cover story: best of jax 2017

DINING & DRINKING & HOSPITALITY

Folio Weekly's BEST of JAX 2017

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Best Server
KELLI TURNER, Hooters Orange Park
Favorites: Lauren Parret, Sliders Seaside Grill; Johnny Miller, European Street Riverside
If you’re in the mood to hang out with a gorgeous brunette woman who has that perfect pinch of sassy humor, dash of moxie and generous helping of hootie, ask for Kelli Turner at Hooters Orange Park, this year’s Best Server. The Hooters gal is a well-loved member of the team, so much so that she’s captured our readers’ hearts and, we’re just guessing, eyes. Social media rumor has it that the way to Ms. Turner’s heart might involve some delicious chicken nuggets.

Best Cocktail Selection
Best Bartender
MOXIE KITCHEN + COCKTAILS
BRUCE O’DOWD
Cocktail Selection Favorites: The Ice Plant, Whiskey Jax
Bartender Favorites: Johnna Nobles, Sliders Seaside Grill; Casey Shelton, Dos Gatos
Don’t be fooled by Moxie Kitchen + Cocktail’s chain-adjacent location at the St. Johns Town Center—this is a local joint. Best Bartender Bruce O’Dowd is the kinda drink-slinger you happen upon once in a Happy Hour Moon: charming, creative, accommodating and as friendly as if he’d been born smiling. The craft cocktails he’s pouring at our readers’ choice for Best Cocktail Selection aren’t drinks, they’re experiences. And O’Dowd and his comrades in shaker tins mix up a mighty fine experience indeed. Walk Don’t Run to check out intriguing drinks like the Nueva Moda—Altos Reposado Tequila, cinnamon syrup, orange zest, bitters; Feel No Pain—Manzanilla Sherry, Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, pineapple and lime juices, cream of coconut, cinnamon; or The Fly By (for two)—Absolute Elyx, Blackwoods Gin, Galliano, pineapple juice, kiwi and black pepper shrub, lime juice. Feeling classic? Go with a Moscow Mule. It’s a Sure Thing that you’ll have a hard time drinking just one.

Best Chef
Chef SAM EFRON, Taverna San Marco
Favorites: Chef Tom Gray, Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails;
Chef Kenny Gilbert, Gilbert’s Underground and Gilbert’s Social
Taverna San Marco has stood out since Chef Sam and wife Kiley Wynne Efron opened the favored lunch and dinner spot in 2009. Even when he’s just making a simple duck liver ravioli, Chef Sam Efron’s attention to detail elevates every bite. “Enjoying a well-prepared meal highlights life,” he said. “…When people gather around the dinner table to break bread, it offers a canvas to build bridges between cultures.” A Jacksonville native with a résumé that has that Michelin star quality, Chef Sam isn’t the type to leave the grunt work to the grunts—which is part-and-parcel to why he’s so beloved and respected, from the dish pit to the hostess stand to the table and beyond.

Best Barista
RICHIE WALDEN, Starbucks
Favorites: Victoria Zeisler, Southern Grounds & Co., Nicole Ellis
Whether it’s making certain your tall nonfat pumpkin spice latte—heated to exactly 163 degrees—with two percent foam is served with a smile. But that’s not all he does, he’s tasted with knowing what the difference is between a Sumatra and a French roast is (and the endless other varieties of coffee available), while being tirelessly willing to talk to that one friend we all have who needs to volubly recount his summer in Prague…from three years ago. Walden listens patiently to how enamored of flat whites said friend currently is (and bonus pretention points how no one in America makes them properly), then serves up the fat-free iced caramel macchiato, upside down, with extra caramel coffee the dude just ordered with speed and accuracy.

Best New Restaurant
1000 DEGREES NEAPOLITAN PIZZERIA
Favorites: South Kitchen & Spirits, Town Hall
After its grand opening in Fernandina back in August, 1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria has quickly drawn in pizza lovers by the dozens and dozens. You can choose from a collection of old standbys like pepperoni, Hawaiian and meat-lovers, or you can build your own, picking and choosing from a variety of toppings. And for those of you not willing to take the trip up to the Great North of Nassau County, three more locations are slated to pop up in Jax Beach, Mandarin and Southside.

