illustration by julia rothman
today’s guide comes from the ladies behind the sweet iced tea blog. becky, a native of jacksonville, met her now blogging partner ginger in 2006, and is a self proclaimed lover of sweet tea, grits, roadside stands, Sunday school, winding porches and rocking chairs. while ginger now lives in monterey bay, california, she stays true to her southern ways and attempts to show west coasters how to butter and fry everything and say “y’all.” today becky and ginger take us on a tour of their beloved jacksonville with a great list of attractions, restaurants, and beaches. thanks ladies for this wonderful guide!–stephanie
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Finding beauty in the south is not difficult, but with major cities spread far and wide it can be difficult to navigate, especially if you are without an agenda. Jacksonville, Florida, where we started our blog, Sweet Iced Tea, is one of the largest cities (land mass) in the country. While we don’t mind driving in Jacksonville, it is worth having a destination in mind.
Jacksonville is a city full of chain restaurants and shops, but the true heart of the city is run by the families, friends and inspired individuals who hope to provide you with a truly unique dining or shopping experience. Jacksonville is a big city with a small town feel. You will always run into someone you know.
Suppertime in San Marco/Downtown –
Matthew’s The atmosphere is very sophisticated and minimalistic, the waiters knowledgeable and professional, the food wonderful. Be prepared for a fine dining experience.
TAG Take Away Gourmet is also owned by Matthew’s. The food is equally delicious, reasonably priced, and while you can eat in the small bistro, or out on the front porch, many choose to box up a lunch or dinner and take it home by the pound.
Bistro AIX Bistro AIX features French-inspired food and drinks. A beautiful, but not-stuffy dining experience is one of Jacksonville’s favorite spots to meet and eat.
BB’s BB’s is a great place for lunch or dinner. From their appetizers to their desserts, everything is scrumptious. The owners of BB’s also own Biscottis in Avondale (Riverside area). Their brunch is amazing, and their desserts are specialty (and humongous)!
Taverna Taverna offers a casual, minimalistic approach to simple food that’s always enjoyable.
Layla’s Layla’s Mediterranean food is one of the best spots in San Marco to chill out with falafel, couscous, lamb, and other Greek and Med favorites. They offer hookah.
Pizza Palace Delicious pizza that is addictive. This is the real stuff accompanied by a casual and always busy atmosphere complete with televisions always playing the latest game for the guys.
San Marco Deli The San Marco Deli, while closing in the late afternoon, serves great breakfast and lunch. Their sandwiches are made with wholesome ingredients and their soups and grill items are some of the best in town. Personal favorites include their hamburger, chicken salad, grilled cheese, and in the summer, if you can find their gazpacho, it will change your life!
Metro Diner Metro Diner is the perfect little place – just what you think of when you think of a classic dinner. Their salads, sandwiches, breakfast, all are delicious. But my favorite, is the pot pie. Homemade and delicious
Black Bean Black Bean is a new addition to the San Marco square. They feature Cuban food including sandwiches, soups, and… of course, most dishes feature a cuban favorite – black beans!
The Grotto The Grotto is a great place to meet friends for a drink or appetizers. While they don’t serve any full meals, it’s the perfect start, or end, to any night in the square. You’ll always find a full crowd.
European Street E Street is a Jacksonville favorite. There are many locations around town, all featuring a huge menu with selections from sandwiches, salads, soups (try the beer cheese). They also feature candies, beers and wines, and delicious desserts imported from all over.
Peterbrooke Chocolates If you’ve yet to taste a treat from Peterbrooke, you’re in for a treat! They offer a variety of chocolate desserts including strawberries, pretzels, and pizza. A Jacksonville favorite, their specialty is chocolate-covered popcorn. Trust me… it sounds strange, but you’ll be addicted from the first bite!
Tidbits Tidbits is great for lunch. They offer delicious, and healthy sandwiches.
Wine Cellar This is a great little restaurant to bring friends to. They offer a selection of wine, and their food is delicious.
