Many of our favorite eateries have something in common, something major: proximity, or the lack thereof. Pressed to make a list of the top ten restaurants I've had the pleasure of dining at, most of them would be far beyond the borders of our city; many would be far beyond the borders of this country. And while there are a respectable few at a distance allowing for regular visits, even if they are a decent haul away, some lie in a region just beyond reasonable but not far enough to be resisted.
A recent excursion to Amelia Island (the details of which will be covered at a further date) prompted us to make a quick visit to Fernandina Beach for a bite to eat. We had a destination in mind but, upon arrival, we thought it better to change the course of action and, having done some minor research that morning, I had a backup plan in mind. We hastily trotted back down the street, sorely lacking in time but too hungry to forgo the risk.
When we arrived at our destination, Cafe Karibo, we were immediately presented with too many choices: a lovely garden area, a cozy inner restaurant, a bar, and some tables on the far wall of the pub side. Entering the bar area, I knew I'd made the right choice of restaurant; there were the fermentation tanks, I was at a microbrewery.
I think I've already explained enough times that we are not big drinkers. One beer between us is always enough to satisfy and we definitely don't drink to get drunk. Ergo, one might be accurate in labeling us snobs. That pale yellow liquid you drink and call beer? Yeah, I'm not going anywhere near that. But give me the occasional thick brown ale, lightly spiced wheat, or a mouth-puckering IPA and I'm all smiles.
So, naturally, I couldn't resist ordering one of the house brews. Spoiled by Seven Bridges, Bold City, and their ilk, I was initially a little disappointed to find that they only had four varieties and no seasonal batches but I'll take four microbrew beers over a full array of Buds and Millers any day. I settled on the Down Town Nut Brown which, as it turns out, is a blend of the Karibrew Pilsner and Dorado Dark Bock which resulted in a Newcastle-esque nut brown ale.
The picture looks awful, I know, but the beer was absolutely sublime. I overheard the bartender (and perhaps he was also the brewmaster) telling a lone patron at the stools that they don't filter their beer so there's still a lot of sediment in there, giving it a bolder texture. They also use a single tank per beer for the entire brewing process, a technique I hadn't encountered before. Seriously, as I write this it's very difficult for me not to run to the car and make the hour plus journey up to Fernandina to grab another drink; it was that good. Because we were in a hurry, I had to fight the urge to try another of the varieties but, mark my words, I will go back and try them all... but probably not all on the same day.
So you might think that after such an incredible experience with our pre-meal adult beverage that the food would pale in comparison. Let's just say that if Cafe Karibo opened another restaurant here in Jacksonville, I would have a hard time not eating there everyday, even if they didn't brew their own beer (well, maybe every other day if the microbrewery wasn't there). I ordered the Baja Chicken Wrap: roast chicken breast, spicy baja black bean salad, monterey jack cheese and basmati rice wrapped in a spinach and herb tortilla with a side of potato salad, all for $8! The lovely lady ordered a bowl of the chili, served with cajun cornbread, a mere $6.
Let me just start with the side. I don't like mayonnaise based "salads". If it's drenched in mayo, I assure you, it's not salad. However, this potato salad appeared to be hybridized mashed potatoes. The mayo was very light, the potatoes coarse but not predominantly solid cubes. The wrap? Incredible. Fresh, perfectly cooked, and absolutely delicious. I have not had the pleasure of eating a better wrap anywhere, ever. I was only able to sneak a small bite of the chili but I was assured that it too was amazing.
We left full, euphoric, and in a hurry. The discomfort of walking briskly after just eating and the subsequent unsettling of our stomachs couldn't dampen our spirits about the wonderful meal we'd just enjoyed. Daily I am asked by a certain someone if we can go back, right then, on the spot and I can't say it's not tempting. The distance makes it a little easier to resist, but like the torment that lies between two separated lovers, the distance makes it all the much harder to cope without.
27 North 3rd St.,
Amelia Island, FL 32034,