, on Cassat Avenue): just about the only Vietnamese restaurant you'll find in Jacksonville. We like the place, but don't recommend it to those who value atmosphere/decor.
I used to live in Jax Beach and am currently visiting my Sister in PVB. We discussed your post over morning coffee and came up with a few suggestions:
Sister tells me that Chizo on 3rd in Jax Beach is where to go for Sushi.
My husband and I love Thai, our favorte in Jax Beach is the Thai Room. We also like Pom's Thai Bistro in San Marco and the Thai Palace on San Jose Blvd. The San Marco area has a fun village feel with shops and a small movie theatre. There is a great little chocolate shop next to the Thai Palace.
Sierra Grill at Butler and A1A serves decent fresh tex mex. I love the burritos, fish tacos, salads and platters. Casual spot with counter service and a salsa bar. Eat in or take out.
Opus 39 gets my vote for fine upscale price fixed dining. It is worth the drive to St. Augustine. We had a nice dinner here last year and the chef did a fine job of creating a meal for my vegetarian hubby. Your waiter will ask about any dietary restrictions at the time you place your order. http://www.opus39.com/
Marker 32 on Beach Blvd. has always been one of my favorites for upscale waterfront (intercoastal) dining. http://www.marker32.com/
Chef Gerald's in Ponte Vedra is a nice small restaurant with a neighborhood feel.
The French Pantry (off Hwy 95 on Powell) is a great bakery and lunch spot. Great breads, pasteries and desserts. I have often placed special orders here for the holidays. Their primary focus is on catering to many of the top restuarants in the area. Sister tells me the Patisserie at A1A and Solono is fiarly new to the area and has great pastries and desserts.