BEST OF JAX 2013

Dining & Drinking Out

The best restaurants and bars in Northeast Florida

Photo: Dennis Ho, Photo illustration: Chad Smith
Brewer’s Pizza (with Steven Halford) won Best Neighborhood Bar in Orange Park/Fleming Island.
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Black Sheep Restaurant (with Michael Bloom, Kurt Rogers and Allan Devault) won Best New Restaurant.
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Salt Life Food Shack (with Emily Gregorchik, Morgan Christiansen, Valerie Giustiniani and Jazelyn Ocana) won Best Seafood.
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The Columbia Restaurant (with Emily Allen, Kelly Urban, Frank Botifoll, Fernando Merelos and Ashleigh Shoemaker) won Best Restaurant in St. Augustine.
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Moon River Pizza (with Christina Bray and Jonathan Philips) won Best Pizza on Amelia Island.
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Bold City Brewery won Best Microbrewery.
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Koja Sushi (with Tae Kim, John Lee and Anton Wiranata) won Best Japanese Restaurant and Best Sushi.
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Bold Bean Coffee Roasters (with Erin Lee, Mike Ricci, Alicia Canessa, Zack Burnett and Claire Sommers Buck) won Best Coffeehouse.
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MShack (with Victoria Savage, Alex Austin, Micah Reamer, Asia Baughan and Curtis Hicks) won Best Burger in Jacksonville.
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Tasty’s Fresh Burgers & Fries won Best Burger on Amelia Island.
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Indochine (with Mark and Ladda Salter) won Best Thai Restaurant.
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Derek "D. Rock" McCray of Whisky Riverwon Best Bartender.
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Best Restaurant on Amelia Island

Sliders Seaside Grill

Within walking distance from Fernandina Beach, Sliders touts gorgeous views, live music daily and an outside tiki bar. With a beach breeze and laid-back vibe, Sliders is a popular spot for out-of-towners and in-towners, especially when the weather’s right. This casual seafood-centric spot serves up dishes like jumbo lump crab cakes, shrimp-and-grits, fried oysters and sesame-seared tuna. It’s open for lunch, dinner and, perhaps most important, drinks with a view. And there’s a fun playground to keep the kids occupied. — CS

 

Best Restaurant in Jacksonville

Best Restaurant to Impress a Date

Best Slow Food Restaurant

Orsay

Celebrating five years in business, Avondale hotspot Orsay has proved over the past few years that it's a top-notch culinary destination complete with a trendy ambience and impeccable service. Chef Brian Siebenschuh eloquently combines French cuisine with Southern American influences to create a menu that spotlights fresh, local ingredients. The restaurant’s farm-to-table dishes earned Orsay a Snail of Approval recommendation from Slow Food First Coast. As for the day-to-day, it boils down to a mix of laser focus and passion. “We just work hard, stay focused, and treat every little detail as if it’s a big deal. Sometimes it’s the tiny details that guests aren’t even cognizant of in the moment that really make the difference in their overall experience,” Siebenschuh said. As for your own personal details — don’t miss the escargot, truffle mac ’n’ cheese or steak frites and a glass of wine or hand-crafted cocktail. — CS

 

Best Restaurant in Orange Park/Fleming Island

Best Pizza in Orange Park/Fleming Island

Mellow Mushroom

With its tasty signature spring water dough and creative pizza names (think Magic Mystery Pie, Holy Shitake, Funky Q Chicken and Kosmic Karma), Mellow Mushroom earns its rep as the neighborhood favorite for all things pizza and beyond. This family-friendly spot exudes fun: bright colors, an expansive outside covered patio, live music and the hostess stand is inside an old VW bus — not to mention there’s plenty of cold craft beers and piping hot pizza to go around. — CS

 

Best Restaurant in St. Augustine

The Columbia Restaurant

Celebrating its 108th birthday (that’s a lot of candles!) this year, The Columbia is at the historic epicenter of St. Augustine on St. George Street. It's open 365 days a year for lunch and dinner, and no visit is complete without a carafe (or two) of fruity sangria and an order of the signature garlicky tableside-prepped 1905 salad to start. The details of this family-owned restaurant add to its charm — several fountains, a gorgeous wine cellar, family photographs and portraits and detailed hand-painted Spanish tiles throughout. — CS

