Thursday, December 8, 2011

Farewell Florida

On the afternoon of September 16 we packed what was left of our belongings and our dog into a rental car, and began our long, nervous drive down to the Orlando airport. We needed to go to Orlando because it was the closest airport with a direct flight to our destination, an important consideration when you're traveling with a live animal. Tensions were high as we weren't positive that our dear pet would be allowed on as cargo due to temperature regulations. This was a one-way flight. It was a Friday and I was to start work the following Monday. We couldn't really afford any delays. In the end, despite a few close calls, we all boarded that [almost too] warm evening and headed off together into the great unknown.

to the horizon

Just over three and a half years ago we made the decision to stop complaining about the lack of activities, opportunities, and things to do in the city we called home. Instead we would go out and experience all that Jacksonville, Florida and the surrounding region had to offer.

Why? Well, as any… Jacksonvillionian, Jacksonvillite, or is it Jacksonvillain? As any Jacksonvillain can tell you, one of the most oft heard phrases containing the word "Jacksonville" is "Jacksonville sucks" followed closely by "there's nothing to do in Jacksonville" or some such similar phrase. This is an easy trap to fall into. Walk out of the front door of a typical residence in Jacksonville and proceed in any random direction for a full ten minutes; it's highly unlikely that you'll pass anything of real human interest (apart from some intensely beautiful oak trees covered in Spanish moss). Like the universe, Jacksonville is very large with a lot of "empty" space in between the interesting things and you really need a high powered vehicle to travel between these points of interest. Fortunately, in this day and age, the vast majority of us have automobiles to rapidly transport us from one place to another and the only thing missing from the average Jacksonvillain is the motivation to seek out and find these distant points of interest. So, like a pair of amateur astronomers, we sought out to find and map these brilliant specks of light littered across the landscape; primarily for ourselves but also for the many people still stuck in the mindset that their home had little to offer them.

Alsop Bridge

From restaurants and bars to state parks to more restaurants and bars, we tried to cover all of the things we found interesting around the town. Inevitably some mediocre things crept in whilst some amazing experiences were left un-transcribed. I must admit that keeping up with this web log at times seemed like a chore while at others it served as a motivator to get out there and do something. I lament the fact that perhaps we focused a little too much on restaurants but food is indeed a large part of the human experience and is a nice way to inspire a trip to a personally uncharted part of town. Even if we left an eatery disappointed, I was always happy to have seen another facet of the varied Northeast Florida landscape.

Only a short time into our journey we discovered that Jacksonville and its surrounding areas are full of culture, character, natural beauty, great food, and great people. One of the remarks on the region I often overheard that incensed me the most was "Florida is ugly." How can anyone walk down an oak lined street, the sun shimmering through the long, flowing curtains of Spanish moss, think that Florida is ugly? Trees everywhere, beautiful little creatures scurrying about, the most amazing evening skies (particularly when a storm is brewing), and weather that is only rivaled by a handful of places around this great country; Florida is not deficient in natural beauty.

dj blur

And as far as there being "nothing to do in Jacksonville," well, what are you interested in? There is no doubt something that caters to your tastes. Although they never seemed to come often enough, I've seen many of my [obscure] favorite bands in Jacksonville and, as an added bonus, I never had to struggle to find parking. Not only does Jacksonville have a lot going for it but there is also plenty of room for individuals to take charge and create the changes they wish to see.

reaching towards the end of the world

So back on September 16, that late summer day, we found ourselves landing on the opposite side of the country, tired and transient in what was practically a foreign land: the iconic, sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. At the opposite end of the I-10, there are a surprising number of similarities to our former home: the sprawl, the natural beauty, the breathtaking coastline, the nice weather, the traffic, and hearing people say "LA sucks" (although these are usually people who don't live here).

While we're pretty excited to be here with all of the new places to explore, there are certainly a great number of things we will miss about Jacksonville. So, for the sake of posterity, I'll do my best to list them here for anybody just now stumbling on this blog or who may not have gone back far enough to uncover our favorites.

tree island


The First Coast has a number of beautiful local, state, and national parks. Among our favorites are the Guana River State Park, which is one of the most beautiful stretches of beach along the Atlantic Coast, and Big Talbot Island with the iconic Boneyard Beach where driftwood and the carcasses of once great trees litter the shore to create an amazing post-apocalyptic scene. Much further south, along the A1A between Saint Augustine and Palm Coast, is Washington Oaks. In addition to the beautiful gardens, majestic trees, and gorgeous beach, this is where we got married; under an enormous oak tree on a hot summer day.

red curry


We did spend a lot of time covering restaurants so it's only fair that we list our favorites.

