If you haven’t visited Riverside in a while, you might be surprised at what you find there now. The city’s cultural hub was hit hard during the economic downturn, and for years the main 5 Points strip along Park Street had more empty storefronts than businesses. Recently, however, the neighborhood has experienced a rapid rebirth, with new shops and housing projects popping up seemingly overnight. Whole blocks that had been abandoned for decades have been reclaimed, and new bakeries, art studios and pubs have set up shop in previously neglected buildings.
The walkable commercial districts of Riverside and its slightly posher sister, Avondale, are the best the city of Jacksonville has to offer. The Shoppes of Avondale is a historic neighborhood center, with two blocks of swanky boutiques (e.g., Ellie Bing and Design Additions) and diverse dining options, from an upscale café with the best desserts in town (Biscottis) to an old-school diner (The Fox). At night, music pours out of the restaurants and bars, from live jazz to Middle Eastern, and the sidewalks are filled with families and couples young and old.
The 5 Points Historic District is a local landmark, the ever-expanding and evolving core of the community. Hit up hippie-chic Midnight Sun for tarot card readings and Indian belly-dancing skirts, or spend some time crafting at Bead Here Now. Fans & Stoves Antique Mall has aisles and aisles of vintage furniture, memorabilia and knick-knacks, and Rainbows & Stars, formerly a gay pride novelty shop, carries antique and vintage finds as well.
Dine in some of the best restaurants in the city (e.g., Black Sheep, an upscale Southern-inspired restaurant with a rooftop patio overlooking Memorial Park). Enjoy dinner and a flick at Sun-Ray Cinema. Newly remodeled, Sun-Ray features a locals-heavy selection, with locally made candies and brews, and a solid vegan menu to boot. They’ve recently expanded to two screens, showcasing everything from summer blockbusters to indie flicks.
The nightlife in the newly formed King Street District attracts a mix of beach kids, yuppie townies and neighborhood locals. This strip has more than a half-dozen bars within walking distance of each other, making it an ideal place to bar-hop. Get your groove on at The Loft, which draws a mostly younger crowd wanting to dance to a solid rotation of Top-40, hip-hop and indie pop. A few doors down, you can take a break at Park Place Lounge, traditionally a gay bar, but with a comfortable neighborhood bar vibe. A common nightcap spot for industry folk just finishing up their shifts, it’s one of several gay clubs in the Riverside area, probably the most gay-friendly ’hood in Northeast Florida.
Riverside is also home to two local breweries (Intuition, Bold City), and several artist collectives housed in former factory and warehouse spaces, with the CoRK Arts District at the center.
A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS
Biscottis (3556 St. Johns Ave.)
Black Sheep Restaurant (1534 Oak St.)
Casbah Café (3628 St. Johns Ave.)
Cool Moose Café (2708 Park St.)
The Fox (3580 St. Johns Ave.)
Mellow Mushroom (3611 St. Johns Ave.)
Mojo No. 4 Urban BBQ & Whiskey Bar (3572 St. Johns Ave.)
O’Brothers (1521 Margaret St.)
Primi Piatti (2722 Park St.)
Restaurant Orsay (3630 Park St.)
Sweet Theory Baking Co. (1243 King St.)
Birdies (1044 Park St.)
Bold Bean Coffee (869 Stockton St.)
Bold City Brewery (2670 Rosselle St.)
BREW Five Points (1024 Park St.)
Intuition Ale Works (720 King St.)
Park Place Lounge (931 King St.)
Rain Dogs (1045 Park St.)
The Rogue (927 King St.)
The Silver Cow (1506 King St.)
Bead Here Now (1051 Park St.)
Cowford Traders (3563 St. Johns Ave.)
Deep Search Records (822 Lomax St.)
Edge City (1017 Park St.)
Fans & Stoves Antique Mall (1059 Park St.)
Superhero Hive Comics (2724 Park St.)
Underwood’s Jewelers (3617 St. Johns Ave.)
Willie’s For Kids (3567 St. Johns Ave.)
Wolfgang Clothing (1038 Park St.)
ZenCog Bicycle Company (883 Stockton St.)
Memorial Park (1515 Riverside Ave.)
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens (829 Riverside Ave.)
Sun-Ray Cinema (1028 Park St.)
CoRK Arts District (2689 Rosselle St.)
River City Pride Fest (11 a.m. Oct. 15, Riverside Arts Market, 715 Riverside Ave.)
Riverside Arts Market (Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Sunday afternoon pick-up soccer games, Memorial Park