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Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part I

Here’s a short list of Jacksonville’s "lesser known" restaurants that you should try.

Published July 2, 2013 in Dining & Nightlife      60 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article




Chopstick Charley's:









If you've driven by Chopstick Charley's on Philips Highway, you made the very reasonable assumption that this place is not only closed, but it's been closed for a couple of decades. If you realized they were open for business, you probably decided, understandably, "Yeah, right. I'll never go there." If for some reason you decided that you will take the chance and walk into the windowless stand-alone building, and walk through the metal, prison-like front door, you probably questioned your ability to make sound life decisions. And still, you would not be comforted by the interior. The entire place is rundown. The ceilings are covered in plaster repairs. The furniture is old. The only light in the building comes from three florescent tubes that line the center of the ceiling, and a 21 inch television, on blast, next to the kitchen door.

Stay strong; you will be rewarded for your journey, and your risk will be well worth it. This place is not the McDonald's-esque/Chinese restaurants littered throughout our city. You know that menu you see in every Chinese restaurant with low-rez stock images – it doesn't exist in this place. Their menu doesn’t have any pictures; in fact, it's taped to the glass counter and must have been printed on a printer from 1987. Meals are under $7 and will easily feed two people.

The sweet and sour chicken comes with a sauce that is almost like a strawberry puree. It needs a little more sour but it's 100x better than the tin-tasting, red-dyed sugar sauce we get at the other places. Their beef in the beef low-mein actually taste like beef. The egg-roll is not a Sam's Club special, they make it in-house. It's filled with celery, shrimp, and Chinese spices (it's huge!).

If you're in the mood for what must be reminiscent of a Chinese mother's home cooked meals, this is the place to go. It is by far the best Chinese in town for the price. The owner is a lovely lady who, well, likes you. It feels like you are walking into your Chinese grandmother's house.

If you want your food take-out, then call it in. It can take up to 30 minutes to prepare a meal. What?! Yeah, I said 30 minutes. They're actually cooking back there.  

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of their food. If you have some post it in the comments.


Address:
4424 Phillips Hwy
Jacksonville, FL 32207
(904) 731-1528

Hours:
Not listed.

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60 Comments

InnerCityPressure

July 02, 2013, 04:20:37 AM
I cannot believe Chopstick Charley's is a functioning establishment.  I have passed by fifty times and wondered what it would have been like to sleep at the Joe and eat at CC's.

I just...
but...

I <3 Jacksonville

Captain Zissou

July 02, 2013, 07:16:49 AM
Missed out on Karam's. That place is fantastic!!

sheclown

July 02, 2013, 08:02:43 AM
Tommy's "breakfast in a cup" on Walnut Street (just half a block south of Three Layers) is the greatest hole-in-the-wall for breakfast.  Where else can you get a bologna omelet?  Furthermore, I would be amazed if you ever spent more than $5 and lived to tell about it -- a lot of food.

Funky hours though.  Closes everyday at 11:00am and I don't believe it is open on the weekends.

Debbie Thompson

July 02, 2013, 08:28:15 AM
Oh, you've done it now.  Mark was interviewed by a local TV station, and he said, just don't tell people where we are.  We have all the business we need.  :-)

thelakelander

July 02, 2013, 08:33:46 AM
^LOL!  Anyway, Sheclown is dead on about Tommy's.  If you need a visual image of a hole in the wall, Tommy's is it.

fsquid

July 02, 2013, 09:26:47 AM
It was only a matter of time before Pepe's had to raise their prices.  Felt like I was stealing when 4 of us got out of there for under $25.

Dog Walker

July 02, 2013, 09:35:26 AM
Does Pizza Italian in 5 Points count?  Gus has been there for over 35 years and has barely raised his prices in all that time.  Don't think he has redecorated in all that time either.  $10 single order of lasagna feeds two people to bursting; huge salad, bread included.

Plain Jane Italian food, but good.

pwhitford

July 02, 2013, 10:08:53 AM
I think someone might have wanted to insert a different kind of story between this piece and the last feature.  As it is, the lead crawl shows a picture of an overstuffed sandwich referencing hole-in-the-wall restaurants right next to the picture of an overstuffed kid shoveling food into his mouth.  Kind of an unusual combination, don't ya think?

stephendare

July 02, 2013, 10:49:37 AM
I think someone might have wanted to insert a different kind of story between this piece and the last feature.  As it is, the lead crawl shows a picture of an overstuffed sandwich referencing hole-in-the-wall restaurants right next to the picture of an overstuffed kid shoveling food into his mouth.  Kind of an unusual combination, don't ya think?

apparently its theme week here at metrojacksonville.

