Much like the community itself, the Jacksonville restaurants scene is an eclectic hybrid of inspired casual elegance and classic southern comfort, infused with the unmistakable flavor of the coast and a dash of international flair. From local eateries and fish camps to four-diamond cuisine and urban hotspots, there is a restaurant for every taste.
End the evening with a colorful nightlife scene as varied as it is vibrant. With a diverse demographic, and the youngest average age of Florida’s top metropolitan destinations, sundown in Jacksonville provides lively entertainment venues, salty seaside dive bars and trendy watering holes anchor the Jacksonville beaches. While in the city center, an urban revival draws the Downtown pioneers to the hip new offerings along the Bay Street strip. Neighboring San Marco and Avondale add a touch of sophistication to the evening entertainment, balanced by the funky coolness of live music and spoken-word performances found in Five Points.
Jacksonville is comprised of small neighborhoods, each offering a distinct flavor and attitude. The make-up of these neighborhoods as a whole is what makes Jacksonville unique and charms visitors with warm hospitality. The easiest way to make people feel welcome is by offering a unique dish to welcome them.
Your first stop in town may be close to the airport, whether you arrive by plane or by one of the busy interstates crossing through Jacksonville. Make sure you stop at Jenkins Quality Barbecue for a true taste of the South. This BBQ has been made extra sloppy for more than 50 years with four locations in Jacksonville. While in the airport neighborhood head to Kings Road, where there are two locations.
Your next stop on a taste of Jacksonville has to be Downtown. Downtown is home to plenty of trendy eateries and established favorites. Benny’s Sandwich Shop has been serving up burgers and tasty sandwiches for since 1985. What makes these sandwiches so special? Not only are they delicious but also, they’re served 15 feet underground. Jacksonville has a colorful past, which includes miles of tunnels under its Downtown. Most tunnels are closed today, but one tunnel under the Atlantic National Bank building remains open and this is where you’ll find Benny’s.
Another hot lunch spot founded in 1985 is Clara’s Tidbits Restaurant . Clara started this restaurant years ago and probably would have served you tasty sandwiches, fresh cookies and soup herself. Today, the Tidbits Special salad is a workplace favorite. Sprinkle a bit of Clara’s Special Blend spices over top generous portions of fresh chunks of chicken, avocado, tomato, cheese and more. Tidbits’ menu is also available for catering. Just tell your guests – it’s where the locals go.
San Marco, a historic neighborhood of Downtown, invites you to local favorite, Metro Diner. Customers line up down the sidewalk to get a table at this weekend breakfast favorite, especially the popular – banana granola pancakes. Other comfort foods, like piled high club sandwiches, meatloaf better than your momma’s, chicken potpie and more are served daily until 2:30 p.m. in this historic 1930s home.
After your big breakfast you’ll need to walk off a few of those pancakes. What better way then to wander the “streets” of Avonlea Antique Mall. This antique mall is so large that they’ve put up street signs to help visitors navigate through trails of treasures. We’re sure you’ll be hungry soon enough and this antique hideaway has just the thing – Old Florida Café. This little gem is tucked away in the middle of antique heaven. Homemade sandwiches, soups and fresh desserts are sure to hit the spot.
A trip to Jacksonville wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the beautiful, unspoiled beaches. Of course the seafood is plentiful and a local favorite is Sliders Oyster Bar. The fish tacos are a popular menu item, as are the oysters, served cheap with ice-cold beer. In the mood for something meaty? Head to Cruisers Grill for a gut-busting meal, complete with hamburger, cheese fries and the thickest milk shake. This is the local’s spot for tasty hamburgers and a great diner attitude.
So, for every neighborhood there is a flavor and a favorite hangout spot. Be sure to check out Jacksonville’s many neighborhoods and ask a friendly face for their favorite spot.
There aren’t many destinations where you can pull your boat up to dock at a restaurant and then devour fresh seafood from the very waters you’ve just traveled. Well, Northeast Florida is one of those fresh out of the water vacation spots.
