Best In Jacksonville, Florida
To say that Jacksonville offers a variety of restaurants from the delectably unique to the just plain strange, would be a criminal understatement. Being in one of the largest cities by acre, meant that spending a week, eating from new and interesting places every night, still left me with a long list restaurant names yearning to be crossed out by the end of my trip. In the short time I spent in Jacksonville, I was never unimpressed by the food scene, and I only scratched the surface of places that peaked my interest. So with out further ado, here are three of the more unique and delicious eateries that I had the pleasure of trying.
Best Breakfast in Town:
As a seasoned fan of country-style breakfast items, I’ve learned that the variety of choices can be limited and seldom stray far from the classics. This isn’t a bad thing by any means—we’ve all heard the saying “If it ain’t broken, don't fix it”—but with the inherent unhealthy nature of these plates, it can be difficult to find a place worthy of the calories. This is where Maple St. Biscuit Company comes in. This successful, local eatery has taken the classic, added a modern twist and gave me one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Taking house-made biscuits and gravy, all-natural country-fried chicken and jams made fresh and combining them into a slew of breakfast sandwiches is what makes Maple St. Biscuit Co. a game changer. I ordered their most popular The Five and Dime, which is a hot biscuit sandwich, stuffed with a fried egg, country-style chicken, covered in a sausage gravy with a little kick. Biscuits are one of those things places can seldom get right, but these biscuits were fluffy and warm with every bite leaving you wanting more regardless of quantity. The whole meal was not as greasy or heavy in comparisons to some country-style breakfast I’ve had before, (that’s not to say you won’t walk out those doors a couple pounds heavier and happier though). They leave little reminders everywhere reassuring you they do their best to ensure all ingredients are locally sourced and nearly everything is made in store from scratch so you don't feel as guilty for what you’re consuming. I don’t like to divulge secrets of my eating habits when it comes to great food, but let's just say the plate was cleared in a… timely manner. On top of the sandwich, I had a taste of their biscuits along with a little bit of their B-squared jelly: a Blackberry and Blueberry Jam made fresh in the back. As someone who despises the very nature of blackberries, I was eating it by the spoonful long after the biscuit was gone. They made a blackberry-believer out of me! The last thing I will say is that this place is not food without character. Everyone from the person we ordered from, to the attendant who checked in and brought us more blackberry jam, was extremely generous and I felt like they really wanted you to enjoy your time there. They have fun with their customers, even called us by our favorite team mascot when the food was ready. The seating was all set up in a way that made speaking to your neighbor encouraged, and the whole experience from walking into to taking that final bite a delightful experience.
Best Pizza in Town:
Just outside of Jacksonville lies the historic town of St. Augustine, holding what is considered to be “the second best pizza place in the US.” Of course I was skeptical at first, I’ve had plenty of great pizzas in my life from all corners of the US, could this really be one of the best slices in America? Pizza Time had a big name to live up to, and (pun absolutely intended) they delivered. If you’re a fan of New York Style, thin crust pizza like me, this is one place not to miss. Even on a Wednesday at 3:00 pm this place was bumping with hungry, pizza-loving patrons waiting to get their giant slice of cheesy heaven. While the pizza is great by itself, nothing can be as great without being paired with a walk down the Spanish style streets while admiring picturesque buildings older than our country, and local shops to peruse through. Pizza Time provided a delicious slice of pizza and experience money just couldn’t buy. So if you’re in town, be sure to come for a great slice, and stay for St. Augustine’s beauty.
Most Unique in Town:
Hidden away in a Floridian swampland is one of the most intriguing restaurant that I have ever been to. Clark’s Fish Camp, offers such an interesting experience from start to finish, that it can be difficult capture it in words; it's just a place you have to see yourself. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk the front door, is the sheer number of gazing eyes you’re met with. Bears, lemurs, giraffes—oh my! Honestly every animal you can imagine from every corner of the Earth span every inch of the walls and ceiling. This isn’t a zoo you’re eating in though, you just walked into largest private collection of taxidermy animals. That’s right, on top of selling food Clark’s Fish Camp offers you a face to face encounter with stuffed scenes of possums hanging by tail to taxidermied lions lunging at a frantic gazelle rushing away in panic. If you aren't thrown off already by the stuffed animals, take a trip to the restroom, and you will be met with a living, albeit lazy alligator basking on your walk over. While you shouldn’t expect a 5 star meal, if you ever wanted some adventurous eats, you came to the right place. Take your taste buds to the limits of what you’re willing to try with everything from kangaroo sausage to their sampler platter which contains deep fried alligator tail, frog legs and even shark to share. After you go on a tasting safari, don't leave without walking out back and enjoying the sites. You can take a stroll on the docks over a murky swamp. In the 30 minutes I spent just admiring the calls of the frogs and never stagnant water, I saw a baby alligator eyeing my now full and plump stomach, and almost certainly venomous snake slither past, a turtle with a 12 inch diameter shell and hundreds of schools of minnows swim past. If it wasn’t for the knowledge that I had a 3 hour drive and 6 hour flight the next morning or the pressing fear of being eaten alive by mosquitoes (I ended up with only one bite), I would have spent an en eternity in awe. While Clark’s Fish Camp may not be for everyone, it’s certainly an experience that can’t be passed up if you are in Jacksonville. If you enjoy the Rainforest Cafe, maybe try something that’s one step closer in realism.
Have you been to Jacksonville? What are the best eats you've had the pleasure of trying? Have you found anything more crazy than Clark's Fish Camp? Let us know in the comments below!