Jacksonville is a vibrant, thriving city on Florida’s East Coast in the state’s northeast corner. Home of Maxwell Coffee, this city is ideal for history buffs, outdoor lovers, and foodies. The beer and cocktail scene is bursting at the seams, and the food scene is eclectic, fun, and delicious.
With so many restaurants in so many neighborhoods, I was hard-pressed to narrow down my choices. But these five restaurants will jumpstart your taste buds for more of Jacksonville.
Parts of this visit were hosted by The Tasting Tours. All opinions remain my own.
The Beaches Of Jacksonville
The beach area of Jacksonville encompasses four main beaches: Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Mayport Beach, and Atlantic Beach. Each area has its own unique culture and vibe.
All four beaches are just a short drive from Jacksonville’s downtown. You’ll find craft breweries, fresh seafood, and many restaurant choices ranging from beach bar dives to upscale dining to historic fish camps.
1. Coop 303
Coop 303 is one of our top favorite beach dining spots. Located on Atlantic Beach Boulevard in Atlantic Beach, Coop 303 is one of those restaurants that manages to marry a casual vibe with elevated cuisine for a dining experience that is comfortable and homey.
The decor is fresh, fun, and welcoming when you walk through the massive front doors. There are two bars and lots of choices for dining. Coop 303 fosters community using food as the vehicle.
Coop 303 is dishing up fresh regional Florida cuisine with a nod to the South with their offerings of hot chicken sliders, a Nashville tradition. Southerners love chicken and waffles, and Coop 303 has created the most ideal combination with their spin on it. This fantastic dish starts with a bacon waffle, topped with maple creme, pepper jelly, and onion jam. It just does not get better than this!
Don’t miss a handcrafted cocktail; they are amazing! For whiskey lovers, they offer an exclusive array of whiskeys.
2. Culhane’s Irish Pub
With a unique story that involves five sisters from Ireland, four of whom live in Florida, a large bit of entrepreneurial spirit, a wee bit of Irish luck (or magic), along with a secret Irish ingredient, Culhane’s is ground zero.
The Culhane sisters — Lynda, Michelle, Mary Jane, and Áine — are spicy and sassy and have changed the culinary landscape of Jacksonville. The sisters opened their first restaurant in the Jax Beaches in 2005, and their second location in Southside in 2018.
In 2010, the women received a phone call from the producers of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” One week after learning Culhane’s had earned a spot on “Triple D,” Guy Fieri was in the kitchen, and Culhane’s was in the national spotlight!
But aside from the sisters, the food is the true star at Culhane’s. Serving up Irish comfort food and even some unexpected menu surprises, Culhane’s definitely tops the list when visiting Jacksonville!
I love the dingle fish pie — creamy goodness stuffed with cod, salmon, shrimp, potatoes, peas, garlic, cream sauce (with a special surprise!), melted cheddar, and served with toast points. Jim adores their Creole Gumbo, which transports him back to New Orleans — it is just that good!
And that secret ingredient? Another entrepreneurial endeavor by the talented Culhane clan — 5 Sisters Vodka with a wee bit of Ireland in each sip! So don’t miss a cocktail made with 5 Sisters Vodka. I’m a tad addicted to their lemon drop martini.
3. Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar
Spend a fun, relaxing evening over wine, cocktails, and food. Barrique offers an extensive wine list, a full bar, and an excellent selection of beers. The interior is not glaringly bright, lending itself to a romantic dinner for two and just as easily a fun gathering of friends.
There are large sliding windows that stretch across the front of Barrique. When they are open, it’s fun to people watch as you sip a cocktail or glass of wine.
They offer a weeknight happy hour from 3–6 p.m. with specially priced cocktails, wines, and beers, along with a selection of light bites. We often head to Barrique at what I laughingly call “shoulder time” around 4:30 p.m.
Take advantage of the happy hour specials when you visit this way. Then, stay for a bit more and share a dinner entree.
Half bottles of wine are difficult to find. But not at Barrique! In fact, they have a good selection of half bottles of wine. This is ideal for those who like to incorporate two different wines with their meals.
Don’t miss the cute desserts at Barrique; They come in little mason jars and are just the right size to top off a delicious meal.
Biscottis is the place we gravitate toward when we’re looking for a drop-in, casual early evening out. Their Happy Hour is 3–6:30 pm, Monday–Friday. Biscottis is another one of our favorite stops featuring a selection of bar bites, wines, and cocktails.
The menu is eclectic, offering charcuterie boards to braised pork cheeks to chicken satay. We’ll often stop in around 4 p.m. for an early dinner. Often we’ll order from the happy hour menu, adding a salad or soup, and of course, a glass of wine.
The chicken satay and the skirt steak satay are to die for fantastic. Do not miss the crab and artichoke fondue. It is so creamy good and just an ideal way to kick off a meal. The desserts are insanely large, so when we do order dessert, we make sure we have another couple with us, as one slice of cake really can be enough for four people!
5. Southern Grounds
Southern Grounds is our go-to must-have coffee and breakfast restaurant in Jacksonville. The coffee is smooth and wonderful, and the beans are not over-roasted. Those who love and appreciate good coffee will fall in love with Southern Grounds at first sip.
The breakfast dishes are fantastic, fresh, and presented well. I love their omelets, avocado toast, and eggs Benedict.
Southern Grounds does more than coffee and breakfast, however. The menu has sandwiches, paninis, pitas, bowls, and tacos. They open their doors at 6:30 a.m. and close at 9 p.m.
Food tours are a great way to explore any city. You will get an overview of the area and taste some fantastic local food along the way. Both The Tasting Tours and Taste of Jacksonville Food tours are great ways to discover two of Jacksonville’s local neighborhoods.
The Tasting Tours
The Tasting Tours is a fabulous way to get an overview of one of Jacksonville’s many neighborhoods, Riverside. This neighborhood has a large number of diverse restaurants, bars, and coffee shops to explore.
Just adjacent to Riverside is the Avondale neighborhood. Many times you’ll hear these neighborhoods referred to as Riverside/Avondale. Both neighborhoods are filled with eclectic shops and restaurants, making for a fun day of exploring these walkable neighborhoods.
Our tour had five restaurants and lasted 3 hours. It offered a unique food selection, including Mediterranean, seafood, and Mexican. Each stop also included a cocktail. The guide was knowledgeable about the area, the history, and the restaurants.
Visitors often overlook the Avondale neighborhood, but in our humble opinion, it is one of the most interesting of Jacksonville’s neighborhoods. Park on one of the many side streets, and wander through the community full of historic homes, scattered parks and playgrounds, boutique shops, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops.
Avondale is a very walkable, dog-friendly neighborhood. Spend a day wandering the streets, oogling the historic mansions and bungalows. Be sure to stop into the shops and talk with the shop owners.
Make a day of it, and bring your four-legged friend with you. Be sure to grab a cup of coffee or a refreshing cocktail, along with a bowl of water for Fido.
Taste Of Jacksonville Food Tours
Boutiques and art galleries line the streets, along with plenty of restaurants. I like walking through San Marco, stopping in and having a cocktail or lunch, and window shopping.
Your tour will include five stops with plenty of food tastings and drinks. The guides are knowledgeable about the history of San Marco and will share tidbits throughout your tour.
Wherever you land in Jacksonville, I know you will have a delightful time. The restaurants are eclectic and cover a variety of ethnic foods.
We’ve always said we would need a lifetime to eat our way through Jacksonville, and with the large number of restaurants that seem to open, that is true. Whatever your favorite type or style of food and drink, you are sure to find it in the surprising and ever-evolving Jacksonville food scene.
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