Jacksonville Hole in the Wall Restaurants, Part V

A hole in the wall "scandal" and four more restaurants to check out.

Published April 24, 2014 in Hole in the Wall - MetroJacksonville.com

A Hole In The Wall "scandal"?  A few months ago a thread was launched on Yelp about the "Hole in the Wall" series.  Why? Well, I felt totally free to use some of the images associated with the chosen restaurants from the Yelp site.

Common courtesy should suggest that I attribute the image to the user but the terms & conditions of Yelp seem to suggest that once an image is uploaded it, in so many words, goes into the "public domain". This wasn’t about me taking credit for a photo as some suggested. I don’t need to feign attribution to cell phone imagery. It was about showing the food that “belongs” to the restaurant.

Many don't agree with my sentiment as I don't think it's as big of a deal as some have made it out to be. However, a few of the end users of Yelp were not too happy to see their images posted without recognition. That is understandable. I should have provided attribution. To those whose images I used without properly crediting, I apologize.

For every restaurant I've featured I have always included a link to their Yelp.com and UrbanSpoon.com profiles. I enjoy the Yelp and UrbanSpoon communities. The reviews and images are ones that I want plenty of others to experience as they look through Hole in the Wall...that's why I link to the restaurants' profiles so other reviews can be read and more pictures (including the ones I used) can be seen.

The MetroJacksonville.com thread on the matter here.

The Yelp thread on the matter here.

Here's the reason I don't always take my own photos. I find that it significantly detracts from the experience and it always puts the restaurateurs on edge, making them, at times, somewhat confrontational.

I also don't like to tell restaurateurs that I’m writing about their restaurant because invariably I am asked "so, how was it...?" And, unless it's good I don't want to have a conversation about their watery queso dip. My preference is complete anonymity and that doesn't happen when I'm pulling out my phone and taking pictures. Still, I do take pictures.

Again, my apologies to the offended Yelpers.  Going forward, images that don't belong to me will be properly attributed and I'll link to the posters profile.

With that said, it has been a long time since the last series. I'm excited about this installment. I'm continually blown away by Jacksonville's unique restaurant heritage. We have some of the oldest deli's in this city and I think we have a couple of pretty solid niches; mainly, Vietnamese and Jamaican/Caribbean.

In this installment I picked out four more restaurants that I think stand out. Let me know what you think.

Image by Leah A.

Image by Nancy White of nourishthebeast.com

Image by Nancy White of nourishthebeast.com

Image by Leah A.

Saigon Times

My first time at Saigon Times I ordered a large, with extra beef, pho and a banh mi sandwich to go (my mouth is watering). My girlfriend and I planned an impromptu midday, midweek "picnic". Or, what do you call it when you buy your meal from one place only to end up eating it on the Bold Bean picnic table in the back of the Riverside location?

Saigon times serves their to go pho by pouring the broth in one larger container and placing the cold items (noodles, herbs and protein) in a separate container. My plan was to split the pho and the sandwich between the two of us,  which requires an extra container for the pho. We're not doing this "Lady and the Tramp" style.

That turned out to be a bit more difficult than I expected.

Requesting an extra container developed a bit of flustering dialogue.  My server had to have been new to the job. It seemed like she just left Denny's to work at Saigon Times as the menu items were maybe a bit foreign to her...but there was one thing that the owners apparently taught her very well.

"Can I have an extra container for the pho, please?"

"No, I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to give them out."

"I can't have an extra container..."


"Wha? Whyyy......?"

"They cost money and we can't just give them out."

"Can I buy one for a quarter, I guess?"

"I'm sorry, no."

"Really...? I can't buy one either? Well, can I talk to your manager?"

"Noooo. Sorryyyyy."

"I can't talk to your manager?"

"No...she's (mumbles) back there with...calculator...back room...doing things..."

"So, I can't have another container? and I can't talk to the manager...I'd like to talk to the manager..."

"Well, okaaayyy, I'll give you a container but I'm really not supposed to..."

"Thank you."

After that exchange, how was I going to ask for an extra pair of chop sticks? On my way to Bold Bean I stopped at the Panda Express on King Street and purchased a pair for $.25. Thank you, Panda House.

Despite that unnecessary and very off putting exchange the food was awesome. Saigon Times might be my favorite vietnamese spot despite the fundamental lack of customer service during that specific instance. The broth was light but full of flavor with plenty of nuanced undertones. The herbs, bean sprouts were colorful. Vibrant, actually.

By far, Saigon Times has the best banh mi I have had in Jacksonville. The pork was tender (and there was plenty) and the bread was soft yet crispy.

Tip: If you are ordering togo have extra utensils and tableware stored in the car or plan on stopping at another restaurant for anything you may need.  

622 Cassat Ave
Jacksonville, FL 32205
Phone number (904) 378-2348

Yelp Profile
Urban Spoon Profile

Blue Boy Sandwiches

Is a restaurant with two locations a hole in the wall? In this case, I think so. Each of Blue Boy's locations are a bit obscure and like many of Jacksonville's deli's they've been around for decades and still remain un-ubiquitous.

