Bold Flavor from Big Player
Chef Tom Gray brings local upscale dining to St. Johns Town Center
4972 Big Island Drive, St. Johns Town Center
Caron Streibich covers dining out throughout Northeast Florida. If you have information about new restaurant openings, menu changes or other food-related news, contact her here. Streibich is also the host of our regular Folio Weekly Bite Club gatherings. Follow the Bite Club on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about it.
The large, open kitchen in the back of Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails bustles with activity — and energy. Chef Tom Gray, formerly of San Marco's Bistro Aix, opened this exquisite two-story spot in November with wife and business partner Sarah Marie Johnston.
You can see the thought put into Moxie's details, from rustic tree-stump-like salt and pepper shakers to steampunkesque light fixtures to ice cubes customized to the shapes of individual drink glasses.
The fried cheese curds starter ($7), accompanied by a slightly spicy ranch dip, paired well with pre-meal cocktails.
Moxie's oysters ($3 each) were the freshest I'd ever tasted, and I'm a self-proclaimed oyster fanatic. I ordered two from each coast — they arrived with lemon wedges, a flavorful pink peppercorn apple mignonette sauce and housemade cocktail sauce.
My favorite item of the evening was Dr Pepper-glazed short rib ($20) with buttermilk mashed potatoes and shaved vegetables. The beef was tender and juicy, and the sweet glaze contrasted nicely with the creamy mound of potatoes.
The chicken pot pie ($16) topped with fried sage leaves was loaded with chunks of chicken, asparagus, carrots and lima beans. The crust was melt-in-your-mouth good, yet not so flaky it fell apart.
From eight side item offerings ($5 each), the Brussels sprouts tossed in bacon vinaigrette were crisp and flavorful, and the mac 'n' cheese hit the right blend — neither too sharp nor too creamy.
The dessert menu includes whoopie pies (2 for $8), various malted milkshakes ($6) and traditional favorites with a twist, like chocolate mint-infused crème brûlée and pound cake with candied kumquat compote.
The pleasantly sweet apple hand pie ($8) was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and salted custard with a brûlée top. The peanut butter mousse stack ($8) was ridiculously rich (even sharing, we couldn't finish it), with layers of peanut brittle, peanut butter mousse and silky chocolate accompanied by brûléed banana slices.
There are craft beers, wines by the glass and cleverly named cocktails — like the smooth Walk Don't Run ($13) with Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon, Aperol, Cocchi Americano and barrel-aged bitters.
Open for lunch and dinner, Moxie will soon add a weekend brunch. With seating indoors and outside, upstairs and downstairs, there's a chic, comfortable space to suit any occasion that calls for fine dining and handcrafted cocktails.