Best Restaurant in Jacksonville
RESTAURANT ORSAY
Favorites: Black Sheep, Taverna
If you’re seeking food porn that tastes as scrumptious as it looks sex-x-x-x-y, check out Riverside mainstay Restaurant Orsay, again this year our readers’ fave in the great city of Cowford. With a focus on local sources, the French technique take on American Southern cuisine at Orsay will make your taste buds your BFFs for life.

Best Restaurant on Amelia Island
Reader Nominated Category: Best Pet-Friendly Restaurant/Bar
SLIDERS SEASIDE GRILL
Restaurant on Amelia Favorites: Salty Pelican Bar & Grill, Salt-The Ritz Carlton
Pet-Friendly Restaurant/Bar Favorites: Green Room Brewing, Harpoon Louie’s, Aardwold Brewing Company
If there is one thing Amelia Island is known for, it’s consistency. When you go to Amelia, you know you’re going to get good beaches, good restaurants/bars and good service. When you go to Sliders Seaside Grill, you get all three. The food is always delicious, the bar is always serving up tasty drinks and the service is always top notch—plus, there are swings at the bar. If you decide to bring Napoleon or Josephine the porkies with you, just pop a squat outside near the tiki bar and chances are they’ll get their water before you get yours.

Best Seafood
SAFE HARBOR SEAFOOD MARKET & RESTAURANT
Favorites: Salty Pelican, Bluefish
Safe Harbor wins again! And we can’t say we are one bit surprised that savvy Folio Weekly readers recognize that the freshest seafood in the area is right next to the dock where the boat ties up. But wait, there’s so much more: Safe Harbor isn’t just any ol’ fish market. The attached restaurant serves some of the tastiest traditional fish-shack fare anywhere in Florida. We are especially partial to the smoked mullet dip, shrimp nachos, and Captain Walter’s 3-way combo—with an extra side of hush puppies, please (and we’ll have some clam chowder to go, too).

Best Chicken Wings
WING-IT
Favorites: Dick’s Wings, Gator’s Dockside
Make no bones about it: our readers hail Wing-It as the best place to nosh on some serious chicken wings. At its two locations in Mandarin and the Northside, Wing-It offers flavors such as honey BBQ, lemon pepper and hot garlic, as well as the standard wing sauce, spicely heated from medium to volcanic. Wings can be ordered from in quantities ranging from a modest 12 to a Roman-Wing-Orgy number 90! That’s a whole lotta yardbird. In addition to award-winning wings, this much-loved eatery serves up a half-pound Wing-It burger, plus sandwiches and melts, nachos, quesadillas and for the dainty wing-nibbler, the popular boneless wings. Bone Appétit!

Best Hot Dog
HOT DOG HUT
Favorites: Texas Hot Dogs, Orange Tree Hot Dogs
Hot Dog Hut won our hearts when we discovered that they serve a Chicago-style dog (we like ours with extra sport peppers), and when our readers recognized the clearly superior pork products available there, we couldn’t have been more pleased—or more ready to ditch a day at the office for a day at the beach followed by a foot-long Carolina dog direct to the face. Which brings us to another exciting nugget of info: They’ve got 15 varieties of hot dog (one for every mood, perhaps), plus they have that kind of embarrassing but totally delicious favorite: French fries drizzled with ranch dressing.

Best Sub Sandwich
ANGIE’S SUBS
Favorites: Larry’s Giant Subs, Firehouse Subs
A mainstay of the Jax Beach area for longer than some of us have been alive, Angie’s is the place locals go when they’re in the mood for a classic sammy. The rolls are always perfectly toasted and stuffed to the gills with succulent meats. Add a little of their signature Peruvian sauce—which, thankfully, is never in short supply—and you’re set. Nevermind the taxidermied deer on the wall, he won’t bite.

