9 reasons why you need to visit the Northside

January 12, 2017 8 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

If you're a Floridian, from the seafood on your table, to the commercial freezers it was stored in, or even the concrete floor you stand on, it all likely traveled through the distribution channel of this important section of Jacksonville. Here's nine reasons you should take a visit to the Northside.

Article from ModernCities.com

1. Discover the epicenter of "Jacksonville-style" garlic crab cuisine

A garlic crab tray from Zebo's Crab Shack.

While most crabs walk or run across the bottom of waterways, blue crabs have paddle-shaped legs allowing them to swim.  Also known as Callinectes sapidus, "tasty, beautiful swimmers," the blue crab industry is one of the top five most valuable fisheries of Florida.  In the Northside, blue crabs mean big business. On the Trout River, Shaw's Southern Belle Frozen Foods, one of the country's largest specialty seafood packagers, started as the state's first crab plant in 1934.  

In an environmental setting blessed with an abundance of blue crabs, it's only natural that locals would develop a dish around these swimmers.  Where Marylanders prefer a dash of Old Bay, and Louisianans opt for Zatarain's, Jaxons tend to like their crabs in garlic.  Inexpensive, fresh and seasoned to perfection, in the Northside, garlic blue crab trays are just as popular as crab cakes in Baltimore and cheesesteaks in Philadelphia.  Locally caught and served with potatoes, eggs, sausage and corn, garlic blue crab trays can be found ready for take-out in seafood markets throughout the Northside like Zebo's Crab Shack, R&R Crab House and J-Ville Crab Shack #1.

2. You'll realize what the soul food hype is all about

Inside East 21st Street's Soul Food Express.

Spreading north and west from the LaVilla area, the Northside has been the epicenter of city's soul food scene for well over a century. The origins of soul food, including foods such as okra and rice, are common elements of West African cuisine that were introduced to the Americas as a part of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Soul food, as we know of it today, is a combination of West African foods and meats and vegetables that were readily available to African slaves.

Oxtails, collard greens and macaroni & cheese from Austin's Soul Food on North Main.

Jacksonville's status as a port during the Reconstruction era, led to a large number of freedmen locating to the area for economic opportunity (bringing their cuisine with them) during the late 19th century. Here, traditional afrocentric dishes such as oxtail, chitterlings, ham hocks, collard and turnip greens can be found in numerous hole-in-the-wall restaurants ranging from Austin's Soul Food on North Main Street to Soul Food Express on East 21st Street.

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Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at edavis@moderncities.com