Pisco's Peruvian Restaurant - Amazing Peruvian food; better, in fact, than most of the Peruvian food we ate in Peru. Great portions, reasonable prices, hole-in-the-wall charm, and great flavors has made this one of our favorites places in the world to eat.

Tommy's Brick Oven Pizza - Best pizza in town. Paper thin crust, great sauce, nice folk. The salads and sandwiches are just as good.

The French Pantry - What can I say? This is Duval County's most notorious secret. How can anyone who has ever been to the French Pantry claim that Jacksonville has no culture? Bread that is so good you might think you're dreaming, impeccable sandwiches, a cute little restaurant with communal seating, hours typical of a government agency, and a line out the door that would make the Soup Nazi proud. On multiple occasions I have been in line for an hour or more, in the oppressive Florida heat, and all of the misery has dissolved as soon as I had that first bite of bread. I would do it all over again; some things are worth the wait.

Indochine - I love Thai cuisine perhaps more than any other and Indochine tops my list of great Thai places around town. It's probably also my favorite restaurant on ambiance alone. Other notable Thai restaurants are Lime Leaf in Tapestry Park and Pattaya Thai on Baymeadows (especially for their willingness to dial up the spiciness to pain inducing levels).

The Metro Diner and the Cool Moose Cafe - I apologize to the proprietors of these fine establishments for lumping them together but they essentially fulfilled the same purpose for us: weekend breakfast, and they were the absolute best places in town for it. Great food coupled with their own unique atmosphere. But Cool Moose has the best coffee.

Los Portales Mexican Grill - Sorry, but Jacksonville's favorite Mexican chain really doesn't compare to the quality you get here at more reasonable prices.

Cami Cakes - Nobody does cupcakes like Cami Cakes. Nobody.

The Donut Shoppe - I don't typically like donuts. Donuts from The Donut Shoppe are not your typical donuts.

Seven Bridges - This deserves to be much higher in the list but will serve as a segue of sorts. I'll try not to get overly sentimental but I have had some great times with some wonderful people at Seven Bridges. For years it was my goto place for an after-work conversation that required a bit of mental lubrication. The food was always great and the beer was always better. I have had some of the best beer in my life at Seven Bridges. These beers were present for some of the best conversations of my life. These conversations were with some of the best people I've been honored enough to call a friend. There's definitely a lot of emotion and nostalgia wrapped up in my feelings about this place but even if I took that all away it would still probably be my favorite place to grab a bite or a pint around town.



Jacksonville's beer scene is the best in Florida. To be honest, Jacksonville's beer scene is better than what we've experienced so far out here in LA. Sure, most bars and restaurants here have a very respectable craft/import selection and there are a few good microbreweries around here but on a few key measures Jacksonville has LA beat. First off, Jacksonville has more microbreweries and brew pubs per capita. The few microbreweries in Jacksonville are also seriously good. Thanks to pioneering efforts of Bold City Brewery, they've managed to invade the taps of most bars and restaurants around the region, giving Jacksonville something local to be proud of. In a town where Anheuser-Busch has a factory (which is fun to tour, by the way) and Bud Light is most people's only form of hydration, I'd say the local microbreweries have done an amazing job at building an engaged community. I look forward to the day when I see a bottle from Bold City Brewery, a can from Intuition Ale Works, or a keg from Green Room Brewing out here on the West Coast.


Abandoning my original plans, I won't go over the things we think Jacksonville could do to improve itself. I will, however, urge anyone who has the power to make a difference to help preserve Jacksonville's natural resources, promote the creation of more communal green spaces, encourage growth in the local tech industry, and to support the innovative, local businesses.

