The Southside is where you find the spanking new. Its large boulevards create an auto-centric patchwork of super roads that connect the ’hood’s many housing developments and condo complexes to shopping like nowhere else in Northeast Florida. There’s huge corporate employers here as well, such as Blue Cross and CITI, which equate to healthy paychecks that fund the lifestyle. The St. Johns Town Center shopping mega-mecca is the place to find goods by Anthropologie, bebe, lululemon, West Elm, Urban Outfitters and the only Apple Store in Jacksonville.
The neighborhood’s rep as a corporation-engineered conspicuous consumer paradise is just stereotype-hype. The University of North Florida is on the Southside; its lectures and arts events and hiking trails and students add to the neighborhood’s cultural life and overall IQ. In addition, Jacksonville-owned Native Sun Natural Foods Market opened a second large organic grocery there, on Baymeadows Road near I-295. What’s more, the Southside draws dog lovers from all over the region to the 42-acre Dog Wood Park, where a remarkable 25 acres is fenced and completely leash-free. Oh, and because this mass of sprawling development was once mainly farm and timberland, at sunset on the edge of undeveloped wetlands, you might hear the eerie howling of wild coyotes.
See? It’s not all strip malls.
The Southside has also drawn large immigrant communities, including Indian, Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern and Central American families, with restaurants and groceries and small stores supporting each; visit Three F(x) for fresh-made ice cream or shop floor-to-ceiling-stuffed shelves of Indian and South Asian cookware and foodstuffs at the large Kalyaan Market. For fresh-baked pita bread still warm from the oven, head over to Hala Café & Bakery.
Further west in Mandarin, the beautiful and the quirky old Jacksonville coexist under the shade of scenic and historic giant live oaks on Mandarin Road. Named after the Mandarin orange, this is where abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe wintered and grew oranges. It’s also the site of Mandarin Historic Museum and one of the area’s nicest YMCAs, the Williams Family YMCA, featuring tennis courts and a large outdoor swimming pool.
People who live on the Southside and in Mandarin love it. They say there’s lots to do in their off hours, and it’s just a quick drive to St. Augustine, the beaches, Riverside/Avondale and nearly everywhere else they need to go. And maybe they’ll even hear a coyote every once in a while.
A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Al’s Pizza (8060 Philips Hwy., Ste. 105; 11190 San Jose Blvd.)
Casa Maria (14965 Old St. Augustine Road)
Clark’s Fish Camp (12903 Hood Landing Road)
Checker BBQ (3566 St. Augustine Road)
Fusion Sushi (1550 University Blvd. W.)
Hala Café & Bakery (4323 University Blvd. S.)
MShack (10281 Midtown Pkwy.)
Nile Ethiopian Restaurant (6715 Powers Ave., Ste. 3)
Taverna Yamas (9753 Deer Lake Court)
The French Pantry (6301 Powers Ave.)
Three F(x) (9802 Baymeadows Road)
Harmonious Monks (10550 Old St. Augustine Road)
Latitude 360 (10370 Philips Hwy.)
Monkey’s Uncle Tavern (10503 San Jose Blvd.)
Seven Bridges (9735 Gate Pkwy. N.)
World of Beer (9700 Deer Lake Court, Ste. 1)
Avenues Mall (10300 Southside Blvd.)
Kalyaan Market (9365 Philips Hwy.)
Concrete Creations (12637 Philips Hwy.)
Native Sun (10000 San Jose Blvd., 11030 Baymeadows Road)
St. Johns Town Center (4663 River City Drive)
Trad’s Garden Center (8178 San Jose Blvd.)
Whole Foods Market (10601 San Jose Blvd.)
Cinemark at Tinseltown (4535 Southside Blvd.)
Dog Wood Park (7407 Salisbury Road)
JULINGTON CREEK ANIMAL WALK (12075-300 San Jose Blvd.)
Regal Cinema (9525 Philips Hwy.)
Williams Family YMCA (10415 San Jose Blvd.)
Mandarin Museum & Historical Society (11964 Mandarin Road)