 

Best New Restaurant

Black Sheep Restaurant

With arguably the coolest rooftop bar in Northeast Florida, Five Point’s Black Sheep is the latest from restaurateur Johnathan Insetta (also of Orsay and former downtown spot Chew). A spacious downstairs dining area offers lunch and dinner along with weekend brunch service and hand-crafted cocktails from the upstairs or downstairs bar area. This hip spot at the corner of Oak and Margaret streets celebrates its first birthday in October. Favorite items include poutine, truffled Black Hog Farm egg toast, a duck bahn mi and braised beef shortribs with blue cheese bread pudding. Save room for a malted milkshake with homemade cookies for dessert. — CS

 

Best Restaurant When Someone Else is Paying

Best Steak

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Ruth’s Chris Steak House founder Ruth Ertel was convinced that the success of her restaurants had as much to do with the smell and sound of a steak’s “sizzle” as its taste. That’s saying a lot, considering every steak — from the filet to the cowboy ribeye — is USDA Prime, seared at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit and tender enough to slice with a fork. Though the menu is geared toward red meat fans, diners can opt for lamb chops, lobster, barbecued shrimp and stuffed chicken. A la carte pricing translates to about $75 per person (excluding alcohol) for dinner at either location, in Ponte Vedra or Downtown. — KS

 

Best Meal for $10

Best Mexican Restaurant

TacoLu Baja Mexicana

If “The Most Interesting Man in the World” were a real person and he lived in Northeast Florida, TacoLu Baja Mexicana would be his favorite restaurant. Dig it: Corn tortillas, salsa and guacamole made fresh every day … unique flavor profiles (to wit, the wahoo taco on lettuce with grape salsa and wasabi soy crème) … a cozy atmosphere with whimsical décor … a full bar with a dizzying array of tequilas and mezcals … beautiful people (the diners and the servers) … and nothing on the menu more than 10 bucks including a “$10 Taco” for $4.99. — KS

 

Best Chef

Mas Liu, Pacific Asian Bistro

Twenty-something chef Mas Liu offers his patrons everything from chicken katsu to the Jimmy Smith sushi roll at Pacific Asian Bistro in Palencia Village, St. Augustine. According to Yelp.com user Eric G., “If you are dining in for a nice meal, I would suggest you ask for ‘Mas,’ who is the owner and tell him you want an ‘omakase,’ which is essentially chef’s choice. I would normally not do this in a typical local sushi restaurant, but here it is worth it to let the chef create the best dishes with what’s freshest.” — KP

 

Best Server

Johnny Miller, European Street Café, Riverside

Most nights at the Riverside European Street, or E Street as it’s affectionately known, you’ll probably notice Johnny Miller weaving through the tables with incredible speed and impeccable efficiency. “I have a pretty crazy personality,” he said. Over the past seven years, that “je ne se quoi” attribute has earned Miller a loyal following of dedicated regulars, who return night after night to revel in his brand of zesty humor. “It’s all part of my charm,” he chuckled. No wonder they keep coming back. — CG

 

Best All You Can Eat

Best Soup

Bold City Grill

For just $7.99 (11 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays), Bold City Grill offers diners a “high-end” salad bar with mixed greens, 15 toppings including grilled chicken; tuna, egg and pasta salad; a hot buffet, typically Chinese (“the best in the world” according to Chef Bobby Jones); desserts such as cheesecake, banana pudding, red velvet cake and cookies; and a soup bar. Soups of the day are homemade and may include tomato cream basil, sausage and lentil, seafood bisque and corn chowder. Beer cheese soup and clam chowder are offered daily. — KS

 