Wait till you see tomorow's lead photo.  It features an unwell pit bull.

Bike Jax

July 02, 2013, 11:19:18 AM
Chomp Chomp without question has the best burger in this city. Everything on the menu is outstanding, but that burger is amazing.

Doctor_K

July 02, 2013, 11:53:18 AM
I'm glad to see that Chomp Chomp is still in business.  I admittedly wasn't aware of their crazy hours and was able to stop by a few times during the week for lunch only to find them closed up.  I'd worried that my particular favorite hole-in-the-wall had become just a hole.

Thanks as always kids, for giving me something new to learn about and explore in Jax!

rashad992

July 02, 2013, 01:20:12 PM
I think I might hit up that chopstick charley's joint since I see it's not abandoned like i always thought

Josh

July 02, 2013, 02:54:41 PM
Does Pizza Italian in 5 Points count?  Gus has been there for over 35 years and has barely raised his prices in all that time.  Don't think he has redecorated in all that time either.  $10 single order of lasagna feeds two people to bursting; huge salad, bread included.

Plain Jane Italian food, but good.

$10? That must be their double-order cuz I've never paid more than $6.50 a regular serving, which still could feed 2 people given the amount of garlic bread you get. Gus' place is definitely an awesome 5 Points institution for sure though.

Dog Walker

July 02, 2013, 05:14:13 PM
Does Pizza Italian in 5 Points count?  Gus has been there for over 35 years and has barely raised his prices in all that time.  Don't think he has redecorated in all that time either.  $10 single order of lasagna feeds two people to bursting; huge salad, bread included.

Plain Jane Italian food, but good.

$10? That must be their double-order cuz I've never paid more than $6.50 a regular serving, which still could feed 2 people given the amount of garlic bread you get. Gus' place is definitely an awesome 5 Points institution for sure though.

We got drinks and left a tip too.  The lasagna is the size of a baby crib mattress.

DDC

July 02, 2013, 05:40:35 PM
Oh, you've done it now.  Mark was interviewed by a local TV station, and he said, just don't tell people where we are.  We have all the business we need.  :-)

When was that interview Debbie Thompson? Do you remember what channel?

ben says

July 02, 2013, 05:58:02 PM
Oh, you've done it now.  Mark was interviewed by a local TV station, and he said, just don't tell people where we are.  We have all the business we need.  :-)

When was that interview Debbie Thompson? Do you remember what channel?

http://springfield.firstcoastnews.com/news/arts-culture/one-springfields-best-kept-secrets-intends-stay-way/51282

Noone

July 02, 2013, 07:54:05 PM
Who wants to meet for breakfast and we'll play a game of pool for the bill?

boydbettis

July 02, 2013, 09:30:10 PM
Awesome! Thanks going to have to try Chopstick Charley's and Pepe's Hacienda!

DDC

July 02, 2013, 10:18:34 PM
Oh, you've done it now.  Mark was interviewed by a local TV station, and he said, just don't tell people where we are.  We have all the business we need.  :-)

When was that interview Debbie Thompson? Do you remember what channel?

http://springfield.firstcoastnews.com/news/arts-culture/one-springfields-best-kept-secrets-intends-stay-way/51282

Thanks Ben 8)

KenFSU

July 02, 2013, 11:17:03 PM
Chuckled at the accidental irony:

JaxByDefault

July 03, 2013, 01:33:53 PM
Missed out on Karam's. That place is fantastic!!

They don't advertise it, but they have a large amount of vegetarian and vegan options.

As always, ask the owners what they have specially made off-menu before deciding on your order. Great stuff!

Also, earlier this year, the Karam family purchased back the Beach and Hodges location which is now called Yalla! Grill. They sold it to someone else about a year and half ago, then it sold again. In short, the food there should match the original location on University again.