I experienced Blue Boy at their Ft. Caroline location. If you didn't know they were open for business you would never know that they were open for business. The sign on the front of the building is faded. They're located right next to Nero's (which also looks like they are out of business). It's in an area of town where the strip malls are needing life. You feel the desperation of the stucco, it begs for your consideration($$$).  

So. Many. Options. Rueben, meatloaf, tuna salad and about a dozen iterations of a hamburger. This includes the Monster Burger, a two pound burger that "feeds a family of four". Usually, too many menu options is a worrisome sign. It makes me nervous but I suppose sandwich shops can get away with larger menus a little more easily than other eateries. Especially if you consider that Blue Boy has that one killer feature that allows you to care a little less about what is in the center of their sandwiches. They make their own bread and apparently "no preservatives in our bread", so says the sign on the wall next to the jaguars poster.

I ordered the Reuben. A sandwich that I never really order, ever. It's only recently that I've begun to really appreciate the subtle flavors of craft sauerkraut. Of course, Blue Boy's sauerkraut is nothing to write Germany about but they won me over to the Reuben. I loved it but it only works when you pour on the Thousand Island dressing. Otherwise, the sauerkraut is overpowering. The dressing tones down the harshness of the sauerkraut and brings all of the competing flavors together.

Plus, I got away without paying. Rather, i received a one day grace period. As soon as I asked for the check I remembered that I had left my debit card at home. The server directed me to talk to Betsy, the manager (maybe owner) and she didn't make me wash dishes.

Tip: Expect to wait if eating in the dining room. It took about 20 minutes to get my sandwich. Make sure you are able to pay before you order. Try their breakfast!

5535 Fort Caroline Rd
Jacksonville, FL 32277
(904) 743-3515

6514 Norwood Ave
Jacksonville, FL 32208
(904) 768-9791


Yelp Profile
Urban Spoon Profile

Image from from Fox Diner

Image from from Fox Diner

Image from from Fox Diner

Image from from Fox Diner

Image from from Fox Diner

Image from from Fox Diner

Fox Diner

I'm in the minority. I'm not one given to the buzz surrounding Fox Diner but too many people around me love this place and it is in their honor that Fox Diner is even on this list. I've been to Fox Diner at least five times and I've never been disappointed and I've never been awed. It's reliable. You'll get an adequate breakfast and a decent lunch. It won't be fantastic but it is significantly better than most of your other breakfast and lunch options in the city. The atmosphere is unique. It feels like your local cool diner (and it is just that).

Even though I think it's just okay the line, outside of the door every weekend begs to differ with my opinion.

It could be that I just don't understand breakfast nooks...

Tip: The lines are part of the fun. Expect to wait for a table on the weekends. They'll have coffee for you to drink while you are standing.

3580 St. Johns Ave
Jacksonville, FL 32205
(904) 387-2669

Yelp Profile
Urban Spoon Profile

Sunrise Bakery & Restaurant

By far my favorite restaurant of the four in Part V. Sunrise owns one corner of a stand alone building off of North Main St, past the 20th St. expressway overpass. When I arrived the high school next door had just let out and the students were trickling in and out. That would have fulfilled everything I wanted in high school, a good restaurant to visit after the final bell.

Th spicy aroma of jerk chicken and their various curries greet you at the door. Note, it's not a smell that will linger on your clothes after you leave. It's actually light and airy. The young woman behind the counter, gracious and kind. My meals were ready in less than ten minutes.

You may have noticed my tendency to be over the top when I like some place, "OMG, everything is fresh!"  At least, that's what I sound like in my head.

Maybe it's time to develop some sort of scale that distinguishes "hole in the wall" restaurants. It's not fair to put Sunrise in the same category as Chopstick Charley's. Chopstick Charley's is like unexpectedly good drunk food. It's what you and your girlfriend eat when you just want to do nothing, while watching TV and drinking cheap wine. Sunrise, that's the stuff you bring home to your mom after church or to your girlfriend after you propose, "I got you this ring and the goat curry from Sunrise. Say yes?"

When I have these random really stand out experiences at a restaurant it calls to question every other restaurant I think is good. Sunrise took me to my inner place. My first thought after taking a bite of their chicken curry was "Why don't we have good indian in this city?" I know, Bombaymeadows. Many those restaurants are good but I've yet to have stewed meat in an Indian restaurant that's so moist that the meat falls of the bone just by taking a breath, so moist that the bone is almost edible. That's what I experienced at Sunrise.

There is only one person that can make amazing ox tails and that's my brother-in-law, Dwayne Breaker. Sunrise Oxtails are good but they are a distant 2nd place when compared to what comes out of the BIL's oven. This is where I'll be critical, I think the oxtails needed about one more hour of stewing to really hit their sweet spot. They were still, fall off the bone moist and the flavors were right on. I've just been spoiled.

If you order their wings do not think you are ordering sports bar style wings. Sunrise wings are some combination of grilling and stewing. They're moist with a blitz of powerful flavor,  BBQ or Jerk. Again, fall off the bone moist.  

If you pick one place to try from this series go here.  

Tip: The small size entree feeds one. The regular size feeds two. The large feeds you and your extended family.

4106 N Main St
Jacksonville, FL 32206
(904) 355-0405

Yelp Profile
Urban Spoon

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/2014-apr-jacksonville-hole-in-the-wall-restaurants-part-v

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