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 Hole in the Wall - MetroJacksonville.com

It may feel like the extent of Jacksonville's restaurant offerings revolve around franchise food concepts (I use “concepts” loosely); especially, if you’re looking to find a restaurant sitting on one of our city's main arteries.  Franchise restaurants offer one thing: reliability. They provide the assurance that that substance they call food will always be the same. Sometimes that safety is all we need. I understand; sometimes, it’s enough for me.  

But, if you’re in the mood to go on some foodie adventures, you’ll explore neighborhoods where the surrounding commercial space is a little run down (and where the rent isn’t so high) to find Jacksonville’s restaurant treasures. There are incredible places to eat in little pockets all over our city. These places are less about "location, location, location" and banal marketing techniques, and more about creating a place in which the food is all the advertising they need.

This short list of hole in the walls is a starting point and a good place to begin exploring some of Jacksonville's obscure restaurants.

Chomp Chomp:

By far the most suggested "hole in the wall" restaurant, Chomp Chomp is the epitome of a trendy, low-budget establishment that serves quality, fresh, affordable food (most meals are $7). They serve banh-mi, pad thai, tacos, and they serve an pretty awesome burger (sometimes with an over-easy egg!).

The menu is constantly changing. There are always new items to try. Their freshly made chips, offered as a side, have developed quite a cult following.  Need a place to sit? Good luck. There are maybe three tables inside the restaurant and  only a few more outside.

And, for a town that shuts down after 5PM, Chomp Chomp bravely stays open 'til 2am on Friday and Saturday.  They're located next to Burro Bar downtown.

106 E Adams St
Jacksonville, FL 32202
(904) 762-4667

Tue-Wed 11 am - 2:30 pm
Thu 11 am - 10 pm
Fri 11 am - 2 am
Sat 6 pm - 2 am

Yelp Profile
Urban Spoon Profile

Nick the Greek

Image by Nancy White of nourishthebeast.com

Image by Nancy White of nourishthebeast.com

Mayport Road is proving to be a haven for awesome restaurants and Nick the Greek is one of those places. After about four years of window-only ordering and only two outdoor concrete tables to sit at, they have just opened a full-service restaurant.

A reviewer on Yelp made a point to mention that not only was the lamb tender, but the silverware was of high-quality. There you go, a restaurant with great gyros and mighty forks.

10 Donner Rd
Atlantic Beach, FL 32233
(904) 241-0070

Mon-Sat 10:30 am - 9 pm
Sun 12 pm - 8 pm

Yelp Profile
Urban Spoon Profile

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.

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

Not listed.

Yelp Profile
Urban Spoon Profile

Pepe's Hacienda

Image by Nancy White of nourishthebeast.com

Three weeks ago you could visit Pepe's Hacienda and order three tacos on freshly made corn tortillas with a side of refried beans and rice for $5. Alas, things have changed.  

It's probably a good thing, but they've upped their prices by about $2 on most of their meals, which means you can still get a delicious, fresh meal at this place, but you don't have to feel like you're ripping Pepe off.

Need guacamole? They'll mash a whole avocado on a plate for you. Like beef tongue? Order it for your taco or Mexican sandwich. Seafood soup? Yes. Shrimp ceviche? Yes. Thick, crunchy, "homemade" tortilla chips and salsa? With every meal. And for those who like things on the regular, you will not go wrong with the steak, pork or chicken tacos. And yes, they serve breakfast.

This restaurant is connected to a Hispanic grocer where in the back of the store you can order freshly made Chicharrones by the pound.

3615 Dupont Ave
Ste 900
Jacksonville, FL 32217
(904) 636-8131

Mon-Sat 8 am - 10 pm

Yelp Profile
Urban Spoon Profile

Waffa N' Mike's

If you've had the unfortunate experience of eating falafel for the first time at Avondale's famous brawl house and hookah bar (read Casbah) you were left wondering why people like burnt chick pea cakes.

It's time to try falafels again, cooked the right way, at Waffa N Mike's. They are one of the best falafel places in town. The patties are made from scratch.  Order it in a pita wrap which comes filled with fresh herbs and pickled beets. Their hummus is awesome, also made in-house, and full of flavor. It's a great accompaniment to any meal or as the meal.

They've recently started serving hookahs in their courtyard in the back of the restaurant.

1544 N Main St
Jacksonville, FL 32206
(904) 683-8313

Mon-Sat 10 am - 9 pm

Yelp Profile
Urban Spoon Profile

Article by Arash Kamiar

More "Hole in the Wall" restaurant articles on the next page.

Related "Hole in the Wall" Articles:

Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part 1

Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part 2

Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part 3

Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part 4

Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part 5

Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part 6

Jacksonville's Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part 7

Check out Stephen Dare's "A Chef's List for Dining In Jacksonville."

This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2013-jul-jacksonvilles-hole-in-the-wall-restaurants

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