Noone

July 03, 2013, 02:04:20 PM
Tommy's "breakfast in a cup" on Walnut Street (just half a block south of Three Layers) is the greatest hole-in-the-wall for breakfast.  Where else can you get a bologna omelet?  Furthermore, I would be amazed if you ever spent more than $5 and lived to tell about it -- a lot of food.

Funky hours though.  Closes everyday at 11:00am and I don't believe it is open on the weekends.

What a cool place. Met Mark and the food was great. Definately will be back.
Thanks for sharing the place Sheclown.
 

ben says

July 03, 2013, 02:09:45 PM
Missed out on Karam's. That place is fantastic!!

They don't advertise it, but they have a large amount of vegetarian and vegan options.

As always, ask the owners what they have specially made off-menu before deciding on your order. Great stuff!

Also, earlier this year, the Karam family purchased back the Beach and Hodges location which is now called Yalla! Grill. They sold it to someone else about a year and half ago, then it sold again. In short, the food there should match the original location on University again.

I'm not sold on Karams. I know a lot of people, many from the Middle East or of Middle Eastern decent, that go ape for this place. I find that their shwarma and kabob plates are dried out, the pita is cold, and everything is reheated in the microwave. I'll go there in a pinch--it's DEFINITELY better than Hala's (what happened to that place?!?!)--but Raymond over at Noura Cafe has me. I'll take a meal at Noura's over a Karim's dish anyday.

Also, Hon Korean could have easily made the list!

hound dog

July 03, 2013, 09:29:55 PM
No Lie: the Vietnamese restaurant attached to the Econolodge at University Blvd and I-95 (Cagle Road) serves the best bowl of Pho in town.  I don't think it even has a name.  Don't let that stop you!

Mr. Charleston

July 09, 2013, 06:41:58 AM
Another great Lebanese hole in the wall often overlooked is Wally's on Cesary Blvd two blocks north of Arlington Rd.  Great place.  Everything cooked to order.

ben says

July 09, 2013, 08:09:13 AM
No Lie: the Vietnamese restaurant attached to the Econolodge at University Blvd and I-95 (Cagle Road) serves the best bowl of Pho in town.  I don't think it even has a name.  Don't let that stop you!

Are you sure this place is still in business?

Pho Viet on Mayport Road is my personal favorite.

johnny_simpatico

July 09, 2013, 08:30:49 AM
One of my favorite hole in the walls is La Guadalupana market on Spring Park Rd., just north of Emerson. On WEEKENDS ONLY they serve fantastic tacos for $2 and various meals and soups. The tortillas are hand made right in front of you and arrive warm.  Fantastic.  This is Mexican food for Mexicans.  No sour cream or Taco-Bell and Ensenada-style Baja California gringo eats. (I've learned from experience that a Mexican place is worth avoiding is when it advertises itself as "authentic.")

BridgeTroll

July 09, 2013, 09:08:35 AM
One of my favorite hole in the walls is La Guadalupana market on Spring Park Rd., just north of Emerson. On WEEKENDS ONLY they serve fantastic tacos for $2 and various meals and soups. The tortillas are hand made right in front of you and arrive warm.  Fantastic.  This is Mexican food for Mexicans.  No sour cream or Taco-Bell and Ensenada-style Baja California gringo eats. (I've learned from experience that a Mexican place is worth avoiding is when it advertises itself as "authentic.")

Perhaps they have gotten better... I stopped in for lunch about 6 months ago(I think they just opened) and though "authentic" it did not compare to Pepe's... will give it another shot however...

Ocklawaha

July 09, 2013, 10:26:30 AM
There is a new 'MIDTOWN DELI' location on the ground floor of the VA's Southpointe Clinic. Nothing else on the floor so don't worry about blowing the atmosphere with a bunch of broken down folks like ME. The location served up one of the best BLT lunches I've ever had yesterday. What is cool for others is it is almost dead center of the Southpointe office park, and it looks out over a nicely landscaped lake, more then that it also has a great patio dining on the lake. Well worth the effort parking shouldn't be a problem after 11 am.

TheCat

July 09, 2013, 12:28:07 PM
So, who's tried one of these restaurants for the first time? Opinion? I most want to know about Chopstick Charley's.

BridgeTroll

July 09, 2013, 01:02:24 PM
So, who's tried one of these restaurants for the first time? Opinion? I most want to know about Chopstick Charley's.