Chew Modern but cozy atmosphere paired with great dishes that are flavorful and creative. Mint tea, and the chicken curry sandwich are a great lunch option. Check for specials.
Café Nola Located in the Museum of Contemporary Art, this restaurant caters to the downtown lunch crowd and offers night life options with dinner. Offering a wide variety of dining options, there is something for everyone.
Burrito Gallery Some of the best burritos in town. Order your dinner at the counter and grab a table, they go quickly.
Frivolities in San Marco/Downtown –
San Marco Theatre The San Marco Theatre is a local favorite. While they only show one screen at a time, they always pick the best films, so you’ll want to make this a regular part of your San Marco experience. They offer the classic movie treats (candy and popcorn), but also serve delicious pizzas, quesadillas, pitchers of beer and wine by the glass.
Theater Jacksonville Theater Jax features a season of plays by local actors. A little known fact – (Ben Linus from Lost) got his acting start right here at this theater in Jacksonville.
Market on the Square Come down to the gazebo on Saturdays for fare from local farmers and growers. You can find the Market on the Square on Saturdays in and around the gazebo. Local farmers and merchants bring their goods to purchase. Take an early morning Saturday walk and mingle with residents as you take your pick of the freshest tomatoes, berries, plants, all kinds of goodies. Fresh from the garden, right to the neighborhood.
Museum of Science and History While MOSH, as it’s commonly referred to, is designed as a children’s museum, adults will find plenty to do. The planetarium is a favorite for the whole family, or a good date night activity for the grown ups.
Treaty Oak Bring a picnic and eat under this rather large live oak tree, a symbol of the South. It’s estimated to be over 250 years old!
Rosie True This trendy store for the ladies offers a great selection of beautiful clothes that fit any style. They carry top brands such as 7 for All Mankind, Michael Stars, and Free People.
San Marco Bookstore A great place to find used and rare books. If you’re looking for something specific, they’ll find it for you!
The Write Touch Offering fine stationary brands such as Kate Spade and Crane, the Write Touch is the perfect place to stop in for cards, writing implements, books, and other gifts.
The Bath & Linen Shoppe The Bath & Linen Store offers fine products for the home. Come prepared to want every beautiful product in this store.
Villa Rugosa Flower Shop More than just your standard-issue floral design store, Villa Rugosa goes above and beyond to artistry. Their arrangements are always unique, and always breath-takingly beautiful.
Flying Phoenix I’ve waxed on about the Flying Phoenix before. You will always, always find a treasure at this tiny storefront packed with antiques. The owners have great eye for a find and always have reasonable prices.
You might have noticed the cute little white chapel off of Atlantic? Old-fashioned town hall style meetings meet here!
Museum of Contemporary Art Three floors of intriguing masterpieces. Operated by the University of North Florida, as a result, opportunities for students and patrons abound.
The Florida Theatre A truly unique theater with exquisite ceilings. Lots of musicians and bands make their way through this venue. It is a perfect place for a date.
Wet Your Whistle in San Marco/Downtown-
London Bridge Full selection of imported beers. Live music. Locals galore.
Mark’s Downtown Dressing up is the key to a night out at Mark’s. Once you are in, you can dance the night away.
Dos Gatos is the unmarked, chic spot across from the Florida Theatre. With plenty of interesting cocktails to choose from, you will not be bored.
The Pearl Your neighborhood hipster bar that pumps the jams during party hours.
Suppertime in Southside/Arlington–
Blue Bamboo East/West Kitchen with lots of flare and spice. Kick it up for additional spice.
P.K. Noodle Pho King Vietnamese restaurant with over 20 different types of Pho (soup with noodles) to choose from. Perfection.
Lemon Grass Modern Thai. Classic dishes with a modern atmosphere.
The Secret Garden Café Barely a secret this lunch spot has quickly become a favorite. With dishes such as a friend green tomato sandwich, and fried grits and shrimp you will leave satisfied. The sweet tea is perfectly prepared as well!
