7 Unique Jax Dining Experiences

Looking for a unique Jacksonville experience to be served with your meal? Here's seven local eateries worth considering.

Published January 27, 2016 in Dining & Nightlife - MetroJacksonville.com

1. The Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails

Images courtesy of Visit Jacksonville at http://www.visitjacksonville.com/blog/jacksonvilles-trendiest-spots/

There's not too many places in town where you can take the train to eat in a century-old building housing a candy factory above you. In fact, the Candy Apple Café & Cocktails is the only spot. The Candy Apple Café & Cocktails is a full service bar and restaurant that shares space with Sweet Pete’s candy store. As a result, several menu items are based around candied treats. Aside from that, the menu items are also based around popular French cuisine, with an added Southern Twist.

They serve brunch and lunch daily, as well as dinner Tuesday- Saturday. Their brunch menu includes items such as “Bourbon Pecan Waffles,” omelets named after famous streets in Jacksonville, and “Rock Shrimp and Grits.” Their lunch and dinner menus include dishes such as “Candy Apple bisque,” “Short-rib Meatloaf,” Croquet Monsieur sandwiches, and fun appetizers like specialty deviled eggs and candied bacon strips.

Perhaps most popular though, are their handcrafted cocktails and unique desserts. An extensive portion of their dessert menu is dedicated to candied gourmet apples, with flavors such as “Coconut Curry Cashew” and “Salted Caramel Candy Bacon.” Their cocktails feature a sweet twist, with drinks such as a “Rock Candy Mimosa” and a “mimosa Popsicle.”

The Candy Apple Café was named “Best New Restaurant” in 2015. On top of their delicious food and a unique, and sweet, dining experience, they also offer candy and cocktail classes as well as private events and custom catering. The Candy Apple Café & Cocktails can be found in the Historic Seminole Club Building on 400 N. Hogan St.

Image courtesy of Yelp at http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/sweet-petes-jacksonville-3?select=eGweTjdR5UQhayl7uUsD8A

For information on events and hours, visit: http://candyapplecafeandcocktails.com/

2. The French Pantry

The French Pantry is the one place on this list that you would never think was a restaurant from looking at it from the outside. It looks industrial because it's actually a commercial bakery. Dating back to the mid-1990s, the French Pantry produces baked goods for hotels and restaurants, including Ruth Chris Steak House, The Lodge & Club in Ponte Vedra, Taverna San Marco, bb's, Biscotti’s, and Restaurant Orsay.
Food being served at the bakery was initially added to cater to students at nearby Wolfson High School. Today, this local institution is so popular at lunch, it's not uncommon for lines to stretch outside of the building. The French Pantry is open for lunch Monday through Friday. Their menu generally includes sandwiches, bruschetta, fresh baked pastries, and desserts. Selections include a shrimp, artichoke, and goat cheese bruschetta; a panino with buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, and sun-dried tomato mayo; and a French dip with roast beef and brie.  

Images courtesy of The French Pantry

The French Pantry is located at 6301 Powers Avenue. For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/The-French-Pantry-140349772669219/

3. Clark's Fish Camp

Clark’s Fish Camp began as a bait and tackle shop at the foot of Hood Landing Road over 30 years ago. They expanded to a seafood restaurant, and have been serving up local favorites ever since.

Clark’s Fish Camp is casual, but certainly unique, dining experience. Located along Julington Creek, they offer one of the largest menus in the area, with an entire page dedicated to appetizers alone. Their giant menu includes things like a seafood bake, prime rib-stuffed mushrooms, shrimp and grits, stuffed fish, pastas and steaks, quail, frog legs, and a prime rib philly.

Not only do they have a large menu, but the restaurant also includes what rumored to be one of the largest privately owned taxidermy collections in the country. Clark's preserved animals includes lions, tigers, monkeys, bears, giraffes, deer, bobcats, and a flock of birds gazing at guests. If this isn't unique enough, there's a live alligator exhibit as well!

