Author Topic: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants  (Read 25542 times)

hooplady

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #45 on: 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

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Thinking Exotic? COLOMBIAN Is Great!
« Reply #46 on: 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.

« Last Edit: July 15, 2013, 11:22:45 AM by Ocklawaha »

Charles Hunter

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #47 on: 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

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #48 on: 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

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #49 on: 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.


« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 01:47:27 PM by TheCat »

77danj7

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #50 on: 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

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #51 on: 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

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #52 on: 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.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2013, 03:08:17 PM by TheCat »

JaxByDefault

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #53 on: 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

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #54 on: 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.

« Last Edit: July 22, 2013, 01:46:48 PM by TheCat »

JohnnyG

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #55 on: 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

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #56 on: 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!!
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ben says

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part I
« Reply #57 on: 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.
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TheCat

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants
« Reply #58 on: October 31, 2013, 04:14:08 PM »
Yeah, the TV watching a little Poltergeist-esque. What did you order?


mfischer0

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Re: Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part I
« Reply #59 on: 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.