I'm going to be in Jacksonville at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront for the first week of September and was wondering what is decent in the area (looking for walking distance to within a 10 minute drive)...
All types of food are acceptable, but not looking for "fine dining" as the convention I'm at is fairly casual...given that I'm from Canada and there isn't much here, I would be happy with a decent Cuban or Mexican recommendation if such a thing exists in Jax.
Thanks in advance!
Hey Mike, you'll be on the northbank of the river on the downtown side right by a touristy shopping center called The Landing. I haven't tried any place there except the Mexican place called Dona Maria's and it was awful. However, a short drive away - just over the Main St bridge on the south side of the river - is a neighborhood called San Marco with several good places including a Mexican place called Le Nopalera located at 1631 Hendricks Ave and it's only about a mile and a half from your hotel. There's lots of other good food in San Marco on San Marco Blvd but just past that neighborhood there is a Cuban place that i've been meaning to try called Havana Jax located at 2578 Atlantic Blvd and it's only about three miles from your hotel.
There are a bunch of good lunch spots in downtown Jacksonville about 5 or 6 blocks from your hotel. Chew (more upscale) and Burrito Gallery on Adams Street. Near Hemming Plaza there is Magnificat Cafe (French inspired) and International Cafe which has a killer cuban sandwich.
The Landing is kind of a culinary wasteland. Bourbon Bayou or Bennys Steakhouse are decent - owned by the same people. Also, Mongos is a Mongolian barbecue which can be fun if you have never been before.
If you drive over the bridge to San Marco, you can hit Metro Diner (local place for homestyle food), Bistro Aix or BBs (both more upscale open for lunch and dinner) and check out Mathews Market for pre-made meals/salads/sandwiches.
San Marco is a great place to eat. You will find a lot of nice spots. Le Nopalera is always a good one (can't beat cheap Mexican, that's good). You also have Pom's Thai Bistro, which is really amazing. If your really not picky, the Landing will do. I'm not a fan, but anything tastes great after a great drink.
Had a good time in Jacksonville, despite the water damage to the hotel and constant interruptions from the clean up crew...however I must admit, the Riverfront area was a bit of a disappointment.
We ate at b.b.'s the first night and had an enjoyable experience. We enjoyed the daily cheese platter for our appetizer and were happily impressed with the complimentary selection of cheeses and sides to go with them. The particular favourite was a smoked blue cheese. My guest had the soup of the day (which I forget) and the fried calimari. The calimari was lightly breaded and crisp but I found it overwhelmed by the garnish of a mountain of shredded carrot and the massive fried eggroll skin...it was a big plate but not a lot of calimari.
I had the White Truffle pizza and was impressed by the quality of ingredients and enjoyed the truffle oil. The wild mushrooms were earthy and well complimented by arugula, prosciutto and light cheese. For dessert we shared a flourless rocky road cake, which was a huge serving of dark, dense and rich chocolatey goodness.
We went to the San Marco Deli for lunch after being unable to find someone at Pom's Thai Bistro to serve us (iron gates, an empty patio, an empty lower level and no one to greet guests at the entrance to the upstairs bistro do NOT make a welcoming experience to guests). Both of us enjoyed the cuban sandwich, which had all the requisite ingredients and was crisply pressed and cooked. It wasn't on real cuban bread but the sourdough roll it was on was quite tasty. The side coleslaw was delicious and the service at the counter and table was friendly and efficient. I would highly recommend this place for a quick fresh takeout sandwich.
We went for a wine tasting at the Grotto Wine bar ($5.00 for 6 wines on Thursday nights - a fabulous deal). The sommalier was knowledgable and friendly, although the bar was packed with guests. The bottle service was also pleasant and efficient and we had a fun evening there.
Bistro Aix was the standout meal of the week. We were seated promptly and this place is definitely a bistro - crowded, noisy, uncomfortable chairs and good food. Our server was friendly and knowledgable and gave us good honest selections without trying to upsell. We shared an order of the blue cheese potato chips, which were crisply cooked and laden with good blue cheese. My guests had the penne pasta, prosciutto salad, and the fish "Aixoise" and I had the seared tuna, which I ordered blue rare. The tuny came slightly more medium but this was rectified quickly without much fuss and we were also comped two desserts.
Desserts were the banana chocolate cake and the strawberry short cake. Both were delicious and fantastic endings to the meals. I would definitely go back to Bistro Aix in an instant.
For our final dinner, we ate at La Nopalera. Sorry folks, we were all underwhelmed. The place is indeed a cheap Mexican place, the food was plentiful but nothing spectacular (honestly I've had better Mexican in Toronto, which has a dreadful selection of Mexican places). Service was okay but it was next to impossible to get our bill.
So Jacksonville was a mixed bag, some very good places and some so so places. I had an enjoyable time and would definitely come back to San Marco to eat...
I have gone to Jax on business many many times and the best meal by far you will find is Bistro Aix. There are many other good places in San Marco, by the water and down town, but the best meal, best location and overall best experiences can be found at Aix - we always include it among our stops at least one or two nights of our visits