Image courtesy of Clark's Fish Camp.

Clark's is located at 12903 Hood Landing Road. For information and hours, visit: http://www.clarksfishcamp.com/

4. Safe Harbor Seafood Market and Restaurant

Many people identify Safe Harbor Seafood as a popular eatery along the St. Johns River in Mayport. The restaurant is a family business, owned and operated by Gerald Pack. Safe Harbor is a casual eatery, with lots of open-air, outdoor seating for people to enjoy views of the river and the boats coming in. Their menu offers just about every seafood dish you could imagine, from shrimp baskets, to crab cake melts, po’boys, blackened fish salads, and shrimp nachos.

What makes the dining experience neat, though, is that Safe Harbor is more than just a restaurant—it’s also a seafood market and Mayport's last seafood processing plant. Guests and locals alike can purchase fresh caught seafood here, and fisherman can stop to drop of their catch of the day and fuel up their boats.

Images courtesy of Safe Harbor.

Safe Harbor is located at 4378 Ocean Street. For more information, you can visit: http://www.safeharborseafoodmayport.com/

5. Andy's Farmers Market Grill

Dating back to 1938, the Jacksonville Farmers Market is North Florida’s largest and oldest farmers market featuring over 100+ farmers/vendors selling retail and wholesale items. Andy's Farmers Market Grill is situated in the center of this scene where seasonal, ethnic, organic, specialty, and unique products arrive fresh daily.

The owner of the joint is Andy Akle, who opened it up in 2010 to serve breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday. The location for this place is good, as it’s close to fresh products and a convenient lunch stop for blue collars in the area.

Their menu is large, but simple. Breakfast offers a multitude of sandwiches, egg specials, pancakes, waffles, and sides. Lunch brings sandwiches too, both hot and cold, as well as burgers, grilled items, fries, desserts and a Jacksonville classic, the Camel Rider. The coleslaw, sweet tea and limeade are highly reputable, too.

Images courtesy of Jacksonville Farmers Market.

Andy’s is located at 1810 W Beaver St. For hours and menu, visit: https://www.facebook.com/Andys-Farmers-Market-Grill-454930244529319/

6. Chopstick Charley's

Chopstick Charley’s has an old, run-down Bates Motel type quality that is almost endearing. It doesn’t necessarily look like home but it will certainly feel like it.

Located off Philips Highway, this place is serving up real, authentic Chinese food. While other Chinese places scattered across the city can sometimes serve up “fast-food” type dishes, this place makes “ma and pop”-like food. Most meals are reasonably priced and unreasonably oversized. They serve all the “classic” and “typical” dishes, like beef lo-mein and sweet and sour chicken. They hand-make and roll their eggrolls, too.

For more hours, menu, and location, visit: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chopstick-Charleys/111661548873063

7. Jerome Brown Barbeque and Wings

During the 1970s and early '80s, Jerome "Get Down" Brown was known for spinning records at juke joints and Stake City. After 30 years on the grill, his name is now recognized as a northside fixture known for its signature BBQ ribs, chicken wings and sauces.

His sauce is said to be so good that the business became the center of an unfortunate, but unusual heist in 2015. An after hours barbecue bandit got away with thousands of dollars worth of sauce, chicken wings, ribs and baked beans.

While the food is great, what makes Jerome Brown's a dining unique experience is the way you're served. The eatery occupies a former Skinner's Dairy drive through "milk house". Here, you order your meal and recieve a ticket at one drive through window, only to circle the building and present your ticket to the same person to finally get your meal. If you like barbeque and you're up for a different way of it being served to you, Jerome Brown's is definitely worth a visit. Just remember, the place is pretty popular, so expect to wait a while in line.

Images courtesy of Jerome Brown's Barbeque & Wings.

Jerome Brown's is located at 1551 Edgewood Avenue West. For more information: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jerome-BBQ-Wings/114381668586147

Article by Kristen Pickrell

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