The Donut Shoppe One of the few remaining local donut shops with fabulous cake donuts. The city lines up for a bite of these in the mornings.
Seven Bridges Part of a seven restaurant group and sister restaurant to Ragtime in Atlantic Beach, this brewery has a flavorful selection of beer on tap. Perfect for appetizers and a beer sampler.
Suppertime in Riverside/Avondale –
13 Gypsies A Peasant Kitchen. Call ahead for reservations in this quaint, tapas restaurant. Homemade bread.
Restaurant Orsay French infused dishes. Spectacular happy hour options. Sunday brunch.
Casbah Fried jibneh, greek salad, mint hookah, and an Almaza.
Biscotti’s The ultimate dessert destination. A counter of cakes and other delicacies welcome you upon arrival. Always save room for dessert.
The Cool Moose Whether you order breakfast or lunch, this locals spot definitely shines with charm and warmth. French toast, eggs benedict, sweet potato fries and the veggie burger (sans cheese) definitely stand out on the menu.
Whiteway Deli Tabouli. Locals. Deli sandwiches. Lots of personality.
Mossfire Grille Tex Mex dishes, relaxed atmosphere and plenty of fun.
Cozy Tea The first Friday of each month they offer a five course Indian dinner. Reservations required. BYOB.
Wet Your Whistle in Riverside/Avondale-
Bold City Brewery Jacksonville’s newest and most friendly microbrewery. Family owned and operated with several great beers and lots of personality. Make sure to play connect four at your table, and have a pulled pork sandwich.
The Brick Sit outside and enjoy the breeze at this restaurant/bar.
Kickbacks Gastropub – 60 beers on draft and over 400 bottled varieties. Check out the options for occasional Monday evening fixed price menus with beer pairings.
O’Brothers Irish Pub Who doesn’t love a good Irish pub?
Frivolities in Riverside/Avondale-
5 Points Theater Movie watching the old way. Food, beer and wine is served with fewer people and lots of character.
Southern Crossings Antique Mall Reasonably priced. Merchandised well. Great Finds.
Edge City Colorful and bold pieces worth adding to your wardrobe. Tarantino jewelry.
Hope Jewelers Estate jewelry and custom creations. Buzz in to see timeless jewelry worth dreaming and purchasing.
Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens Boasting quite possibly the south’s most beautiful and peaceful gardens.
Memorial Park An often reprieve from the workday you will find many walking, eating, fishing and generally enjoying the outdoors.
Atlantic and Neptune Beach
Suppertime at the Atlantic and Neptune Beach Town Center –
Al’s Pizza Famed Jacksonville chain with the best pizza. Skip the entrees, but BBQ or pesto pizza are dynamite. Of course, you cannot go wrong the family favorite, cheese pizza (extra crispy).
Slider’s Seafood and Grille (favorite) One of the few beach restaurants with outdoor seating. Order a bushel of oysters, and a beer. You are good to go.
Mezza Luna The Italian restaurant at the beach. Fun for a side of pasta and a glass of wine.
Wet your whistle at the Atlantic and Neptune Beach Town Center
One Ocean The newly renovated oceanfront hotel can boast of its beautiful new bar and restaurant. You can also eat dinner at the bar, which is sometimes so much fun.
Ocean 60 Restaurant and Wine Bar Great happy hour with a large martini list, and has great live music on the weekend. Also, recently started to carry Bold City and Star Hill microbrewery beers.
Ragtime Tavern One of the local microbreweries with three bars under one roof to choose from. Tends to be an older crowd, but grab a stool at the back bar (closest to the ocean) and ask your bartender for a Red Fish. You will be an instant local.
Pete’s Bar Famed for well, everything. It is the area dive bar, with the largest appeal and cheapest drinks. You can play pool, foosball, video bowl, and have a PBR. Cash only. Just don’t wear your best duds as you will smell of cigarettes, but it is still a favorite.