Me too... I keep getting this picture in my head of four old chinese mafia type guys sitting at the corner table playing cards... and they all stop and stare as I walk in...  weird huh?

ProjectMaximus

July 09, 2013, 01:05:47 PM
No Lie: the Vietnamese restaurant attached to the Econolodge at University Blvd and I-95 (Cagle Road) serves the best bowl of Pho in town.  I don't think it even has a name.  Don't let that stop you!
Are you sure this place is still in business?

Yeah I think it's been closed for almost a year. Too bad.

mikemiller

July 10, 2013, 11:14:47 AM
Great series, all! It's great having reviews of out of the way joints that most of us have never visited. Guy Fieri where are you???? Jax has some new offerings for Triple D.

BrSpiritus

July 10, 2013, 04:25:00 PM
What about the Mexican place on the corner of Confederate Park on 1st?  Is that place any good?

Garden guy

July 10, 2013, 05:38:42 PM
Taco lady at beach blvd flea market...good stuff and homemade sauces..caliente..

Non-RedNeck Westsider

July 10, 2013, 05:48:36 PM
Guy 'Fairy' can rot in hell.  Please no DDD in any of these places.

I haven't read the thread in a week or so, so some of these places may have been mentioned:

Viet - Pho Ha Noi - Blanding / 103rd
Cuban - El Mofongo - Timuquana / Wesconnet
Island - Caribbean Star - Blanding / Shirley
Central American - Puerta Plata - Blanding / Lakeshore
'Mexican' - El tienda de Mexicana - Lane / Lenox(?)
Sammiches - Amy's Cafe - 5 points, Chomp Chomp - Adams / Newnan(?)
Southern Seafood (i'e' fried) - Checkers BBQ (Fri. & Sat. only) - Old St. Aug Rd
BBQ - TCs - Lem Turner / Edgewood
Classic Southern - Arden's Cafe - St. Johns / Hamilton
Soul Food Fusion - Sunday's - Argyle Forest Blvd

TheCat

July 10, 2013, 06:04:42 PM
So, who's tried one of these restaurants for the first time? Opinion? I most want to know about Chopstick Charley's.

Me too... I keep getting this picture in my head of four old chinese mafia type guys sitting at the corner table playing cards... and they all stop and stare as I walk in...  weird huh?

There's definitely one guy that will stare at you...I feel confident that he is not in the Chinese Mafia. However, he will insist that you divide your left overs into more than one box so things don't get soggy.

DDC

July 10, 2013, 06:39:50 PM
What about the Mexican place on the corner of Confederate Park on 1st?  Is that place any good?

I like it.  :) I am no expert on Mexican Fare but I have visited there several times and will go back again,

AKIRA

July 10, 2013, 10:19:33 PM
Nile Ethiopian in the smaller strip mall at Toledo and Powers (east side).

Dog Walker

July 11, 2013, 09:55:59 AM
NRW,  will second the vote for El Mofongo.  One of the best Cuban sandwiches in town and roast chicken to die for.

frank1953

July 12, 2013, 04:10:56 PM
EL Mofongo is good and reasonable. Been there several times and would recommend to anyone.

ben says

July 12, 2013, 04:11:43 PM
Nile Ethiopian in the smaller strip mall at Toledo and Powers (east side).

Thinking about trying this place this weekend. Any other info? How does it compare to Queen of Sheba? (Not defunct.)

frank1953

July 12, 2013, 04:15:40 PM
Pass on Chopstick Charlie's. For one their egg rolls are nothing but a pile of celery and a few shrimp. Won't return. Want good Chinese try the Golden Egg Roll on Lem Turner. Been going there for years. They pile on enough rice  and entrees to feed two with one dinner and they will ADD EXTRA MEAT FOR A DOLLAR. Can't go wrong.

fieldafm

July 12, 2013, 04:44:05 PM
Quote
Central American - Puerta Plata - Blanding / Lakeshore

Been on a big fried chicken kick lately (Simply Saras and Salty Fig are receiving high marks thus far, matter of fact I'll take Simply Saras over FYC's 'famous' fried chicken any day of the week). 

The chicarones are Puerta Plata are on point!

Ardens is another really good recommendation. 

Quote
Thinking about trying this place this weekend. Any other info? How does it compare to Queen of Sheba? (Not defunct.)