The Outback Crab Shack is a local secret located on Six Mile Creek, just west of the World Golf Village. This is the kind of place to bring the whole gang. Order the platters, fried or boiled, each stacked high on a cafeteria tray, so dig in and get dirty in an old cypress shack. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. No boat required as there is parking available.
For a more urban flare, head Downtown, where great seafood is coupled with skyline views reflecting on the St. Johns River. There is an impressive selection of restaurants along the river, including River City Brewing Company . The Mayport Shrimp is a local specialty not to be missed. Make an evening of it, catching an outdoor concert at the Jacksonville Landing after dinner or hit one of Downtown’s popular nightspots.
For some real southern comfort look for local bistro The Brick, in the historic neighborhood of Avondale. One popular dish is the Shrimp and Grits. The shrimp are succulent and irresistible along side grits, served light and fluffy in a pastry shell. There’s nothing like it!
Seafood is a cause for celebration in Northeast Florida. There is no better showcase of the ocean’s finest delicacy than the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival . Each May, Downtown Fernandina Beach hosts thousands of visitors as they witness pirate invasions and shrimp boat races, peruse the booths of over 300 vendors of arts & crafts and antiques and, of course, sample shrimp and fresh fish prepared a variety of ways. The Great Atlantic Seafood & Music Festival in Downtown Jacksonville Beach is also a great spot to taste delicious seafood, browse the crafts market and dance al fresco to Zydeco, jazz, blues and beach music.
Experience Jacksonville’s version of “date night” through romantic dinners overlooking spectacular views and delicious entrees…from there, who knows where the evening will lead? Once the sun goes down, heat up the night as Jacksonville offers the finest cuisine and a myriad of ways to bond with that special someone in both lively and intimate settings.
Dine with elegance in any number of highly rated bistros and restaurants. Two local favorites are located on the Southbank of Downtown Jacksonville. The Wine Cellar , a casual yet elegant eatery, with classic cuisine and innovative new world delicacies and, as the name suggests, an impressive wine list presenting a number of domestic and international vintages. Also, b.b.’s, tagged as “a groovy place to b” is just that with its trendy décor and uniquely prepared seafood, pizzas, pastas and meats. Make sure to save room for dessert…this hip bistro has countless ways to satisfy any sweet tooth and for that extra intimacy, order with two spoons.
Downtown’s neighboring communities of San Marco and Riverside are also great dining spots. In San Marco, Bistro Aix and Matthew’s Restaurant are perfect for a great evening out. At the core of Bistro Aix is a passion for food and wine. Seasonal Mediterranean and French-inspired fare is the star of the show with an outstanding supporting cast of appetizers, desserts, and wines. Before dinner, enjoy an aperitif, martini or glass of wine at the sleek Onyx Bar. Matthew’s Restaurant , situated just off San Marco Square, is another fine dining spot for a special, romantic occasion. This AAA Four-Diamond Award winner integrates Southern, Asian, Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern influences into the cuisine prepared in full-view of patrons in the restaurant’s exhibition kitchen.
Across the St. Johns River in historic Riverside, The Row Restaurant provides an intimate ambiance and delectable journey to Jacksonville’s past. The restaurant is located in the historic Riverdale Inn, a mansion along the river dating back to the turn of the century. Guests can dine in the 50-seat dining room or on the covered front porch beneath the stately oaks lining Riverside Avenue.
Jacksonville’s beaches offer the epicurean some of the finest restaurants of the area, utilizing the proximity of the ocean’s bounties with elegant touch. Among these, two true standouts are Roy’s Jacksonville Beach and Amelia Island Plantation’s The Ocean Grill . Award-winning chef Roy Yamaguchi perfected the art of European technique and Asian cuisine to form Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine. With its upscale decor and delicious sushi, seafood and steaks, this hotspot is a beaches favorite. Make sure to try Roy’s signature Hawaiian Martini, but be weary of the drunken pineapple that accompanies each cocktail.
