“Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
Often imitated, never duplicated — the original is still the best. Folio Weekly’s Best of Jax is the real deal, your quintessential guide to the very best stuff throughout Northeast Florida, as judged by you, the thousands upon thousands of readers who voted in more than 160 categories. From politicians to celebrities, arts to entertainment, restaurants to bars, shops to services, this is your source for, well, everything you need to know about making the most of life on the First Coast, and we’re proud to be the ones to bring it to you.
Now you, being a clever and discerning reader, will likely notice something of a theme throughout these pages. This theme will go unspoken so as not to offend the copyright gods (and their lawyers). But we would like to take a moment to thank our friend and cover model Chaz Bäck, who is mostly certainly a righteous Dude.
Jeffrey C. Billman, editor
For more Best of Jax 2014 categories, please click on the links below:
FOOD & DRINK
“It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude.
Takin’ ’er easy for all us sinners.”
BEST RESTAURANT IN JACKSONVILLE/ BEST SLOW FOOD RESTAURANT/
BEST RESTAURANT TO IMPRESS A DATE/ BEST WINE LIST
Jacksonville is blessed with a surfeit of excellent date-night-worthy restaurants, but one sits at the top of the heap, at least in the eyes of Folio Weekly readers, and with good reason: Restaurant Orsay offers smart, inventive dishes in a setting that works just as well for wine-and-dine business meetings as nights out with your best gal (we’ve done both). There’s an extensive, impressive wine list, solid cocktail offerings and a killer dessert menu, but what really makes Orsay stand head and shoulders above its peers is its commitment to fresh, local ingredients and farm-to-table quality that shines through in every single entrée.
BEST RESTAURANT IN JACKSONVILLE/ RESTAURANT TO IMPRESS A DATE FINALISTS: Black Sheep, Ruth’s Chris Steak House
BEST SLOW FOOD FINALISTS: Black Sheep, Corner Taco
BEST WINE LIST FINALISTS: Ovinte, Wine Cellar
BEST RESTAURANT IN ORANGE PARK/FLEMING ISLAND
BEST PIZZA IN ORANGE PARK/FLEMING ISLAND
BEST PIZZA IN JACKSONVILLE
BEST TRIVIA NIGHT
Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers
According to some of those cranks we call historians, Italians may have allegedly invented pizza, but clearly pizza is an American food group. While those boring Italian purists prefer the Margherita or the Marina — yawn — the crust wunderkinds and topping virtuosos at Mellow Mushroom are constantly inventing new ways to enjoy this breakfast, lunch and dinner treat. Take a bite of the Red Skin Potato Pie, Thai Dye or Mellowterranean and you’ll see that purity, clearly, is highly overrated. Offering more than just pizza — salads, calzones, hoagies, etc. — the Atlanta-based chain celebrates its 40th delectable anniversary this year. If the pies and other eats aren’t convincing enough — and they are, trust us — our readers also voted MM’s trivia night, a righteous, beer-soaked celebration of geek knowledge, the best around.
BEST RESTAURANT IN ORANGE PARK/FLEMING ISLAND FINALISTS: Brewer’s Pizza, Hurricane Grill & Wings
BEST PIZZA IN ORANGE PARK/FLEMING ISLAND FINALISTS: Brewer’s Pizza, Renna’s Pizza
BEST RESTAURANT IN JACKSONVILLE FINALISTS: Moon River Pizza, Al’s Pizza
BEST TRIVIA NIGHT FINALISTS: Dick’s Wings & Grill, Mangia! La Pizza Italian Bistro & Bar
BEST RESTAURANT ON AMELIA ISLAND/ BEST NEIGHBORHOOD
BAR ON AMELIA ISLAND
Salty Pelican Bar & Grill
Some restaurants just have that ish on lock. Salty Pelican is one of them. Attracting a diverse crowd of locals, seafarers, tourists and tarts, it’s the kind of place where you stop in for a drink, a snack and a sunset view of the river, wind up ordering dinner — more oysters! Sweet potato fries all around! — and staying ’til the closing bell rings. Or was that ringing only in your ears? You may not remember why or when you came, but you’ll be glad you did.
BEST RESTAURANT ON AMELIA ISLAND FINALISTS: Salt at The Ritz-Carlton,
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR ON AMELIA ISLAND FINALISTS: Green Turtle Tavern, The Palace Saloon
BEST RESTAURANT IN ST. AUGUSTINE
Columbia Restaurant, which got its start in Tampa’s Ybor City, has been serving traditional Spanish and Cuban fare in Florida for more than 100 years, and in its St. Augustine location for more than 30. Its location on downtown St. Augustine’s bustling St. George Street is almost always packed, especially on weekends when the weather is nice and tourist season is in full swing. The food and service are both excellent, but the atmosphere is what really puts this place at the top of the list. Dining at any table in Columbia Restaurant is a real treat, from the main dining room to the moody wine cellar to the enclosed palm-tree-filled patio.
FINALISTS: Cap’s on the Water, The Floridian
BEST RESTAURANT WHEN YOU’RE PAYING
TacoLu Baja Mexicana
Cheap is good. Cheap and good is better. And if you’re treating but still want to impress, TacoLu Baja Mexicana is your spot. Festive, high-energy, affordable and, above all else, very tasty, TacoLu is where the locals go for a great night out. Pro tip: The shrimp and scallop tacos are to die for. There’s a great tequila selection, too, if you’re into that sort of thing (and you are).
FINALISTS: Hawkers Asian Street Fare, Chomp Chomp
BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING/ BEST STEAK
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Founded in 1965 by Ruth Fertel, Ruth’s Chris Steak House is a high-end chain boasting two Northeast Florida locations in Ponte Vedra Beach and riverfront in Downtown Jacksonville (inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel). Whether you’re in the mood for a petite filet, a thick T-bone or a New York strip, these guys know how to grill a mean slab of beef. There are also some pretty tasty sides, like tempura onion rings, sweet potato casserole and broccoli au gratin.
BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING FINALISTS: Restaurant Orsay, Capital Grille
BEST STEAK FINALISTS: Capital Grille, Longhorn Steakhouse
Tom Gray (Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails)
Even after earning national acclaim with two James Beard nominations, being recognized as the best chef in Jacksonville by the community he serves is perhaps Tom Gray’s most humbling honor. Moxie’s menu offers sophisticated twists on familiar flavors found throughout the Southeast. The best seat in the house at Moxie is the chef’s table, where you can watch Gray as he delightfully conducts a symphony of culinary harmony. Watching the smile on his face as each beautifully plated dish leaves his hand, it’s easy to see why Folio Weekly readers adore his genius.
FINALISTS: Dennis Chan (Blue Bamboo), Josh Agan (Flying Iguana)
Destiney Cassano (Charlie’s Diner)
There’s nothing quite like grabbing some grub at a greasy spoon. That is, unless your chili cheeseburger is served with the warmth and smile of a good waitress. In steps Destiney Cassano, a server and manager at Charlie’s Diner on Philips Highway. Open Monday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch, Charlie’s is a relative newcomer to the diner circuit, having just opened this past summer. But it’s quickly gaining momentum. From Charlie’s country-fried steak with gravy to an extensive omelet menu and the popular Country Boy Breakfast, Cassano and the rest of the staff offer traditional diner edibles with a Southern flair — all with a larger-than-life smile.
FINALISTS: Ryan Young (Metro Diner), Jennifer Williams (What’s Cookin’)
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