The lady friend did an article on them that will be coming out in Folio's Bite by Bite issue.  She seemed to be a fan (I was eating fried chicken across town that day). 

Bondgirl

July 13, 2013, 02:40:29 PM
Jerry's Sports Grille on Atlantic near Hodges has the best breakfasts on Saturdays and Sundays.

hooplady

July 13, 2013, 03:33:36 PM
Does The French Pantry on Powers Ave count as "hole-in-the-wall"?  Being next to an auto parts place should give some kind of oddball points.

Ocklawaha

July 15, 2013, 12:21:08 AM
EL RANCHITO RESTAURANT
14333 Beach Blvd Ste 22 Jacksonville, FL 32250(904) 992-4607
For those wanting a change of tastes without the gastronomic atomic reactions of some highly spiced Mexican foods, go COLOMBIAN! This little restaurant has flavors and aroma's so rich they could only be found in Colombia, but the Argueta family, Jorge, (who is actually from Guatemala City, Guatemala) and his lovely esposa Ana, who hails from the gorgeous colonial city of Cartagena, (Think St. Augustine on steroids) Colombia, have recreated all of it on Beach Boulevard. The restaurant has been in the plaza to the east (right) of Big Lots for 13 años, and Jorge and Ana have owned and operated it for the last 4 años.

The window suggests that the restaurant serves 'comida' (food) both Mexican and Colombian, but Colombian with a few available Mexican and Cuban sides would be more correct. If you want to try the taste of Colombia, you can't go wrong with the 'bandeja paisa,' one of my personal favorites. This translates as Bandeja = Platter, and Paisa = 'country', 'hillbilly', 'folk' or 'native to a region.' Consider this plate the Colombian version of a giant sampler at the 'Cracker Barrel.' The Bandeja Paisa is quite possibly one of the largest meals you've ever had on one plate. Correction: platter.

Typically you will get:
 
Colombian style beans,
white rice,
arepa (something like a grits cake - good with salt, pepper, butter and cream cheese),
chorizo (fresh cooked sausage in Latin America),
bistec (thin cut Spanish style steak),
ensalada or salad, usually a tomato, avocado slices and some shredded lettuce, which is the authentic way to serve it, AND NOT SERVED WITH DRESSING. Eat this along with your food as you would American veggies.
fried egg
chicharrón‎, a fried port rind (think SUPER THICK bacon without all of the salt).
sweet plantain slices = deep fried banana, a sweet delicacy.

Along with your Bandeja Paisa, you might order a side of Colombian Empanada's, in my opinion if you've never eaten Colombian style empanada's, you've never tasted empanadas! El Ranchito gets this dish nearly perfect as well. Empanadas have an outer crust made with masarepa, the precooked cornmeal that is used to make arepas. The filling is stewed beef (or pork) and potatoes seasoned with hogao, usually in the form of a brand-name: Sasson.

Frying these empanadas gives them a crispy exterior, but the cornmeal pastry is deliciously creamy and soft on the inside. It's traditional to serve these empanadas with spicy aji sauce, or with generous slices of limón (lime). For the unwashed Gringos among us there IS a proper way to enjoy an empanada. Pick it up with your hand and bite off one of the pointed ends (if they've just come out be careful because this can be very hot from heat, but not from spice), spoon in a portion of the aji sauce, or as I prefer a stream of lime juice. From this point until you have consumed the little meaty crescent, you will be in culinary heaven!

Lastly, I'd recommend the 'Arepa de Choclo.' Unlike the arepa served with your Paisa, the Arepa de Choclo filled with melted cheese is made with sweet yellow corn meal. It's hard to classify this as a bread, grain, or dessert, any way you enjoy it it is bound to become a sought after favorite. What's even more cool about this little food item, the variations are incredibly wide. In the Andes you might encounter El Ranchito's Arepa de Choclo, and around the next curve you'll find a restaurant with clay ovens baking a thick sweet cornbread over a cedar plank fire. Well that's my review boys and girls, now your on your own because I think I just talked myself into a new condo in the cloud forests. If I find the cloud forests out of reach at the moment, then El Ranchito can certainly make up for my home sickness for 'mi nuevo país.'

Within the $$ price range, you will find El Ranchito to be well worth your effort, Latin food at it's best and you won't need to bring a bottle of Tums with you. In summary? Buena comida tipica de Colombia especialmente el chicharron y la bandeja paisa.


