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Jacksonville Rises in Popularity as a Culinary Giant



One of the top reasons visitors are flocking to the sprawling metropolis of Jacksonville is the great taste she’s become known for. Locally owned brick and mortars like Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails are rising up next to legendary favorites creating a hotbed of new culinary discoveries for the adventurous appetite. With more and more cultured taste buds traveling for the sake of a well balanced meal, Jacksonville is securing a strong dining presence among other giants in the South East region like Orlando, Miami, and Atlanta.

If you are looking for exceptional regional fare, fresh seafood prepared with finesse can be found at Azurea, Eleven South Bistro and Bar, and the sophisticated Ovinte. While if you're seeking Southern Regional selections that pair well with innovative hand crafted cocktails, then your hunt will end satisfactorily at Sbraga & Company.

At it’s heart Jacksonville is a coastal town that takes life a bit more casually than some. Look for fine dining with a more laid back appeal where unique creations are dished up with great service, and none of the snobbery you might expect of a high end establishment. Enjoy the tastes of land and sea with a southern welcome, and exceptional creativity in a city whose foodie fame is on the rise.


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10
Southside


Ovinte is a small plates restaurant with sophisticated style. Designed with casual comfort in mind, Ovinte invites you to grab a drink, share some plates, and stay for a while. The menu has an elegant European aesthetic to it with an excellent selection of Cheese and Charcuterie, and tasty Tapas like Carciofo (crispy fried artichoke hearts), Bacon Wrapped Dates, and Herb Truffle Fries. Small Plates include healthy portions of savory items like Braised Lamb Shank, and Filet Mignon as well as fresh from the sea options like the Il Pesce di Ovinte. Known for their excellent selection of vino, choose a vintage of your liking or better yet have one of the house Sommeliers make the perfect pairing for you. When you aren't owning the night with friends at Ovinte, bring them to Brunch and get social while playing a casual game of Bocce Ball with other weekend revelers.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Ovinte has a casually chic atmosphere that encourages groups to linger over shared small plates and get you in your comfort zone.

Amy's expert tip: Try brunch at Ovinte and ask for the chocolate covered bacon sprinkled with sea salt for a must have!

Read more about Ovinte →


9
San Marco


Praised for it's fresh ingredients and seasonal menu this locally owned business has quickly risen in popularity. Inspired by the tastes of Italy and Spain, Taverna welcomes guests to dine in an ambiance of rustic charm with chic sophistication. An award winning wine list finds the perfect pairing with excellent hand made pasta, house made mozzarella, and brick oven pizza that is hand tossed and prepared in the Neopolitan tradition. Seasonal selections on the menu change sometimes daily to ensure the most flavorful ingredients while keeping patrons guessing as to what distinctive offerings will delight their tastebuds today. Located in historic San Marco amidst charming shops, and family friendly walking space, Taverna makes an excellent spot for girls night out, that special date, or a family brunch.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Quality ingredients, great artistry, and a warm atmosphere make for a winning combination.

Amy's expert tip: It may surprise you to learn that many locals recommend the grilled cheese. Try it on for size or go for the scallops if you are looking for a classic fav.

Read more about Taverna →




Owners Chef Tom Gray and Sarah Marie Johnston have built an innovative masterpiece in the heart of Jacksonville that sets a powerful example on how to create a responsible restaurant. Not only do they put great thought into every ingredient they use to prepare each dish, they also choose to take a full circle approach to the whole scale of the project. Their imaginative menu brings visitors back again and again to the modern yet warm atmosphere. Bold dishes like Seared Octopus, join reinvented childhood favorites like the Sloppy Joe, and lighter fare such as the popular Kale Salad for a well rounded selection. Specialty Cocktails crafted by their talented team are on point and pair well with each dish creating a fusion of flavor that is Moxie's signature style. Look for Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails to continue leading the way in creativity and down home warm southern hospitality.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Reinvented classic comfort foods and bold new takes on culinary trends makes each visit to this spot memorable.