Travel up the road, to Amelia Island Plantation for the culinary experience of The Ocean Grill, overlooking the magnificent Atlantic Ocean. First-class cuisine is immersed with native flavors to create the one-of a-kind menu. Listen to the waves rolling onto the beach below as you dine on the finest aged steaks, chops and seafood.
Looking for an after-dinner experience? Jacksonville also has romantic evenings out which will appease your sense of romance and adventure.
Jacksonville is one of the United States’ largest cities by land mass and it’s no wonder that people from around the world call Jacksonville home, bringing their native flavors. There’s no need to visit attractions made with artificial flavors. Here the flavors of the world are folded into each neighborhood.
Let’s start with a taste from our neighbors across the pond. In the heart of Downtown, visitors find traditional British pub cuisine at The London Bridge English Pub and Eatery. Popular menu items include bangers and mash, cottage pie, fish and chips – all served with an ice-cold pint of your favorite cider, ale or bottled beer.
Out at the beaches, Ireland is being celebrated at Fionn MacCool’s Irish Pub and Restaurant. These people aren’t messing around with tradition. Their furniture and bar were handcrafted in Ireland and shipped to Jacksonville. If the furniture is for real then the food must be worth the trip. Live music and drink specials make this a hot nightlife spot, too.
For a taste of the Mediterranean, head to Zaitoon Mediterranean Grill . This new restaurants located right off Atlantic Boulevard, close to the beaches. Zaitoon’s extensive menu reflects the rich, regional diversity of the Mediterranean and features culinary works of art that are inspired by Spanish, French, Italian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The impressive menu is complimented with an extensive wine list. A special tapas menu is available Tuesday through Sunday from 3-5 p.m.
An elegant taste of Asia awaits at Pom’s Thai Bistro in San Marco Square. Crisp, white tablecloths decorated with single stems of orchids are softened by exposed brick walls. House specialties blend traditional Thai ingredients with unexpected finds like fresh sea bass. Traditional favorites include Pad Thai with your choice of meat or tofu and Curry Chicken.
If you’re looking for something more exotic, maybe a taste of the Middle East, then you’re in for a treat at Layla’s of San Marco. Enjoy the popular Lamb Shawarma Plate for dinner or taste it all during the lunch buffet. Tucked away in historic San Marco this hot spot also has an open hookah and cigar patio with drink specials nightly.
There are many flavors of the world to try in Jacksonville. Extend your trip and try each one. We’re sure you’ll find one that reminds you of home or an exotic vacation.
From casual dives to trendy hotspots, sundown in Jacksonville sheds light on entertainment options as diverse as the local landscape.
A Great Place to Meet , proclaims the red neon sign casting a crimson glow on the unassuming brick building at the core of downtown Jacksonville Beach. The Ritz, crown jewel of the beaches social scene, has long been a favorite watering hole for coastal residents. In recent years, its popularity has spread like wildfire “across the ditch” (local slang for any place west of the Intracoastal waterway), becoming one of the hottest gathering places in town. Don’t miss $1 Guinness night every Wednesday.
Just north of the Ritz, at the intersection of Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach affectionately known as “the triangle,” resides a local legend, Pete’s Bar. Reportedly the holder of the oldest liquor license in Jacksonville, Pete’s first opened its doors in 1933. The clientele is an eclectic mix ranging from salty seaside dwellers to the college crowd looking to save a buck on the nightly $.25 drafts and $.25 pool. Noted author and frequent visitor, John Grisham, used Pete’s Bar as inspiration for the smoky pub featured in his 2000 best seller, The Brethren.
Infusing the revitalized Downtown district with an air of glamour and sophisticated style, the Twisted Martini at the Jacksonville Landing has become a magnet for the city’s young and beautiful since it’s opening. Offering upscale entertainment and live music including jazz, blues, pop and funk, the riverfront lounge is a tantalizing taste of life on the VIP side of the velvet rope. Weekend evenings attract an enormous crowd, but the bar offers one of the best happy hours in town. Wednesday through Saturday, beginning at 4 p.m. premium cocktails are only $4.