Thanks to all of the people who made our years in Jacksonville great. Thanks to the places we covered for putting up with my giant camera. Thanks to those who commented, made suggestions, and gave feedback. Thanks for reading. Make it a good one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Green Room Brewing

Is it wrong to deny a man his freedom for the sake of your own happiness? Of course it is, but I must admit I was still a bit disappointed when I heard the news that Eric Luman was leaving his position as head brewer at Seven Bridges to open his own microbrewery in Jax Beach. Seven Bridges had long been my go-to pub, due in large part to the expert craft of its head brewer. I've enjoyed some of my favorite beers of all time there. Standards such as the pilsner and the stout were unparalleled. A couple of the one-time, small batch brews, like the Rosemary Grapefruit IPA and the Coffee Stout were absolutely amazing and outclassed most of what you'd find throughout the US craft beer scene. But, despite our protestations, all things must end. This end, however, is merely a beginning of something that could be so much greater.

green room sampler

Though the chaos of Jax Beach only lies a few yards away on the other side of 3rd Street, Green Room's tap room feels a lot more relaxed and low key than what's typical in the neighborhood. It also turns out to be a bit bigger on the inside than it appears to be when looking in at the small, strip-mall store front.

green room samplers

At my last visit, Green Room had five of their own beers on tap: Head High IPA, Helles Yeah Munich Helles, Shaka Oatmeal Stout, Clean Ocean Surfboards Brown Ale, and Cheer (a Belgian White made in collaboration with Bold City Brewery). Not being constrained by corporate overseers, these did depart a little from what I was used to at Seven Bridges but were all pretty good in their own right. The helles stood out for me as a particularly well balanced lager. I imagine that they're all going to go through some changes as the esteemed brewer acclimates himself with the new equipment and environment.

green room keg

Green Room also showcases beer from the other local Jacksonville and greater Florida microbreweries. Bold City and Intuition both occupy quite a few taps, as does Tampa's Cigar City (makers of the outstanding Jai Alai IPA) and Saint Somewhere (crafters of some very respectable saisons). It's good to see microbreweries supporting their regional contemporaries and establishing a community not really found in other similar areas of business. And really, that's what this place seems to be all about, camaraderie. My memories of the pleasant afternoon I spent here with some good friends and coworkers will, for many reasons, be with me for years to come. Here's to the blossoming Jacksonville beer scene; may it flourish and prosper.

Green Room Brewing
228 3rd Street North,
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
(904) 201-WAVE

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Hyppo

I will never live this one down. You see, one time I was walking around downtown St. Augustine with the lovely Mrs. Finding Florida and she said something along the lines of "We should go to this place called the Hyppo, they have gourmet popsicles." Now, I don't know about you, but the word popsicle conjures up images of simple flavored sticks of ice. What, were they using POM juice to flavor their ice or something? Suffice to say, I was not receptive to the plan. Fast forward to me actually doing some research on the place and I soon realized how mistaken I had been to blow it off.

the hyppo exterior

The Hyppo does not make your typical popsicle, not by a long stretch. Think of these as more like the most amazing smoothies you can think of, only frozen onto a stick. Apparently they're fashioned after paletas, which are Latin American ice pops made from fresh fruit and spices and can be either cream based or water based. So perhaps it's only our culture that suffers from the prevalence of horrible popsicles.

mango habanero popsicle

There are a wide variety of flavors that rage from mild: Straight-Up Strawberry, Peach, and Coconut Coconut (a personal favorite that combines coconut milk and coconut pieces) to wild: Mexican Hot Chocolate (cocoa, cinnamon, and cayenne), Mango Habanero, and another personal favorite, the Elvis Presley (bananas, peanut butter, and honey). The flavors can change daily so don't get your heart too set on getting a particular one before you arrive but, with such variety, there's bound to be something for everyone.

strawberry peach popsicle

The Hyppo's main store is located in St. Augustine on the road where they got their name: Hypolita Street (in the store front formerly occupied by Claude's Chocolates, who moved over next to the Casa Monica). For the overheated shoppers in Jacksonville, they have a cart that hangs out in various places at the St. John's Town Center. Don't make the same mistake I made and dismiss this place out of hand because of any preconceived notions but do be warned: eating popsicles from the Hyppo may be habit-forming.