Best Bagel

Bagel Love

With a bright yellow awning and friendly staff, this Avondale newcomer offers more than a dozen freshly baked bagel varieties and an assortment of cream cheeses (like bacon horseradish, jalapeño and veggie). Sandwiches, salads and daily specials, along with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice, give breakfast and lunch patrons plenty of reasons to “love” Bagel Love. Perfect for grab-and-go or dining in, there’s ample inside seating and a few spots outside. — CS

 

Best Bakery

Cinottis Bakery

Is it possible to get a sugar high by only seeing or smelling desserts? The folks at Cinottis Bakery would know — they’ve been creating sweet aromas in Jacksonville Beach for five generations. Pies, muffins, cookies, cupcakes and even cronuts (which Cinottis has been making for years, by the way) are made fresh daily, as are the bakery’s signature six-layer cakes. And now that pumpkin donuts are in season (and only through December), well, that’s just the cherry on top. — KS

 

Best Barbecue

Mojo

No need to choose a specific barbecue style here. Mojo (with five locations) brings together the four major barbecue regions — North Carolina, Memphis, Texas and Kansas City — into one smokin’ cool place. Smoked to perfection, the pork shoulder, beef brisket, turkey breast, ribs and chicken stand on their own, but it wouldn’t be barbecue without the sauce. And Mojo, which has won the category every year since ’07, has you covered (not literally, we hope) with a variety of its own sauce options from mustard to chipotle. — KS

 

Best Breakfast

Metro Diner

Breakfast traditionalists will find just what they’re looking for at Metro Diner: steak and eggs, omelets, pancakes and eggs Benedict, hot off the grill and cooked to order. More adventurous diners will appreciate Metro’s twists on old favorites like pound cake or croissant French toast, surf and turf Benedict and the Metro pancake, aka “the 12-inch challenge.” Portions are generous, so bring your appetite — and clear your schedule for a post-meal nap. — KS

 

Best Burger on Amelia Island

Tasty’s Fresh Burgers & Fries

A relative newcomer to the historic island, Tasty’s Fresh Burgers & Fries is already proving to be a staple with the locals. Each quarter-pound burger is made with a proprietary blend of certified Angus beef, served with your choice of toppings or “drag it thru the garden” with pickles, lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Tasty’s also offers turkey burgers and veggie burgers. And don’t forget the Tasty Sauce. — KS

 

Best Burger in Jacksonville

MShack

Technically, the “M” in MShack stands for brothers Matthew and David Medure’s surname. But one bite of their all-natural, hormone-free beef burgers and the word “mouthwatering” or “mind-blowing” seems far more appropriate. Both award-winning chefs, the Medures have brought culinary creativity to an old-fashioned burger joint with toppings like avocado and foie gras, in addition to the usual lettuce, tomato, etc. The Atlantic Beach eatery (with a St. Johns Town Center location expected to open next month) also offers veggie burgers, fish sandwiches and salads. As if. — KS

 

Best Burger in St. Augustine

Cruisers Grill

According to Franchise Help’s recent industry report, 75 percent of burger-lovers rank the quality of meat as the first or second most important attribute. And when it comes to good beef in St. Augustine, Cruisers Grill on St. George Street is the place to be. With locations in Jacksonville Beach and San Jose, Cruisers offers more than just cow patties. Veggie-lovers can check out the chipotle black bean burger or marinated tuna wrap and wash them down with house-made sangria. — KP

 

Best Burger in Orange Park/Fleming Island

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

There’s no mystery as to what’s on the menu at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. In fact, the fast-food restaurant with the peanut shells on the floor has more toppings (15, to be exact) than non-burger entrees. With an 80-20 mix of ground chuck/high-quality ground beef, Five Guys serves its made-to-order burgers only one way: “juicy and well-done,” which only sounds like an oxymoron. — KS

 

Best Burrito

Burrito Gallery

Intentional or not, Burrito Gallery sums up the Southwestern-inspired, fast-casual restaurant in the heart of Downtown to a T: Their burritos are like works of art. Ginger teriyaki tofu, yellow curry chicken, Cajun shrimp and beef barbacoa are just a few of the inspired creations. If you’re feeling extra saucy, order your burrito “wet” (i.e., with ranchero sauce), and if you’re counting carbs, choose the no-tortilla option. — KS