Another Downtown favorite is The Wine Bar – Southbank . This unique wine bar is a treat for the novice or experienced wine connoisseur. You won’t be able to select a favorite from the more than 100 wines in-house. Each are available by the taste, glass or bottle. For an entertaining evening with friends pickup a “Fee Per Tasting” card to sample as many wines as possible, each poured from a high-tech gadget, allowing just a sample of each flavorful wine.
Just minutes from Downtown and a world away from the ordinary, experience a touch of the exotic at the Cuba Libre Bar, the first upscale Latin club in Jacksonville. From the sizzling sounds pulsating through the dance floor to the best Mojitos in town, Cuba Libre offers an authentic taste of Cuban culture within the heart of Northeast Florida. Take part in free salsa lessons on Tuesday, then show off the new moves during “Big Salsa Night” every Friday and Saturday.
Across town in the neighborhood of Mandarin, your funny bone gets a work out at The Comedy Zone . This 21-and-up club brings the best comedic performers to Jacksonville, including Larry the Cable Guy, John Heffron of Last Comic Standing fame and Sheryl Underwood of HBO’s All-Star Def Comedy Jam. Drink specials and appetizer menu available nightly.
Offering an evening alternative in a family-friendly environment, the Murray Hill Theater provides live Christian entertainment every Friday and Saturday night within an alcohol-free and smoke-free nightclub atmosphere. Listen to the hottest acts in Christian contemporary and rock in the renovated historic auditorium, relax in the onsite café and outdoor patio, or play the video games and pinball in the theater lobby. Ages 16 and up admitted alone, all ages welcomed when accompanied by an adult.
Whispers and laughter over libations…sunset strolls along the crashing ocean waves or in a riverfront garden…music coming from the DJ on the dance floor, at the ballet or in concert…there is an evening out to suit every couple’s tastes. Before or after dinner, let Jacksonville set the stage for a truly romantic time between sweethearts.
In the early evenings, Northeast Florida shines along its waterways. Stroll hand in hand along Jacksonville’s more secluded oceanfront communities of Neptune and Atlantic Beaches. Let the ocean waves wash away everyday stresses, so that being together is the only thing that matters. Search for the ocean’s unique seashell treasures or let time stand still while witnessing the sunset. At the Beaches Town Center, which lies between the two municipalities, stop in one of the boutiques, restaurants or bars to explore the beaches way of life.
Along the waterfront of the St. Johns River, the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens offers a gem in the heart of the city with its magnificent English- and Italian-styled gardens. Water fountains, azaleas, lilies of the Nile and creeping fig-covered archways are among the sights visitors will see when strolling the property. Since 1903, these historic gardens, stretching over two acres in length, have delighted visitors in their breathtaking beauty and have inspired many a marriage proposal.
A musical evening at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts arouses love with cultural performances in each of its three distinct halls. Enjoy ballet, classical music, Broadway hits and more in this world-class structure, located in Downtown Jacksonville.
Or dance your heart out to the DJ-inspired music at any number of nightclubs. The intimate and modern setting at Mark’s Downtown gives couples a chance to canoodle in leather loveseats or dance the night away. The Twisted Martini offers contemporary, yet comfortable sofas and mood lighting to accompany the musical ambiance of the upscale nightclub, which inspires South Beach style. As the namesake states, sip on a large selection of delicious martinis and move with the music.
Prefer toasting the night in a quieter setting? Try the Martini Room at Atlantic Beach’s Ocean 60 and listen to reggae, jazz and soul music and choose from over 30 unique martini concoctions and extensive wine list. Speaking of, wine is a perennial favorite of lovers, and those hotspots that know this best are San Marco’s The Grotto, which incites an Italian wine cellar with its brick walls, candlelight and extensive wine and tapas menu, and The Wine Bar – Southbank , which boasts the country’s largest collection of vino by the taste affording guests the option of sampling many wines. With a dark, warm ambiance featuring leather couches and high-top tables, the extensive knowledge of the staff and long list of wines, The Wine Bar – Southbank is the perfect spot for the wine enthusiast.