Cover art by Morgan Wegner
A Northeast Florida staple founded in 1998, Al’s Pizza is known all over the region for its awesome pies and chill atmosphere. There’s nothing quite like a neighborhood pizza joint, and Al’s has sweet weekly deals to lure you in. Stop in daily for a quick $1.50 slice for lunch; get $8.99 pasta dishes (which include garlic bread and a salad) all day Monday, or show up on Thirsty Thursdays for the $1.50 wines and select beers. With six Al’s in the area, you can get your cheesy fill whenever you crave authentic pizza or Italian dishes. alspizza.com
For Zack Burnett, managing partner (and green coffee buyer) of Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, running a great coffee business is more than producing good-tasting coffee; it’s the entire experience. “We put all of our energy into ensuring a great customer experience,” said Burnett. “This touches on everything from the quality of the products we serve, the ambiance of our shops and the genuine interactions we have with our guests.” Burnett’s father, Jay, started Bold Bean in 2007. Zack joined in, and by 2010 he’d begun developing a retail model. Bold Bean sources all its coffees in the country of origin, not from a coffee broker’s manifest. In addition to its extensive coffee selection, Bold Bean (a seven-time winner in FW’s Best of Jax poll) has a bake shop, as well as subscription services, custom orders, classes and coffee-related demos. And happy servers like Zach and Emily (pictured) are ready to help. boldbeancoffee.com
Love a latte! Owner Nancy Barber serves customer Claire at Breezy's Coffee Shop & Wine Bar, Jax Beach’s go-to for fresh-baked breakfast pastries, savory breakfast sandwiches, lunch pitas and salads, scrumptious desserts and, of course, specialty coffee beverages. Nancy (pictured, in blue) says it’s also an excellent spot for an early afternoon beer or glass of wine. 235 Eighth Ave. S., Jax Beach, 241-2211, breezycoffeeshop.com
A shiny addition to what locals call The Corner, Coop 303–Al Mansur's newest culinary adventure—features contemporary regional cuisine and a great whiskey selection. On weekends, hit the Parlor to tap your feet to local musicians while sipping on a frosty beverage. Manager JP Diedrich says, “The menus are thoughtfully created with respect, humility and joy. This is FUN dining. Bring your friends and make some new ones.” Share a plate of apps with mix-and-match choices like the house pickles, fresh popcorn and boiled peanuts, then dig into giant sandwiches and heaping portions of most every menu item. Leave room for dessert or order a signature cocktail, like Jim Beam Black Bourbon-based Unforgettable with muddled lemon, mint and blackberries. 303 Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach, 372-4507, coop303.com
Two words: tableside guac! This Neptune Beach Latin fusion joint is known for its top-shelf margaritas and fantastic guacamole. (In fact, Flying Iguana is a perennial Best of Jax winner in both categories.) The menu features tostadas and entrées in a variety of carnivorous and vegetarian options, but The Iguana, smack dab in the middle of Beaches Town Center, is famous for its tacos. Find traditional faves, like slow-roasted carnitas, or more exotic choices, like the Junkyard with grilled chicken, roasted potato, queso, charred corn and a signature flaming iguana sauce. Whatever you’re hangry for, there’s a dish to quell the yen. And if it’s a lovely day (or night), snag a table on the patio. 207 Atlantic Blvd., Neptune Beach, 853-5680, flyingiguana.com
Larry’s Giant Subs has branched out with a new twist. It all started when the next generation of Raikes brothers, Max and David (pictured), took a trip to Italy a few years back. “They fell in love with the pizza,” says proud dad Larry Raikes. When they returned home, the young restaurateurs opened a 3,500-square-foot space in Murray Hill, one side serving traditional Larry’s Giant Subs and the other side offering FU Pizza (for “fired up,” obvee). Max and David wanted to authentically recreate the Neapolitan pizza they’d loved so much while in Italy. They get their dough and sauce directly from Italy, and they installed a $100,000 water system to replicate water from Brooklyn. Because Brooklyn water! They also hired a top pizza chef, Attilo Albachiara, to train the staff. FU Pizza has a full liquor bar and happy hour is 3-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 10-11 p.m. Mon.-Thur. 1050 Edgewood Ave. S., Murray Hill, 503-5142, facebook.com/FUPizza
Under the ownership and leadership of Daniel DeLeon, Grumpy’s is in a new era that includes franchise opportunities. Grumpy’s Restaurant has been serving Southern-style diner favorites for breakfast and lunch for 20 years, bringing locals back to traditional dining roots. It’s this commitment to staying true to homestyle cooking, attention-to-detail and sweet Southern hospitality that keep us loyal. Grumpy’s has fresh hash browns, bacon, handcut steaks and American-caught catfish. The popular daily and weekly chalkboard specials include sandwiches, homemade soups, salads, signature coffee, fresh-squeezed juices, homemade hot chocolate and desserts. 834 Kingsley Ave., Orange Park, 215-1956, grumpysrestaurantco.com