 

Best Caribbean Restaurant

Nippers Beach Grille

Tucked away behind an Intracoastal Waterway marina in Jacksonville Beach, Nippers Beach Grille offers diners everything from scenic, romantic dockside dining to a casual, family-friendly atmosphere with an equally crowd-pleasing, Caribbean-inspired menu. Guests who make the trip for casual Tuesday night trivia or live music performances may want to sample Nippers’ Southern boiled peanuts, conch chowder, burgers or five varieties of mac ’n’ cheese. Free dockery is provided for those arriving by boat, along with an impressive menu of seafood, steaks and Caribbean favorites for sunset dining. Whatever the occasion, Nippers’ website encourages all guests to “come for the food, stay for the experience.” — MT

 

Best Chicken Wings

Dick’s Wings & Grill

Folio Weekly readers have spoken, and it turns out they prefer Dick’s. That’s right, with 30 different sauce flavors like Cajun Ranch, Triple Threat and Flying Fajita, plus eight heat-intensity options, Dick’s Wings is this year’s hometown favorite place for getting messy-fingered with chicken wings. Each of Dick’s 16 Northeast Florida NASCAR-themed restaurants, including a new location in Nocatee, offers fried pickles, burgers, salads and quesadillas if wings aren’t your thing. You can count on Dick’s to keep the TVs going so you won’t miss any big races or games while licking your digits clean. — MT

 

Best Chinese Restaurant

Hot Wok, Riverside

In Florida, most balloting is controversial, and this is a prime example. Hot Wok wins this award posthumously after Wasabi Buffet nearby burned to the ground in June 2012, some say suspiciously. The rest of the strip — which also housed a Laundromat, convenience store and a Firehouse Subs — was later demolished for indeterminate use in the future. Owners claim it will be back by late 2013 or early 2014, ready to go for the repeat. — SH

 

Best Coffeehouse

Bold Bean Coffee Roasters

Bold Bean hasn’t been open two years yet, but it’s already a two-time Best of Jax winner. The secret? Fresh-roasted, organic coffee beans, hand-crafted syrups, a variety of brew methods, including French press and Chemex, locally brewed beers and a hip, relaxed atmosphere. Decorated with local art, Bold Bean is housed in a historic Riverside building, with a no-frills look of exposed brick and a beautifully crafted bar. Riversiders whined for years about wanting a cool, independent coffeehouse. Now they have one, so they can quit whining. — HL

 

Best Deli

Pinegrove Market and Deli

For more than 40 years, Avondale’s Pinegrove has been a family-owned-and-operated spot. In addition to serving up a hot breakfast and lunch six days a week, Pinegrove offers only high-yield grades of USDA prime and choice cuts that have been dry-aged in-house for 18 to 21 days. “Our success comes from priding ourselves in providing the highest quality meats, deli specialties and homemade favorites,” co-owner Sal Bajalia said. From Cuban sandwiches and juicy, fresh-ground burgers to soups and salads, most everything is made in-house. — CS

 

Best Dessert

Biscottis

The massive dessert case that greets you as you enter Avondale eatery Biscottis makes it apparent that indulging in dessert is required. With oversized slabs of sweet goodness like Oreo mousse pie, silky Reese’s peanut butter cup pie, crème brûlée and bread pudding, you’ll pretend calories don’t count when ending your meal here. Worth noting: Biscottis sister restaurant, bb’s in San Marco, earned the second most number of votes — double trouble. — CS

 

Best Food Truck

On the Fly Sandwiches & Stuff

Chef Andrew Ferenc has worked in the kitchens of some of Northeast Florida's best-known restaurants, including Aqua Grille. Today, he owns and operates his own eatery — but this one’s on wheels. Located at the corner of Jefferson and Adams streets 11 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays, On the Fly Sandwiches & Stuff is technically a food truck, but with menu items like firecracker sesame seared ahi, braised pulled pork soft taco and jumbo black tiger shrimp taco, it’s more like gourmet take-out. — KS