Amy's expert tip: Reserve a seat at one of the two Chef's table booths for a great view of the open kitchen and you might just receive a few special tastes from the Chef himself.

Read more about Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails →


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Orsay is one of the premier fine dining establishments in Jacksonville. This rustic French bistro is passionate about locally sourced ingredients prepared in a technique driven kitchen. Offering classic dishes with a touch of southern style, this bustling restaurants offers all the taste, with none of the snobbery one might expect of French cuisine. Favorites you crave like Pate, Escargots, and Foie Gras will tempt your palate along side Duck, Trout, and comforting Meatloaf. Enjoy selections from the raw bar paired with a refreshing hand crafted cocktail from one of the resident mixologists. Finish off your visit with a tasty treat like Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, or colorful Macaron from Orsay's Pastry Chef made from scratch and bursting with flavor. Orsay offers outdoor seating, a hip lounge and bar, a rustic dining room and an elegant private dining area making it the perfect destination for any occasion.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Orsay sets the scene for a casually sophisticated French dish without all the stuffiness you might expect.

Amy's expert tip: Don't miss Orsay's table at the Riverside Arts Market where her Pastry Chef prepares made from scratch gourmet icecream for sale and decadent desserts you wouldn't normally expect to find at an outdoor market.

Read more about Restaurant Orsay →


6
San Marco


After receiving many awards serving as chef in restaurants around the world, and building an internationally reknown cooking school, Matthew Medure set his eyes on Jacksonville to further establish his culinary empire. The flagship of that empire is his first rate fine dining restaurant Matthew's located in the heart of city. Matthew's refined ambiance and innovative menu inspires diners to taste "out of the box". Highlighting that creative expression is the "Chefs Adveture Tasting Menu" which includes six courses and wine pairing if requested. Fresh, aromatic ingredients come together in a fusion of artistically executed dishes like Grove Farm Lamb Loin, Air-Dried Duck Breast, and Maine Diver Scallops. American, Asian, and French influences compliment each other on the menu and confirm that every tastebud is catered to. Whether it's your first time or you are a regular, Matthew's continues to surprise and delight with his innovation, and expertise.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Matthew's has impressed the local dining culture for more than a decade with it's imaginative menu, keeping regulars guessing, and delighting newcomers with each dish.

Amy's expert tip: Splurge and order the Adventure Menu. You wont regret it.

Read more about Matthew's →


5
Atlantic Beach


First Coast Inspired cuisine reigns at One Ocean Resort's Azurea restaurant. Winner of multiple awards for fine dining, Azurea has become a staple in Jacksonville's elite dining scene. Chef Ted Peters masterfully sets locally sourced fare like Hand Picked Diver Scallops and Southern Coast Grouper apart by creating a signature flavor with his own proprietary blend of seasonsings. Enjoy hand crafted cocktails from the bar while emersing yourself in the sea side dining area with ocean view. One Ocean's Pastry Chef rounds out your elegant dining experience with whimsical selections like Summer Nights Berry Pie, Southern Pavlova complete with Georgia Peaches, and Chocolate Strawberry Candy Bar. To explore the full Azurea experience "The Adventurous Palate" (a five course meal) is offered Sunday through Thursday for those looking to for an epic culinary experience.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Azurea's sophisticated elegance sets her apart as one of Jacksonville's elite dining destinations.

Amy's expert tip: Ask about seasonal events like Azurea's High Tea and Jazz Brunch. Don't miss the Pastry Chef's crowning acheivement each year, the grand reveal of their gingerbread "house" theme. Past masterpieces have included a Beach Scene with Santa's Elves , a Castle, Igloo, and Santa's Sleigh.