This innovative place has dominated the Asian food market in the area with recipes based on traditional Southeast Asian street food “hawkers.” From lettuce wraps, spring rolls, East Street Tacos and Roti Canai (a Malaysian flatbread served with curry sauce) to its famous dumplings, pad Thai and wok-seared Canton Cod, Hawkers serves authentic and affordable Asian food in a hip, casual atmosphere. Antoinette Jonas, Hawkers’ brand manager, said the recipe for Po Po Lo’s Curry is from co-founder Allen Lo’s family. Hawkers has won Best Chinese Cuisine three years running. The Five Points spot is the first place you see on Park and the Beaches Town Center place is just steps from the ocean. eathawkers.com
Latin-themed La Nop has all kinds of freshly cooked-to-order burritos, plus tostados, chimichangas, burgers, tacos, empanadas and yucca fries. More than 50 craft beers, some local, as well as signature margaritas. Sunday brunch means bottomless mimosas. The baskets of chips and salsa—with a side of queso of course—are sheer bliss. Add a margarita or a Modelo (or three) for extra bliss. lanopalerarest.com
Larry’s Giant Subs is one of the most popular and beloved restaurant franchises not only in Jacksonville but throughout Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Emphasizing hormone-free, sustainably farmed ingredients and using an eye-catching and distinctive New York-themed design, the sandwich chain has been a staple in the Jacksonville area for nearly 40 years. Offering sandwiches such as the Animal, the Mighty Mitch and the Destroyer, the company has become synonymous with quality, affordable food. And it’s all served up with a smile by happy crews throughout Northeast Florida. larryssubs.com
Since 2012, The Salty Pelican has been among Fernandina Beach’s most popular eateries, with high-quality bar food and a gorgeous view of the Amelia River. Owners Al Waldis and T.J. Pelletier leveraged their years of experience in the hospitality and restaurant businesses, which included stints at The Ritz-Carlton and Amelia Island Plantation, to offer qualify food and service in a waterfront setting.
The Salty Pelican menu is replete with traditional and non-traditional bar fare. The usual: chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches and conch fritters—plus seared tuna nachos with seaweed salad, goat cheese, wasabi sesame seeds and Pico de Gallo; shrimp etouffee and Maine lobster rolls. Pelletier says the lobster rolls are a huge hit. “I’m from Maine, so
it was important to me to do it the right way.” Salty Pelican is known for its broiled oysters with your choice of sauce: Pelican Original, Bacon & Bleu Cheese or Rockefeller. The perennial Best of Jax winner has another hook: an open-air upstairs bar and dining area. Ideal for watching the sun sink into the Amelia River. 12 N. Front St., Fernandina Beach, 277-3811, thesaltypelicanamelia.com
In an ex-Exxon filling station in historic Fernandina, T-Ray’s Burger Station is an undisputed local institution, serving breakfast and lunch six days a week; crowds start lining up before 11 a.m. to feast on the famously generous servings.
“Big Ray” Mullis opened the gas station in 1972, and his son T-Ray (shown behind the counter, above), an aspiring restaurateur, sold homemade sandwiches there 20-plus years ago. By 1998, Ray, T-Ray and his wife, Laura, ran a full-time restaurant. The eatery became known for its tagline, “Eat here and get gas!” Goodies include Kitchen Sink Omelet, Meat Lover’s Omelet, biscuits, bagels or English muffins loaded with ham, bacon or sausage. T-Ray’s has burgers, sure, sandwiches—blackened mahi, portabella mushroom and fish. The signature fried shrimp is all locally caught. T-Ray’s is nationally recognized as the place to go in NEFla—rightfully so, as it’s won many Best Burger crowns in FW’s Best of Jax readers’ poll. 202 S. Eighth St., Fernandina, 261-6310, traysburgerstation.com
There really was a Whitey–he worked for the U.S. Navy. In 1963, he and wife Ann Ham (that’s son Billy in the yellow shirt) opened a humble fish camp—a real one, with bait and tackle, beer, sandwiches, gas and probably ice, for folks who docked there to get what they needed to hit the open water and catch a fish. It became a popular stopover, and soon expanded into a restaurant and even an RV campground.
Today, Whitey’s–a repeat winner in FW’s Best of Jax readers’ poll for Best Fish Camp—is a Northeast Florida legend, where folks take Yankee relatives to see the real Florida. It’s famous for its All-You-Can-Eat local wild-caught catfish, plus seafood, steak, chicken and gator tail. There’s a Tiki bar and live music most nights. Come by boat, motorcycle or car. 2032 C.R. 220, Fleming Island, 269-4198, whiteysfishcamp.com