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Sweet Frog

We’ve lost count of how many froyo shops have popped up in Northeast Florida since the trend’s huge popularity rise began a few years ago. But now that readers have had time to sample them all, they’ve declared their favorite: Sweet Frog Premium Frozen Yogurt. What makes Sweet Frog stand out from the others? It could be the guilt-free, made-fresh-daily treats in more than 40 nonfat flavors like Maple Bacon Donut and Thin Mint Cookie, or the extensive toppings bar. Or it could be those adorable little frog mascots. — MT

 

Best Hot Dog

Orange Tree Hot Dogs

Do you remember when a trip to the mall wasn’t complete without a snack from Orange Tree Hot Dogs? Carolyn and Peter Koppenberger opened the first Orange Tree in Regency Square Mall in 1968, and though they've since moved on from those humble mall beginnings, Orange Tree franchises are still serving their famous Orange Frosts and original sweet and spicy onion sauce in three Jacksonville locations: on the Northside, the Southside and Intracoastal West. Go get one, dog. — MT

 

Best Indian Restaurant

5th Element

Stealing the coveted title from nearby India’s Restaurant after nearly 13 years straight (OK, Cilantro's won in ’06), this Baymeadows spot in a former Village Inn space has proven it's as hot as its curry is spicy. From an expansive buffet featuring a seemingly endless rotating selection of freshly prepared vegetarian and meat specialties to an elaborate menu and ample seating, it’s easy to see why it would be crowned Indian king. Lamb biryani, paneer tikka, chicken tikka naan and tandoori fish await. With a toll-free phone number like 1-888-5SAMOSAS (seriously!), they can’t go wrong. — CS

 

Best Italian Restaurant

Vito’s Italian Café

Vito Corleone urged his son Santino to “never tell anybody outside the family what you’re thinking” in “The Godfather” – but it’s clear that Folio Weekly readers have delicious pastas and timeless Italian recipes from the Vito’s Italian Café family on the brain, and they’re not afraid to proclaim it. Vito’s once again takes the prize for its Jacksonville Landing-based mega-variety menu, including classic fare, seafood, antipastos and an extensive wine list. Next time, try Vito’s three-course special menu – you’ll get a soup or salad, an entrée and cheesecake or cannoli (take the cannoli!) for dessert. Like the Godfather, Vito’s Italian Café makes an offer you can’t refuse. — MT

 

Best Japanese Restaurant

Best Sushi

Koja Sushi

A food as perfect as sushi deserves an equally perfect backdrop. Koja Sushi at The Jacksonville Landing, with its breezy nighttime views of boats drifting under the Main Street Bridge, has once again rolled up a BOJ win. The extensive menu is a sushi lover’s dream, with more than 80 artfully crafted rolls and pieces from which to choose. For those who prefer their food a little less raw, Koja also serves hibachi fare, house-made soups and bento boxes that look too beautiful to eat. — MT

 

Best Mediterranean Restaurant

Taverna Yamas

Get yourself to the Greek at Tinseltown’s Taverna Yamas, this year’s repeat BOJ winner for Mediterranean food in a fun, booming atmosphere complete with a DJ and belly dancing. Taverna Yamas’ extensive food, wine and martini menu will please both the foodies and red-blooded Americans in your life, with traditional Greek soup, seafood recipes and desserts as well as steaks and burgers. For the tableful of folks who want it all, try the Poseidon family-style menu, with choices of cold appetizers, hot appetizers, Greek salad, entrées and saganaki – described on the menu as flaming cheese with brandy. How can you miss with that? — MT

 

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant

The Casbah Café

Who needs Calgon? The Casbah Café in the heart of Avondale once again takes the hookah for Best Middle Eastern Restaurant and is the perfect spot to take you away from the worries of any bad day. Soak up the chill atmosphere with deep walls, belly dancing and dozens of hookah flavors while kicking back a regional craft beer like one from Riverside’s own Bold City Brewery. For a real doozy of a day, try the Sultan’s Feast – a mammoth portion of five kabobs with couscous or basmati rice pilaf. The Casbah is open nightly until 2 a.m., so you won’t have to hurry back to reality. — MT

