Five Local Restaurants on the Verge of Major Expansions

Here's a brief look at five popular local restaurants with aggressive expansion plans over the next few months.

Published July 18, 2014 in Dining & Nightlife -

Burrito Gallery

Earlier this year, the owners of Burrito Gallery and Uptown Market, the Gallery Restaurant Group, announced
that John Valentino, owner of four Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurants in Jacksonville, had joined as an equity partner and the new CEO of the operation. According to Burrito Gallery co-founder Paul Shockey in an April 2014 Jax Daily Record article, “We think our product is duplicable…. We were looking for an equity partner or an investor. John also brings knowledge and expertise.” Now possible locations for future restaurant locations are already being evaluated. A year from now, you may have multiple locations to get your Burrito Gallery fix.  Among the more interesting signs of vitality are the recent expansions of the Uptown Diner and Burrito Gallery concepts to both the East and West Clubs at the Jaguars Stadium.  (score more points for locally sourcing the venues on the part of the Stadium.)

The Formula: They offer fresh hand made all natural tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and salads. They also feature an Urb Garden Bar with skyline views and occasional live entertainment.

Number of Locations: 2 (Downtown, Jacksonville Beach)

Lunch for One: $10-$15

Menu Highlights: Cajun Shrimp Taco and Queso Dip.

Tasting Notes: Founded in early 2005, the Burrito Gallery has been voted best burrito in Jacksonville every year the category has existed.

4 Rivers Smokehouse

Established in 2009, 4 Rivers Smokehouse is a Central Florida-based restaurant but it makes our list because Pitmaster-owner John Rivers was raised in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville restaurant was Rivers' fourth when it opened in late 2012. Over the course of the next year, there could be additional locations open in Orange Park, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee.

The Formula: This relaxed restaurant is a very high end "fast food" self-service dinner.

Number of Locations: 6 (Jacksonville-Baymeadows, Winter Park, Winter Garden, Longwood, Gainesville, East Orlando)

Lunch for One: $10-$20

Menu Highlights: Unique smoked sandwiches of beautiful angus brisket, pulled pork, Texas sausage and St. Louis style Ribs.

Tasting Notes: 4 Rivers is the largest purchaser of brisket in the Southeastern United States. Tables are communal style to continue to enforce family style eating and meeting other people.

Maple Street Biscuit Company

This popular local restaurant was founded soon after Scott Moore and Gus Evans found themselves without jobs. To resolve that dilemma, Maple Street Biscuit Company was established in San Marco in 2012. According to Moore, they are always looking to expand. This week, they'll open their third restaurant in Murray Hill. In October, Maple Street will introduce its biscuits to Chattanooga, TN.

The Formula: Consistent Southern Comfort Food with a Modern Twist

Number of Locations: 3 (San Marco, Jacksonville Beach, Murray Hill)

Lunch for One: Under $10

Menu Highlights: Five & Dimes and Squawking Goats. All biscuits are made on site. Maple Street Biscuit Company also sells local honey and makes its own jam and jellies.

Tasting Notes: A trade mark of going to Maple Street Biscuit Company is how you get your food. Instead of being given a number or asked your name, customers are asked a quirky question like, "What's on your bucket list?"

Metro Diner

Jaxsons have known about Metro Diner's Chicken and Waffles for years but now others are starting to notice. Recently, Metro Diner's Davoli family formed a partnership with the ConSul Hospitality Group, who's known for building Carrabba's Italian Grill and Outback Steakhouse from the ground up. With three restaurants already open, new locations at Southside and Baymeadows and in St. Augustine are expected to come online this year.

The Formula:

Number of Locations: 4 (San Marco, Ortega, Mandarin, Jacksonville Beach)

Lunch for One: $10-$15

Menu Highlights: Fried Chicken & Waffles, Pound Cake French Toast, Charleston Shrimp & Grits.

Tasting Notes: Metro Diner is one of a few NE Florida restaurants that have been featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive ins and Dives".

M Shack

For years, brothers Matthew and David Medure have been known for their successful fine dining restaurants, Matthew's in San Marco and Restaurant Medure in Ponte Vedra Beach. teamed up to open the first M Shack in Atlantic Beach Town Center in late 2011. An instant hit with local burger lovers, the siblings opened a second location at the St. Johns Town Center in December 2013. Recently, an M Shack trailer opened for business in San Marco. Now, M Shack is taking its talents to Riverside's Five Points.

The Formula: Fusing the old fashioned burger joint with style and fresh ingredients.

Number of Locations: 3 (St. Johns Town Center, Atlantic Beach, San Marco)

Lunch for One: $10-$15

Menu Highlights: The "M" Burger, The Insanity Burger, Sunrise Burger, Parmesan fries.

Tasting Notes: M Shack burgers are made with all natural, hormone-free beef ground fresh daily.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at

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