The Hyppo on Urbanspoon

The Hyppo

The Hyppo (Historic St. Augustine)
15 Hypolita St.
St. Augustine, FL 32084

The Hyppo Cart (St. Johns Town Center)
4663 River City Drive (approx.)
Jacksonville, FL 32246

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Seacow Confections

Sorbet entered my consciousness many years before it entered my mouth. The posh restaurant scenes in the movies of my youth would regularly conclude with some not-too-exotic flavor of sorbet, pleasurably consumed by an assortment of rich and beautiful characters. And therefore sorbet always conjured up images in my young mind of wealth, exclusivity, and bow ties. Can you imagine my delight when, as a teenager, I was presented with the opportunity to taste this delicacy of the demigods? Though not a defining moment in my life, I think I can list this occasion as one of the many that shattered my childhood illusions about the world. It was horrid stuff. An overly sweet, syrupy ice concoction with a flavor quite unlike the fruit listed on the label. Sorbet then left my consciousness for many years.

seacow cart

Late last year we were fortunate enough to be invited to a dinner hosted by Cari, the intrepid foodie blogger and business manager at Intuition Ale Works. There was plenty of incredible food and, of course, great beer. Among the various small samplings of sweets comprising dessert were a couple dollops of sorbet. Knowing the crowd, I had high hopes despite my tragic experience many years prior. I can't quite remember the flavors, being that it was so long ago, but I do recollect being completely blown away. I had finally found the famed and fabled sorbet that had graced so the dessert plates of so many characters in dramatizations about wealthy people at restaurants, courtesy of some guy on a bike.

cucumber mint sorbet

My first in-person encounter with the Seacow Confections stand was outside of Intuition Ale Works. The first thing you'll notice about this small stand is that it's attached to a bike and you'll wonder how he managed to pedal all the way up to Jacksonville from St. Augustine. The second thing you'll notice are the exotic and imaginative flavors on offer. But the odd flavors are certainly no gimmick, each one being supremely delicious in its own right. On this particular visit we had the cucumber mint and peanut butter. The flavor of the cucumber mint: crisp, clean, and vegetal; was subtle and delicate at first. But the flavor grew as I ate more of it until, tragically, I had consumed the lot. The peanut butter, which may seem an odd choice for sorbet, was far more enjoyable and better balanced than most peanut butter ice creams. Seacow's sorbet is never overly sweet and the texture is uniformly smooth and gives you the sensation that you're eating frozen velvet.

peanut butter sorbet

I'm not sure if he frequents Intuition anymore which is a bit of a shame. As much as I love Intuition's beer, I would go just for the sorbet. Instead, you'll need to head down to the Farmer's Market in St. Augustine on a Saturday morning or over to the Beaches Green Farmer's Market in Neptune Beach on a Saturday afternoon to get your fix.

Seacow Confections

Old City Farmer’s Market
St. Augustine
8:30AM-12:30PM, Every Saturday

Beaches Green Farmer’s Market
Neptune Beach, Jarboe Park
2PM-5PM, Every Saturday

Monday, September 12, 2011

Engine 15

It's been about a year since Engine 15 first opened its doors, bringing its signature high-brow craft and import beer paired with delectably high calorie pub food to Jacksonville Beach. While we've been by a handful of times, I didn't want to write a post until I got the full Engine 15 experience. See, Engine 15 isn't your typical bar. Ignoring the 35 high-quality beers on tap and food with the right balance of proteins, fats, and carbs to complement an evening of alcohol fueled merriment, there is one thing that sets Engine 15 apart from all of the other gastropubs, brewpubs, and beer bars for hundreds of miles: you can become a brewer for a day and make your own beer on the premises.

engine15 beer

Earlier this year I suggested to my boss that we should have a team brewing session at Engine 15 to celebrate a few recent milestones. Having a number of beer snobs on the team, the suggestion was well received and we made an appointment a couple months out. Due to demand, a lead time of a month or more is to be expected but, for anyone who's ever toyed with the idea of brewing their own beer, it's worth the wait.


Before I start rambling about our experiences making beer, let's make a quick detour for those not particularly interested in the brew-on-premises offerings from Engine 15. If you're just looking for a good drink or bar food then there's plenty at Engine 15 to be excited about. The beers are all top notch, spanning favorites from our local Jacksonville and Florida microbreweries through a myriad of craft brews from the Left Coast and all the way to ales made by Trappist Monks in Belgium. To help fend of any of the ill effects associated with the consumption of such beverages, Engine 15 offers a variety of appetizers, soups, and sandwiches. I'd suggest going with the beer brats or chili brats. Very few things complement a second beer better than a big juicy sausage. And trust me, you're going to want a second beer.