 

Best Pizza on Amelia Island

Moon River Pizza

The folks at Moon River Pizza take great pride in making their pies the traditional way: “no pans, no conveyor belts.” It’s not only their commitment to quality that makes them the best on the island, though. Fresh dough and grated mozzarella, classic Italian sauce and two dozen toppings, including out-of-the ordinary selections like artichoke hearts, gorgonzola, spinach and breaded eggplant, ensure that their pizzas are worth the wait. Can’t decide? Go with a house specialty T-Rex or Maui “WOW”EE. — KS

 

Best Pizza in Jacksonville

Al’s Pizza

A 15-time winner in this category (this makes 16), Al’s Pizza must be doing something right. Whether it’s hand-tossed New York-style thin crust, Sicilian-style or gourmet hand-tossed pie that you prefer, Al’s “pizza-ologists” have your back with just the right combination of crust, sauce and toppings. And with seven locations — from Riverside to St. Augustine — you’re never too far to put some in your, ahem, pie hole. — KS

 

Best Pizza in St. Augustine

Pizzalley’s Pizzeria

Lookin’ for the best pie in the Oldest City? Then head to Pizzalley’s Pizzeria on St. George Street for the artery-clogging bacon cheeseburger ’za or the Garbage Can (pepperoni, onions, peppers, sausage, mushrooms and olives). Stumble in for a late-night slice and cold beer or check out the civilized, Old World charm of the adjacent Chianti Room and outdoor back porch. Pizzalley’s also has a killer happy hour, 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with two-for-one cocktails and a free slice with drink order. — KP

 

Best Seafood

Salt Life Food Shack

Salt Life Food Shack wants you to know that you don’t need to be an expert angler to “live the salt life.” Taking the top spot for seafood again this year (four in a row!), Salt Life has two locations – Jacksonville Beach and Coral Springs – with a third opening in St. Augustine this winter. No matter the variety of sea creature you’re craving, odds are that Salt Life has just the dish to please your palate. One bite and you’ll be hooked. — CG

 

Best Smoothie

Smoothie King

Smoothie King, home of the original nutritional smoothie, first opened in New Orleans in 1973 with a mission “to relentlessly influence and help more and more people achieve a healthier lifestyle,” according to the company’s website. Four decades later, Smoothie King stores circle the globe, with 10 regional shops in Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach and St. Augustine. Whether you want to beef up, slim down or just stay healthy, Smoothie King blends nearly 70 different nutritional drinks in every store. Be sure to sign up for the SK text club for coupons and freebies. — MT

 

Best Sub

Angie’s Subs

A beaches institution for years, Angie’s has a vast assortment of sub options (and life-sized vats of sugary sweet tea to wash them down). Its mismatched furniture and low-key atmosphere make it a perfect pre- or post-beach go-to spot. Favorites like the Jack Del Rio Grande with turkey, roast beef, crispy bacon, provolone, sautéed mushrooms, crunchy Fritos BBQ Flavored Corn Chips and spicy ranch are available in 7- and 10-inch sizes. The place gets packed, so do as the regulars do and call in your order at 249-SUBS to bypass the growing line. — CS

 

Best Tapas

Tapa That

Celebrating a year and a half in business, Five Points’ Tapa That serves flavorful small plates with an emphasis on utilizing local ingredients. Co-owner Michael Coutu, along with sister chef Arielle, strive to rotate in new menu items. Bestsellers include the oven-roasted vegetable salad with an herb-infused goat cheese and balsamic drizzle and chicken tacos simmered in Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale from Bold City Brewery. “From local food to local art, we always want to feel like we represent the community,” Michael Coutu said. — CS

 