Bandeja Paisa, Empandas, ensalada, arepa de choclo and of course the Tortillas from um... any fake Mexican restaurant in the USA and this SURE ISN'T MEXICO!


Typical ensalada served with your meal, often on the same plate over the top of everything else, I like the presentation at El Ranchito better then most.


The Arepa de Choclo, worth the trip to El Retiro, or Santa Fe de Antioquia, Colombia, all by themselves, but failing that trip, a journey down Beach Boulevard will be rewarded.

Charles Hunter

July 19, 2013, 03:42:57 PM
The Jax Food Critic pays a visit to Chopstick Charley's, prompted by MJ's shout-out.  He was very impressed.  In a not so good way.
http://jaxfoodcritic.com/chopstick-charleys-restaurant-review-may-god-have-mercy-on-my-soul/

thekillingwax

July 19, 2013, 07:12:41 PM
Hahaha, that was awesome. Yeah, it might be a good idea not to include places in articles that have one review. The one person that ate there just wants others to share their pain. Although thanks to the article, the thought of a bunch of hipsters going into the chopstick dungeon trying to hide their fear while instagramming plates of the worst chinese food imaginable is beyond hilarious. Talked to my aunt about the place- she worked at the Bellsouth building on Emerson for years. She said lots of people ate there but even in its prime, the place was still awful. She said as soon as the chinese place in Market Square opened, their business plummeted and she was honestly mortified that they were still open.

stroke4

July 19, 2013, 08:14:07 PM
This is my review of Chopstick Charlies, after reading the metrojacksonville review and finding out that, after 40 years, they're still open!

I remember my father taking our family here YEARS ago. I don't remember anything else about the experience.

Zoom ahead 40 years. I drove by earlier today on the way back from the post office. The sign in the window actually said, "OPEN".I was shocked I'd always thought the sign said CLOSED.

We got out of the car and walked up to the door. The door is a rust colored wooden door. It opened on the left. We walked in and the place was exactly as described in the Metro review.

The vinyl booths lining the walls were circa 1970's. There were tables up and down the middle of the restaurant.

As we walked in there was a guy starting walk leave through the door to the kitchen. He turned around and the lady cook came out front and sat us down. She said we could sit 'anywhere'. There was nobody else in the restaurant. I picked a booth on the far wall where I could see the tv in the back.

She came over with a white table cloth and 'we' put the cloth on our table. We were starting to get fancy.

Our drink options were limited: Sprite, Coke or Water. I had an idea of what to expect. I was correct. We ordered Cokes. She brought out 2 cans and 2 glasses with ice cubes.

She handed us the menus. They looked circa 1970's. It brought back memories.

You had the old style options. Dinner for 1, choose from Column A. Dinner for 2, choose 1 from Column A and 1 from Column B. Dinner for 3, dinner for 4, etc.

I already knew what I wanted. I wanted something further down the menu. I wanted the sweet and sour chicken, an egg roll and a cup of egg drop soup. Paul followed suit and ordered the same thing.

She looked at us like... ARE YOU SURE? That's a lot of food! I'm like... yep. She went back to the kitchen. The other guy sat and watched the tv. After a little while he heard a noise in the kitchen. It was the cook bringing the eggs rolls and soup out on a car.

The egg drop soup didn't look like usual. It was kinda white and had the texture of rice pudding... almost. It was HOT and DELICIOUS! Amazing. The egg rool was delicious as well. You could tell it was homemade. It had small chunks of vegetables. The wrap was crispy and delicious. The sweet adn sour sauce was too chunky to squirt out of the plastic bottle so, I took the cap off and poured it on my plate. That worked out very well.

The main entree came out on metal elevated dishes, with lids!!! I haven't seen those in YEARS! That took me back. The sweet and sour chicken was in 2 dishes and the fried rice was in 2 more dishes.

Ok. I'll be straight up. I'm picky about my sweet and sour chicken. Jing Eng's restaurant was the only place that ever did them right. These were underwhelming. The fried rice was very good. The only vegetable in the rice was chopped onions. The fried rice was delicious.

The cook was right! It was a lot of food! We had to get 2 boxes to go.

The total for everything was $20.25. I paid cash. I'm not sure they can take credit cards.