The consumption of beer is not required during the brewing process but is highly advised. Not only does it serve as a great motivator, it also helps take the edge of some of the drudgery. The first thing to keep in mind is cleanliness. The second thing to keep in mind is cleanliness. Everything is sanitized. After all, when your recipe involves encouraging a colony of microorganisms to multiply and consume the concoction you've prepared for them, you better be sure you haven't introduced any unfriendly competition.

Disclaimer: everything that follows is merely a brief recantation of our experience brewing beer at Engine 15 with some very simplistic explanations of the process. There are many good resources online detailing the history and process of brewing. To any experienced brewers reading this, please forgive me.

measuring malt grinding malt

For the sake of time and convenience, many amateur home brewers use malt extract to make their beer. Malt is dried germinated grains. Malt extract is a thick syrup consisting of the sugars extracted from malted grains. At Engine 15 they employ a hybrid approach. First we ground up some malt, wrapped it in cheesecloth, and stuck it in the boiling waters of the brew kettle.

mixing extract

This part of the process is called mashing. The starches in the grain are broken down into sugars by the heat and the enzymes created during the malting process. What you end up with is a liquid called wort which is later filtered out of the mash. Since we didn't use a particularly large amount of actual malt, we supplemented our wort with the malt extract. To put it in crude terms, the wort is to beer what grape juice is to wine. It is the fermentable fuel upon which your carefully chosen strand of yeast is going to feast; converting sugars into ethanol.

kettles and kegs

The next part of the process calls for the addition of hops to the mix. Hops are the flower cones from the female Common hop (Humulus lupus) plant. Hops are used as a buttering agent to balance out the sweetness of the wort (which can still be a bit sweet even after fermentation) and for its antibiotic properties. There are many varieties of hops and they can be added to the wort at different times throughout the boiling process in order to impart different aromas and flavors.


Once the boiling process is complete, the wort is filtered, cooled, and transferred to a fermentation vessel. If I remember correctly, the yeast is added at this point and the vessel is sealed, not to be opened for three weeks or more as the yeast works on converting as many of the sugars in the wort into ethanol before dying of acute alcohol intoxication.

When the the fermentation process is complete, you must return to Engine 15 to bottle your brew. Again, cleanliness is key and everything is sanitized. Drinking beer while bottling is not required but is strongly recommended. Now I understand why some microbreweries don't bottle their beer. It's incredibly repetitive work but can be an enjoyable experience when armed with a pint and the knowledge that you're not going to be doing it very often (if ever again).

ping pong pale ale and mess you up wheat

So here they are, the finished products: Ping Pong Pale Ale and Mess You Up Wheat. Both brews were pretty good and their character changed over the weeks they aged in the bottles.

Conclusion: do it. Overall it was a great experience, ideal for small teams if you have a group of interested friends or an employer who doesn't object to such activities. But even if you can't be bothered, you can always just head to Engine 15 for a good sausage and a great beer.

Engine 15 Brewing Co. on Urbanspoon

Engine 15 Brewing Company
1500 Beach Blvd. #217
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250

(904) 249-2337

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Donut Shoppe

Few foods excite me less than doughnuts. Far too often have I been tempted by the mere idea of a doughnut only to be let down; the actual experience of eating a doughnut never coming close to exceeding the fantasy. For years I have simply gone without and the occasional free doughnuts at the office no longer entice me in the slightest; no willpower is necessary when there's no allure. But I have come to realize that, as with all things, there is always some master of the craft hidden out in the world who is capable of transcending your expectations. Whether they bring a novel twist to an old idea or just get it right; these virtuosos are capable of changing your mind about something you thought was settled.

the donut shoppe

I'm going to ask you to do something that, for a multitude of valid reasons, you would be absolutely opposed to under normal circumstances but, my dear reader, I assure you that these are not normal circumstances. I want you to wake up somewhere between 5am and 7am on any day but a Monday. Already I can feel your protests but I urge you to continue. Next I want you to grab some cash (this is important) and drive to the Arlington Expressway and get off on University Boulevard going north. Again, I completely understand your reticence, of all the things I could ask you to do, this could very well be the furthest from what you had in mind. Now, about a mile up on the right you will see a Gate gas station. Attached to this gas station is an unassuming little place called The Donut Shoppe. Go inside, buy some goods with the cash you brought, and leave a changed and enriched person.