Lemon Bar (favorite!) Open seasonally, this outdoor bar is the perfect place to pull up a seat and cool down with a cold drink (we do that a lot in the south). The views seal the deal. Come prepared with your ID.
The Wine Warehouse Don’t want to fuss with a bar? Just head to the Wine Warehouse and Mark will suggest wines to pair with dinner, or just for fun. Check out the chilled beer before heading to the register as there is always something fun to select.
Frivolities at the Atlantic and Neptune Beach Town Center
Red Daisy The owner has an amazing eye for new and antique items. I could live in this store.
The Bookmark The local book store with local appeal.
Bio-Max Organic corner store. Lovely.
Jewels By Lubeck custom jewelry that is mouth watering.
Bali Cargo Company Interesting pieces from Bali, including furniture, purses, jewelry, and stationary.
Jaffi’s Cute clothes. Come prepared to spend.
Shore Things Beach living accessories for your home and life.
Other Atlantic and Neptune Beach stops
Singleton’s Seafood Shrimp boats and watch the ferry cross. Fried everything. Cold beer.
Hala Café Mediterranean goodness, accompanied by a wonderful family serving.
Culhane’s Irish Pub and Restaurant
Fly’s Tie Irish Pub The tiniest and favorite little pub at the beach.
Zaitoon Mediterranean bliss. Excellent service. Pretty space. .
Cruiser’s Grille Cheeseburger and fries. Their ranch dressing is so delicious you could drink it through a straw. I did it once, but ranch is a better match for your fries! Skip the ketchup.
Thai Room Lovely thai food.
Ellen’s Kitchen Best priced breakfast in town. Get there early to avoid a wait.
Taco Lu The local taco stand. Get a Dirty Sanchez (PBR and a shot of tequila) for $5 and a taco. Ask if they will pan fry your corn tortilla –they are so much better that way.
Campeche Bay Fish tacos, salsa and chips, fajita sandwich, and marguerites. It is a great spot to skip the business of other bars, as their bar is open in the late night. Happy hour is early and later!
Delicomb Delicatessen and Espresso Bar Organic selection of breakfast and lunch.
Marker 32 Seafood done right (Jacksonville’s specialty), good wine selection, and views of the marsh. Need I say more?
Beach Buds Chicken Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, collard greens and biscuits. Add a sweet iced tea and you have yourself a meal.
Mojo’s Barbeque Pulled pork platter with black eyed peas and fries. Pour the Carolina vinegar sauce over everything and you pretty much just experienced heaven on earth.
Angie’s Subs THE local sandwich stop. Good sandwiches, good people watching, really good sweet tea, and management that actually cares.
Salt Life Food Shack The new kid on the block, with the largest appeal. Surfers, skateboarders and fish tanks. It screams, “I love living at the beach” or at least, “I want to live at the beach.” Expect a wait.
Wet your Whistle –
The Ritz Bar The busiest bar at the beach. Inexpensive drinks, but go early to avoid the crowds. Standing room only after 10pm.
The Brix Sister bar to the Lemon Bar and the Ritz Bar. It is a bit more expensive than the Ritz, but they carry a larger selection of beer on tap. If there is a line, get in a cab and head to Ragtime in Atlantic Beach.
Ginger’s Place The most interesting bar at the beach. No need to get all dolled up. You can grab a drink, and head to a pool table or sing a bit of karaoke. Experience a bit of the dirty south.
The Penthouse at the Casa Marina Hotel Outdoor bar seating overlooking the ocean. Cocktails come in perfectly tall glasses. Watch a full moon rise over the ocean in the summer and your life will change. Head out before ten to miss the crowd change.
It’s Eclectic Fun and eccentric jewelry.
Pineapple Post Wooden plates in all sizes, Italian pottery and beach life goods.
Private Gallery Beach folks rarely head to the mall, if we can avoid it, so we stop off here to find a cute pair of earrings, shoes and clothes.
Cottage by the Sea Home goods for the beach lover.