Before she left I asked the cook how long she'd been there and what her name was. She said they opened in 1974. That sounds about right... my father is the type who'd take us to the new restaurany in town. Her name is KEETY. I asked her to spell it. K I T T Y. She's a sweetheart. She speaks pretty good English. She's very friendly. I told her our names. She laughed... Paul and Paul.

One thing to remember... there are no ceiling fans. There is air conditioning. I think it's set to 82. It came on twice.

Overall, the food was really good. I won't get the sweet and sour chicken next time. But, I would go for chicken fried rice... and an egg roll and a cup of egg drop soup.

Oh! I almost forgot! Kitty said they opened in 1974. I told her my father brought us... probably in 1974. She thought I was pulling her leg! I said, No... he did!



Chopstick Charlies front door, from the inside



The door to the kitchen and the tv on the left.



The kitchen 'help'.



Leftovers - Sweet and sour chicken and fried rice



Sweet and sour chicken in sweet and sour sauce in an elevated metal dish.



Fried rice.



2 orders of sweet and sour chicken and fried rice in the elevated metal dishes.



White table cloths!



Homemade egg roll. Chopped vegies and crispy shell



HOT egg drop soup. Sorry, low light made it hard to focus



2 cokes, egg rolls, egg drop soup and fried noodles.


77danj7

July 20, 2013, 11:36:38 AM
I had the Falafel from Wafaa N Mikes last night...as always it was so good.  There is no comparison to their falafel in my opinion.

Debbie Thompson

July 21, 2013, 08:34:34 AM
I thought I had seen my favorite hole-in-the-wall on this thread, but unless I missed it somewhere, realize it's not.  Luigi's Italian Restaurant on University Blvd, W., across from Winn-Dixie, halfway between I-95 and Beach.  It has been there for years and years.  We also like the one in 5 Points, but if Dog Walker said the lasagna at Pizza Italiano in Five Points was the size of a baby crib mattress, then this one must be the size of a queen size mattress.  I swear, it feeds me for three days.  And it's the best lasagna I have ever eaten.  I've had their meatball sandwiches, and their spaghetti and meatballs, but lasagna is so much my favorite, I order it nearly every time I go.  BTW...the meatballs are dense and the size of a baseball.  And the blue cheese dressing is really good too.  I think it's homemade. You won't get a bunch of light, lemon butter sauce at Luigi's.  It's a hearty red sauce place, although they did finally bow to current fashion and add Fettucine Alfredo to the menu awhile ago.

I saw Bike Jax talk about the burger at Chomp Chomp, so last Art Walk my friend and I went in and ordered one.  Would say it has a way more "hole in the wall" vibe than Tommy's in Springfield, but that may be due to how small it is.  That said, not a problem for us.  The burger was good.  Maybe not the best on in Jacksonville, but still good.  I liked the option of having a side salad instead of chips and the salad was good.  My friend, Leta, ordered the chips and they were great. They were hot, and tasted home made.  I saw other sandwiches I want to try, so I'll definitely go back.  We can recommend Chomp Chomp.

Hola at 1st and Confederate.  I like the Chicken Enchilada Verde, and order it nearly every time I go.  The fajitas are good too.  Happy Hour every day from, I think, 4 to 8.

TheCat

July 21, 2013, 01:19:25 PM
@stroke4 I'm happy you liked chopstick Charley's. There are such differing opinions on this place. I want someone to try the sweet and sour chicken and let me know what they think.

I went to Chomp Chomp last night. They are mastering the burger and hitting cooking temps. I've ordered a burger from them several times and for me they have always been well-done on a medium cook request. Last night, I ordered three burgers two med-rare (for fear that they would overcook) and one medium. They were all spot on.

JaxByDefault

July 21, 2013, 01:31:21 PM
EL RANCHITO RESTAURANT
14333 Beach Blvd Ste 22 Jacksonville, FL 32250(904) 992-4607

+1000 on El Ranchito.

You told us about this place years ago, Ock, and we have been fans ever since. Jorge and family are great and always willing to talk soccer with us!

Sometimes we just order three or four appetizers--empanadas colombiana, yuca, arepa con chorizo (or chicharron) are always favorites. (Follow Ock's advice and squeeze a little lime juice into the empanadas!)