the donut shoppe

Looking at the case of sweet indulgences, it's hard not to get excited. Everything looks amazing. There's even a certain quality to the shape and sheen of the donuts that you don't see at the bigger chains. Given the variety and personal tastes, I'd be hard pressed to make suggestions but I would recommend adding a chocolate eclair and a honey stick to that bag of calories. The staff members are exceedingly friendly and are more than willing to answer any questions you might have about their wares. You may even be lucky enough to get a small sample. Whatever the final contents of your brown paper bag(s), the one guarantee I'm confident in providing is that disappointment won't be an ingredient.

the donut shoppe

The car ride home, right after walking through the door, later that day, and finally a few times the next day; these were the many times I was unable to prevent myself from indulging in my decadent bounty. My iron clad will was no match for these fried treasures. Just as Cami Cakes had allowed the word "cupcake" to enter my dietary lexicon, The Donut Shoppe had simultaneously destroyed my previous conceptions about the doughnut craft and reaffirmed my decision to steadfastly refuse anything less than their supreme artistry.

the donut shoppe

Get up early, because when they're out they close the shop. Do not forget to bring cash. Prepare yourself for a mind altering experience. Neither doughnuts nor the city will ever seem the same to you again. Be careful. If you do choose to eat and drive, please remember to keep your eyes open, however hard it may be.

Donut Shoppe on Urbanspoon

The Donut Shoppe
1721 University Blvd N

Jacksonville, FL 32211
(904) 743-1844

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Floridian

Saint Augustine lost an icon when Opus 39 closed their doors last year. Regrettably, I only ever walked past the restaurant, never stopping in to sample the famously delicious food at infamously high prices. But no sooner had Opus 39 succumbed to the blight of our recession than the Floridian rose like a phoenix out of the ashes. Focusing their energies on creating healthy and hearty dishes from locally sourced ingredients, The Floridian rode the wave of the Locavore and Slow Food Movements to become a new iconic establishment in the changing culinary landscape.

veggie burger

Although you will find many regulars on the menu, The Floridian has a revolving lineup of seasonal dishes. Most entrees are available in various forms; either as a vegetarian dish or with some sort of locally sourced meat. All references to fish are placeholders for whatever the catch of the day may be. There's a distinctive Southern flair to the cuisine but you'll probably find your meal to be on the lighter and healthier side than what you're used to with such dishes.

fish wrap

Being unable to resist a good fish wrap or sandwich, I've tried both the Pescado Fresco Burrito: fresh catch with quinoa, greens, our citrus sweet potato salsa, and datil-chipotle mayo in a whole wheat tortilla; and the Spicy Melt: blackened local Fish with a datil-chipotle mayo, flamed bell peppers, tomato and fresh spinach on whole wheat bread with Wainwright Dairy's cheeses. Both of these I would highly recommended, especially the melt if you're looking for something a little more decadent. I also have it on good authority that the Dixie Burger, in either the beef or vegetarian-friendly black bean and sweet potato varieties, is exquisite. I keep meaning to order that myself but am usually dissuaded at the last second by the white bread bun (which is undoubtedly quite good, as is all the bread here).

water jar

The drink situation is a little confusing at first. The bar is in the back and has an excellent selection of Florida craft beers and a good number of wines. However, across the small doorway that leads from the bar area to the dining room there is an invisible barrier: the County Line. See, the Floridian is directly across the street from one of downtown Saint Augustine's picturesque churches and a country ordinance prevents them from serving alcohol beyond that point. But worry not, there is a loophole of sorts. You may purchase beer and wine in the bottle from the bar and bring it back to your table to consume. However, draft beer must be consumed back in the bar area, beyond the range of temptation.


Adding to the fulfilling food and choice drinks is the great atmosphere. With water served in mason jars on rustic furniture, there's a quaint farmhouse type feel to the place. This isn't a meal you'll feel like rushing. The downside is that you're likely to wait if you don't get there early. The Floridian has amassed a large number of devotees among the local populace and it's not hard to imagine why. Consider it a must-do in downtown Saint Augustine. You might find it hard to justify ever going anywhere else.

The Floridian on Urbanspoon

The Floridian
39 Cordova St.

St Augustine, FL 32084

(904) 829-0655

Sunday, April 17, 2011


The Locavore Movement is gaining a lot of strength and momentum around these parts. More than mere fashion, it represents a fundamental shift in the way we eat, live, and do business. While this movement may not live up the hype and save the world, it will undoubtedly give us a more vibrant, varied, and creative local culture and economy.