Best Thai Restaurant

Indochine

This tasty Thai spot serves soups like kao-piak, Vietnamese-style pho, tom-yum gai and kaeng woo sen, in addition to a lengthy list of noodle, rice, curry and wok dishes. Start with a Thai iced tea and crisp lump crab wontons, then intoxicate yourself with the flavors of drunken noodles — sautéed rice noodles, egg, onion, sweet pepper, holy basil, mushrooms and celery. Dishes are prepared on a spice scale of 1 (mild) to 6 (Thai hot). Indochine is turning up the heat in Downtown Jacksonville — it’s clearly a 6. — CS

 

Best Vegan or Vegetarian Restaurant

Dig Foods

In April, Chef Sean Sigmon opened Dig Foods, an organic vegan café, inside Downtown Jacksonville’s Underbelly club. Dig got its start catering events at area venues like Intuition Ale Works and Bold Bean Coffee Roasters back in 2011. Popular items include chickpea pie with housemade aioli and a cornmeal-crusted tempeh sandwich with roasted pepper relish. “An entire family of people and a large part of this community have helped build Dig and supported us to get us where we are now,” Sigmon said. — CS

 

Best Bartender

Derek ‘D. Rock’ McCray, Whisky River

Whisky River drink-slinger Derek “D. Rock” McCray is a welcome sight for fans of the rock-hard and ripped. An industry veteran, D. Rock has the 411 on a good time: When he’s not squeezing the fun out of life, he’s serving ’em up with a smile. “I like the open access to Fireball; I also like being able to say a lot of things that I never would be able to get away with in normal everyday life,” D. Rock said. His other claim to fame: starring on MTV’s “Road Rules” and “Real World/Road Rules Challenge.” — CG

 

Best Neighborhood Bar on Amelia Island

Cotton Eyed Joe’s

Amelia Island might be better known for beaches than belt buckles, but Cotton Eyed Joe’s is unapologetically Dixieland. Whether you’re a blue-jean baby or an old-school country man, this true American honky-tonk is not to be missed. So dust off your boots, put your cowboy hat on straight, and hit the dance floor, twirling a country cutie with a sweet Southern drawl. Before long you’ll both be singin’, “Where did you come from, where did you go? Where did you come from, Cotton-Eye Joe?” — CG

 

Best Neighborhood Bar in Jacksonville

Engine 15 Brewing Company

Whether it’s at the end of a long day or just because they can, Jacksonvillians crave concoctions full of hops and love, which the three friends and co-owners of Engine 15 provide in buckets. Fans flock to this Jacksonville Beach hotspot to indulge in the vast assortment of beers, meads and barley wines so fine and so fresh, it’s easy to decide to stay for two or three (with a cab ride home). Belly up to the bar and order a bratwurst or a grilled cheese to soak up some of Northeast Florida’s rich, frothy cultural history-in-the-making. — CG

 

Best Neighborhood Bar in Orange Park/Fleming Island

Brewer’s Pizza

Tourists might never find their way to Brewer’s Pizza in Orange Park, but we locals know to follow our thirst to this jewel on Blanding Boulevard. Saucy, quick on their feet and educated in all things beer and pizza, within minutes the staff will have you feeling like a regular in this unpretentious joint that skips the red carpet and hits heavy with delectable Pinglehead brews made in-house and made-from-scratch pies, calzones and bread bowls. Tell ’em Mamaw Spoonpipe-Brewer sent you. — CG

 

Best Neighborhood Bar in St. Augustine

The Bar with No Name

Not to be confused with some other “No Name” establishment in the Sunshine State, The Bar with No Name, often called No Name Bar & Grill, is as laid-back and cool as it gets. Every night, a fun, entertaining crowd gathers for cheap drinks, live music and an unobstructed view of Castillo de San Marcos. After a few rounds, just be careful you don’t, as one Urbanspoon reviewer wrote, “fall down and show [the crowd] everything all the way to Amarillo.” — CG

 