Read more about Azurea at One Ocean →


4
Riverside

Jacksonville diners are raving about one of the newest additions to its culinary scene. Located in the River City's historic Brooklyn neighborhood in the trendy setting of Unity Plaza, Hobnob is right in the center of culture and creativity. The new hot spot dishes out globally inspired dishes with local intentions, while impressing guests with its visual aesthetic and flavorful inspiration. Look for a menu influenced by regions from across the world including Asia, the South Pacific, and Europe. Local ingredients harvested at the height of flavor are a feast for the eyes as well as tastebuds. Visitors also enjoy an eclectic drink menu that is just as playful as it is trendy. Created with a social concept in mind Hobnob surrounds visitors with a chic sophistication that shines through in multiple art installations throughout the restaurant giving it an urban edge that stands out in this evolving metropolis.

Read more about Hobnob →


3
Riverside


Black Sheep is a local foodie "go to" that stands out just like it's name. Housed in an impressive building that jumps out at you from it's more homey surroundings, Black Sheep has a big city presence that feels like it was uprooted from somewhere more urban. With an inventive Southern Regional Americana menu that keeps folks guessing you can be sure diners are returning for choices like Braised Beef Short Ribs, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Mac & Cheese. It's not all savory comfort food though, lighter options like the Little Gem salad and Kale & Smoked Trout salad keep taste buds satisfied too. If you are on the hunt for bold cocktails with an old fashioned charm, and southern soul food with imagination then Black Sheep will hit the spot for lunch, dinner, or brunch.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Black Sheep's distinctive flavor profile will entrench itself deep in your taste buds and memory. Their menu will leave you craving more.

Amy's expert tip: Reserve a table on the rooftop at dusk. Sip on a Dusty Boot (if it's not on the menu they will know what you want) and enjoy a bird's eye view of the River City.

Read more about Black Sheep →




Blink and you might drive right by this local favorite tucked away along the coastline of Jacksonville Beach. Known for it's award winning wine list and well executed menu pairings, you can expect nothing but excellence from Eleven South. Menu favorites include classics like Baseball Cut Top Sirloin, Atlantic Salmon, and Black Grouper all pairing exquisitely with reknown vintages the serve staff are experts at recommending according to your palate and plate. Enjoy the warm back drop of the wood fire oven when cozying up to the bar for a drink and apps, or reserve a table in the intimate dining room for that special occasion or business meeting. Decadent desserts offer the perfect finale with regional specialites like Georgia Peach Cobbler, Creme Brulee, and Salted Caramal Chocolate Torte all demanding a taste.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Eleven South consistently hits the mark staying true to her distinctive flavor profile while continuing to impress with innovative technique and imaginative new additions.

Amy's expert tip: Don't be afraid to get adventurous with your wine pairing. The staff at Eleven South are extremely knowledgeable about their selections and each menu item is conceived with ideal pairings in mind.

Read more about Eleven South Bistro & Bar →


1
Amelia Island


Elevating the simplest ingredients into culinary masterpieces, this AAA 5 Diamond rated culinary star consistently impresses both locals and guests alike. Named for the most important ingredient in any chefs pantry, the title Salt pays homage not only to the influence it lends each dish, but also to the local seascape the destination is surrounded by. Each table is set with no less than six speciality salts hailing from exotic locations such as Hawaii, Yakima Valley, and the Himalayans. Serve staff make suggested "salt pairings" as you would wine with dishes like Key West Pink Praws presented with flare via wood fire smoke in a cloche over southern grits. Other guest favorites include Beef Tenderloin lightly seared, served with a 300 degree Himalayan salt block diners use to complete the cook on their choice cut. Salt at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island is located just thirty minutes from the Jacksonville airport.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Salt will be one of the best places you will eat in your lifetime. Hands down. A bucket list destination.

Amy's expert tip: For an experience to truly remember book the "Seat In the Kitchen" a closed off room with a window offering an insiders view to the magic behind the scenes. Dine "With the Chef" and enjoy a customized menu complete with the perfect wine pairing.

Read more about Salt →


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Meet Amy West

Jacksonville, FL based Amy West is the creator of amywesttravel.com, a travel and lifestyle brand including TV show "Like Love Want Need".

New Zealand, China, Malta, Germany, and Brazil all find...  More About Amy

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