Over the past couple years we've seen Jacksonville businesses eagerly supporting the local microbreweries and coffee roasters but the local sourcing of ingredients has been undertaken predominantly by the more trendy and expensive restaurants around town. There are, however, a few smaller restaurants that have dedicated themselves to supporting their neighbors. One such place is the top breakfast and lunch spot among the foodies and locavores in Jacksonville Beach: Delicomb.

not-so-vegan wrap

Practically Everything at Delicomb is made fresh using organic ingredients; from the sandwiches and wraps to the soups and all-day breakfast fare. The ingredients in my not-quite-vegan wrap (a vegan wrap with chicken added) hadn't even had time to mingle between construction and consumption and the side of chickpea salad was crisp and crunchy. Even with the freshness constraint and the diminutive size of the restaurant, there's an overwhelming number of delicious sounding items to choose from.

coffee and tea

Delicomb serves up some killer espresso drinks using single origin beans. Being unable to restrain myself in the face of over-caffeinated beverages, I couldn't pass up the speed bomb: a coffee with added espresso shots. While it still tasted quite nice, I think I'll just go with a regular old latte next time; if not for the flavor then for the sake of my kidneys.

veggie soup and muffin

Delicomb also specializes in making their own kimchi: a traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables and various spices. The recipes aren't quite conventional but they are pretty delicious. The kimchis are featured in a few of the sandwiches and wraps and you can buy jars to take home.

But the kimchis aren't the only thing you can get to go. True to the deli name, you can stop by to pick up some cheese, deli meat, hummus, and various sides along with the premium coffee beans and some goodies from local artisans (like Claude's Chocoloates). This is definitely a place that requires multiple visits to sample the great quality and variety, as is evidenced by their many hardcore regulars.

delicomb counter

The tiny little building off 3rd Street is easy to miss but hard to pass up. Whether you're a fanatic about organic and local food or just appreciate a good, fresh meal; Delicomb won't disappoint. If I were closer then I'd happily join the ranks of the regulars but I'll just have to be satisfied with the occasional journey to grab a good lunch and another jar of kimchi.

Delicomb on Urbanspoon

1131 3rd St N
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
(904) 372-4192

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Brewer's Pizza

Orange Park doesn't get any love. At times it can be the very pinnacle of suburban nightmare; impossible traffic, big box stores, and boring chain restaurants ad nauseum. But there is hope. One small pizzeria with big goals arrived late last year to challenge the entrenched chain restaurants and capture the hearts of the local patrons. And from the looks of it, they just might pull it off.


Blanding is usually the last place I'd want to be on a Friday night but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited. Beyond the delight in taking my allowed one-day-a-week break from a diet to indulge in food and drink that was denied me during the other six, all that I had been reading about Brewer's Pizza led me to believe that a real treat was in store. Even when not following a food regimen, pizza is seldom a food I choose to consume except in extraordinary cases involving super thin crusts. But Brewer's Pizza, with its flagship "Florida Smacker" deep dish pizza, was rumored to be qutie an extraordinary case itself. How the pizza fared was yet to be determined but there was one thing that was absolutely certain: the quality of the beer was going to be amazing.


While their on-premises brewing operation has yet to start, Brewer's Pizza offers more than 20 outstanding American craft brews on tap; a decent number of which come from Florida's best microbrews which, of course, includes Jacksonville's very own Bold City Brewery and Intuition Ale Works. We were very fortunate to visit while they still had some Hopslam, a highly regarded and widely coveted Double India Pale Ale brewed with six different varieties of hops and a bit of honey by Bell's Brewery in Michigan. This beer currently sits at #7 on Beer Advocate's list of the "Top Beers On Planet Earth" and wholly deserves that honor. This is one legendary beer and one of the few such masterpieces available in our region. The rest of the beer menu may not be quite as epic but they're all quality choices, making Brewer's Pizza the only place to go in the Westside/Orange Park area for a good pint.