Best Bar Food

Best Beer Selection

Best Late Night Spot

Kickbacks Gastropub

Repeat champion Kickbacks Gastropub operates on the cutting edge of the craft beer craze in Northeast Florida. Flocks of quirky hipsters aside, this nondescript little joint on King Street looks like the kind of place that offers beer in two flavors – regular or lite – but before ye judge, step inside and behold a selection so righteous it will literally take your breath away (you’ll be too busy drinking to breathe). As Matt S. noted on Yelp, “Look toward the ceiling, and notice the hundreds of different beer taps hanging down, showering you with delicious good vibes.” In a world where a good beer selection and awesome food are all-too-often mutually exclusive, Kickbacks stands neck and shoulders above the competition, offering standard pub fare like cheeseburgers, wings and mac ’n’ cheese prepared with a flair for blue cheese, bacon infusions and flat-out deliciousness. Serving from the butt crack of dawn to the wee hours every morning, Kickbacks is one of few spots night-crawlers can find something tasty for a fourth meal that doesn’t involve a drive-thru or a gas station. An expansion begun last year is slated to open in coming months, so the cantankerous reviewers who've complained that — gasp! — other people like to eat there, will change their tune to something more like, “There’s just so many taps [84] to choose from. I didn’t know where to begin!” Here’s an idea: Drink like a local. — CG

 

Best Happy Hour

Best Margarita

Mavericks

Mavericks routinely brings hot stars to croon to their adoring public, but some of you might not realize that this spot at The Jacksonville Landing is also known for something cold: the tastiest margarita this side of Mexico. If you’re not into that new-fangled guitar music the cool kids are listening to these days, skip concerts by the likes of Brett Eldredge (Oct. 11) and Hinder/Candlebox (Oct. 18) and stop in for an unbeatable happy hour — if you can stay up that late — because at Mavericks, “happy hour” takes place 8-10 p.m. — CG

 

Best Martini

Ocean 60

No one's really sure when and where the martini was invented. The legends swirling around the creation of this stiff cocktail are as numerous as the ways to make it. Perfect, dry, sweet, shaken, stirred, straight up, on the rocks or, ahem, dirty are just a few of the options one must face when ordering this classic drink. No matter your preference, Ocean 60 in Atlantic Beach has apparently cracked the code on the martini, topping the list again this year. — CG

 

Best Microbrewery

Bold City Brewery

The microbrewing scene on the First Coast is rife with some stiff competition, which is why Folio Weekly had to create a category for the many adoring fans to Duke it out (pun definitely intended) for the top honor. It’s no surprise that Bold City, the OG craft beer destination, hit this one out of the park. New this year: Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale, Mad Manatee IPA and Killer Whale Cream Ale in the can. And mark your calendars for Oct. 19, when Bold City celebrates its fifth anniversary with, of course, some frothy genius. — CG

 

Best Pub

Fionn MacCool’s Irish Restaurant & Pub

Fionn MacCool’s has gone from Best New Restaurant to downtown staple in a quick turn around the sun. The lads and lasses who routinely tear into boxties might be interested to know that the potato is native to the Andean highlands, not the Emerald Isle. But worry not, misinformed students of history; scholars generally agree that whiskey was invented by monks in Ireland in the 11th or 12th century ("whisky" is from Scotland). In fact, the name “whiskey” comes from the Gaelic phrase “uisge beatha,” which literally means “water of life.” — CG

 

Best Sports Bar

Sneakers Sports Grille

Continuing its reign this year, Sneakers Sports Grille covers the bases like Geena Davis in “A League of Their Own.” You might not find any “dirt in the skirt” in either of the area's two locations of this mainstay of sports, but you will find a cheering crowd pretty much every single time there are sports worth watching on TV (read: not interpretive dance). In fact, Sneakers is so fabulous, even CNN was wowed (bit.ly/CNNbestsportsbars). — CG

 

Best Wine List

Ovinte

In less than a year, Ovinte has won the hearts and palates of the most finicky of all drinkers: winos. Peruse an amazing menu that includes no less than 75 wines by the glass, and 300 bottles, not to mention a full bar and plenty of food, and you’ll see why it’s worth braving the St. Johns Town Center retail zombies to stop in for a glass and some nosh. If you’re feeling sweet, try Ovinte’s delicious take on the s’more. Like most (all) things, chocolate goes great with wine. — CG 

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