The bandaja paisa is my favorite. It's enough food to feed two people, but I (shamefully) ate the entire thing by myself yesterday.

Don't bother ordering the Mexican or Cuban food on menu (although good, too). Just go straight for the Colombian stuff.

El Ranchito is definitely a hidden jewel in Jacksonville. It is the farthest we drive for any restaurant on our rotation of favorite places, and it is definitely worth the trip from the urban core, or anywhere else in town.

stroke4

July 21, 2013, 04:21:21 PM
Pictures from Chopstick Charlies:



Chopstick Charlies front door, from the inside



The door to the kitchen and the tv on the left.



The kitchen 'help'.



Leftovers - Sweet and sour chicken and fried rice



Sweet and sour chicken in sweet and sour sauce in an elevated metal dish.



Fried rice.



2 orders of sweet and sour chicken and fried rice in the elevated metal dishes.



White table cloths!



Homemade egg roll. Chopped vegies and crispy shell



HOT egg drop soup. Sorry, low light made it hard to focus



2 cokes, egg rolls, egg drop soup and fried noodles.

JohnnyG

July 22, 2013, 09:18:18 AM
We decided to try out El Ranchito this Saturday night and were solidly impressed.  I wish we had tried this place sooner instead of always going to La Nopalera a few doors down.  I read the review in this thread last week and had a friend from Colombia visiting from Gainesville so couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to go inn.  I made a reervation for our party of eight and am very glad that we did as the restaurant is tiny. 

The owner's daughter was our waitress and was friendly, professional and able to thoroughly and enthusiastically describe all of the dishes.  We got a variety of appetizers including the cheese arepas, chorizo arepas, tostones, empenadas and ceviche colombiana.  As a pescatarian, I can't speak to the empenadas or chorizo, but the tostones and ceviche were spectacular.  For dinner I got the whole fish, which was cooked and flavored perfectly and served with delicious beans, rice, salad and plantains.  It was way more food than I could eat, especially with the sampling of apps.  We had an awesome dinner and a great experience and will definitely go back. Our Colombian friend was very impressed and raved about the authenticity of the food.  It turned out to be a Colombian national holiday, so the timing was even better.  Thanks to the original poster for the reccomendation. 

BridgeTroll

July 22, 2013, 09:20:45 AM
We decided to try out El Ranchito this Saturday night and were solidly impressed.  I wish we had tried this place sooner instead of always going to La Nopalera a few doors down.  I read the review in this thread last week and had a friend from Colombia visiting from Gainesville so couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to go inn.  I made a reervation for our party of eight and am very glad that we did as the restaurant is tiny. 

The owner's daughter was our waitress and was friendly, professional and able to thoroughly and enthusiastically describe all of the dishes.  We got a variety of appetizers including the cheese arepas, chorizo arepas, tostones, empenadas and ceviche colombiana.  As a pescatarian, I can't speak to the empenadas or chorizo, but the tostones and ceviche were spectacular.  For dinner I got the whole fish, which was cooked and flavored perfectly and served with delicious beans, rice, salad and plantains.  It was way more food than I could eat, especially with the sampling of apps.  We had an awesome dinner and a great experience and will definitely go back. Our Colombian friend was very impressed and raved about the authenticity of the food.  It turned out to be a Colombian national holiday, so the timing was even better.  Thanks to the original poster for the reccomendation. 

Great first post!!  Welcome JohnnyG!!

ben says

October 31, 2013, 02:44:10 PM
Just got back from Chopstick Charley's. The place is a shitbox inside. No AC, moldy, peeling walls, a ceiling that looks like it's about to cave, magazine selection from 1999 (really), and a man watching cartoons the whole time you're eating.

THAT all being said: the food is awesome and they're actually cooking back there. Best egg roll and wonton soup in town. I'd go back, but I'd take it to go.

TheCat

October 31, 2013, 04:14:08 PM
Yeah, the TV watching a little Poltergeist-esque. What did you order?

mfischer0

December 18, 2013, 08:35:27 AM
Passed by that place for 20+ years thinking it was a heroin drop. My wife dared me, we went (clarification, myself and a buddy, she "ain't setting foot..."), and it was good. Interesting experience.
My only complaint is the celery. I haaaaaate celery, and Mama Chef loves it. Oh well.
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