florida smacker

Alas, not everyone is so blown away by the prospect of occasionally indulging in a good fermented beverage. Fortunately, Brewer's Pizza brings as much attention to quality and detail to their pizza craft as they do their beer. Their signature pie, The Florida Smacker, is a deep dish, pan pizza made with beer dough and baked until the corners are crispy to the point of being lightly charred. Even for those of us who outright dismiss deep dish pizzas as a rule, giving this one a try is a definite must. The dough is exemplary, without parallel among local pizzerias.

brewer's pizza dinner

But perhaps its unfair to make such comparisons when, as far as I know, there really aren't any other pizzerias in town doing deep dish pizzas. However, for regular thick crust pizza there are many competitors with whom to draw comparisons. Again, Brewer's Pizza are the unequivocal champions of this craft. It's primarily the dough which earns them such honors but the generous slathering of savory sauce and fresh topping certainly help tip the scales in their favor.

Just a block down from the Orange Park Mall, the location may be less than ideal and the converted strip mall store interior may be a touch awkward but Brewer's Pizza has a lot to offer. Much to my delight, the place was quite busy so, I'd say the local patrons appreciate all they're doing. Even though they might not single-handedly change the Orange Park dining landscape, there's a good chance that their success will result in the appearance of some more quality places to eat and drink. Above all, they've given those of us scattered around the other parts of town a great reason to visit Orange Park.

Brewer's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Brewer's Pizza
14B Blanding Blvd
Orange Park, FL 32073
(904) 276-5159

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Intuition Ale Works

The initial whisperings that Jacksonville was going to get its second microbrewery started over a year and a half ago. From their first blog posts in July 2009 to the tapping of the People's Pale Ale on November 1 of this year and then the grand opening of the tap room on November 20, local beer aficionados have been waiting impatiently for their chance to put the eagerly anticipated and much hyped Intuition Ale Works to the test. And now that the wait is finally over, much to the delight of all, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, giving us a solid two for two on local microbrewery excellence.

intuition ale

Conveniently situated halfway between Bold City Brewery and Kickbacks Gastropub, the addition of Intuition Ale Works has established the area near the intersection of Rosselle Street and King Street as Jacksonville's brewing district and created one amazing pub crawl. The IAW compound consists of a small tap room and an immense brewing area that has a lot room for expansion and, given the latest reports of beer shortages, it looks like they're going to need it.

If there's one thing Jacksonville's microbreweries do better than many others, particularly those in Florida, it's the tap rooms / bar areas. Bare brick walls, concrete floors, muted lights, and unstained wood tables and bar make the tap room a cozy and welcoming place to enjoy a few beers. The brewing area also serves as overflow area for larger events and is the place to get growler fills.


But onto the most important factor: the beer. Just as when Bold City initially opened, there were only four varieties of beer being made: People's Pale Ale, King Street Stout, Imperial Red Ale, and Willow Branch Wheat. With the recent addition of the I-10 IPA, they're up to five and are working to rapidly expand the selection. The beers themselves betray the nascency of the business; mature in flavor and body, they're more akin to what you'd expect from a well-established craft brewery. The People's Pale Ale is one of the best pale ale's I've had the pleasure of consuming. It's characterized by a full body with a fragrant, citrusy hoppiness that isn't at all overbearing and rivals well-known brands such as Sierra Nevada. The I-10 IPA is also a shining example of that particular style. The India Pale Ale is a favorite among beer connoisseurs and every self-respecting craft brewery makes their own attempt but they can be hit-or-miss. Though an almost overwhelming hop character is the signature of the style, some brands are a little too extreme in this measure. Others sweeten the mixture too much in order to mask some of the bitter notes or then often elevated alcohol content. The I-10 IPA is hoppy enough to please the fanatics but balanced enough that most people can appreciate a pint.


The wheat, a favorite style of mine, is also pretty stellar yet, like the exemplary Fritz's Hefeweizen at Bold City, deviates a bit from the typical wheat beer. The King Street Stout is quite a hefty beast. Most stouts hover around the 3-5% ABV mark. I'd have to speculate that this one is more like 7-10% ABV. With its pitch black color, thick mouthfeel, and sweet flavor, this is a beer that should be carefully enjoyed as or with a dessert.

two beers

The wait is finally over and the hype was well warranted. Intuition has arrived to contribute to a rapidly expanding local beer scene, making Jacksonville the craft brew capitol of Florida and giving all of us around town something to be proud of.

Intuition Ale Works on Urbanspoon

Intuition Ale Works
720 King Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204
(904) 683-7720