Best Dessert
BISCOTTIS
Favorites: Cheesecake Factory, bb’s Restaurant & Bar
For nearly 25 years, the much-loved Biscottis has earned loyal customers who clamor to Avondale to indulge in this neighborhood favorite, combining the cozy with the sweet. While Biscottis is renowned for its brunch and lunch menus, as well as adult libations and tasty cocktails, FW readers give the place the highest hosannas for its inimitable selection of desserts. Pastry Chef Mallorie Finnell makes everything from scratch, so you know you’re getting the freshest cupcakes, cookies, bread pudding and signature biscotti, and a cake menu ranging from Triple Chocolate and White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake to Grand Marnier Tropical and Peanut Butter Mousse cakes.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Doughnuts
GOOD DOUGH DOUGHNUTS
Favorites: Sweet Theory, The Donut Shoppe
We are so incredibly appreciative for all of the research our readers must’ve done in order to make this informed and tough decision. Good Dough, which opened in San Marco earlier this year, has upped the doughnut game in town, offering flavors like Earl Grey, blackberry glazed with whipped mascarpone topping and what we think is one of the best ideas ever: a doughnutwich (ham, egg and cheese on a donut)! The flavors change with the months and we have heard (from a very reliable source) that in October, they’re making their own pumpkin spice syrup.

Best Steak
Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying
RUTH’S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE
Steak Favorites: Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse, Pinegrove Market
Someone Else Paying Favorites: Orsay, The Capital Grille
It has become increasingly “rare” to believe that Ruth’s Chris Steak House won’t be the returning champs for both the Best Steak and “Let Your Friend with the Fat Wallet Buy” categories. While it might be a national franchise restaurant, Ruth’s Chris creates an intimate vibe that’s perfect for sinking your teeth in an incredible steak. Served sizzling with their signature butter-topped flair, Ruth’s Chris makes no beef in offering you the best in cuts including filets, a cowboy rib eye, New York strips, T-bones, porterhouse for two (40 ounces!) and petite cuts, along with surf-and-turf and lamb chops, as well as an extensive cocktail and wine list.

Best Restaurant To Impress A Date
BLACK SHEEP RESTAURANT
Favorites: Restaurant Orsay, Ruth’s Chris Steak House
If you’re looking for a li’l romance, order a medley of delectable indulgences and watch the sun set over the city from the rooftop of  Black Sheep Restaurant, with a delicious cocktail in hand and your best gal or guy (or both!) by your side. Even the Grinch’s tiny heart would go pitty-pat experiencing myriad pleasures of the Best Restaurant to Impress a Date for two years running, whose new Downtown spot Bellwether is on the tongues of all the foodies in town.

Best Coffeehouse
BOLD BEAN COFFEE ROASTERS
Favorites: Southern Grounds, Urban Grind
Rumored to have consumed a modest 50 cups of coffee a day, 19th-century French writer Honoré de Balzac would have surely applauded (with trembling hands) the caffeinated offerings of Bold Bean Coffee Roasters. With locations in Riverside, Jax Beach and the latest spot in San Marco, Bold Bean roasts its own beans to serve up the best in espresso, cappuccino, lattes, iced coffee and the universal favorite: rich and tasty pour-overs. For you lightweights, Bold Bean also serves decaf drinks; some truly stellar desserts, including vegan options, are also featured.

Best Deli
PINEGROVE MARKET & DELI
Favorites: Sun Deli, Akel’s Deli
For more than 60 years, the Pinegrove Market & Deli has been feeding locals on the strengths of neighborhood, a family vibe and unparalleled food offerings. Located in Avondale, Pinegrove serves full breakfast, salads, soups and even steaks. But the deli is surely most loved for its killer sandwiches and burgers. Keep it très local with The Avondale, featuring homemade tabouli, roast beef and smoked Gouda in a fresh-baked, pressed pita; or sink your teeth into The Raj, a fresh-ground steak burger, with grilled pastrami, smoked Gouda, fried green tomato and lettuce on a grilled bun. Wanna get it to go or go large? The deli sells fresh foods and offers catering.

Best Sports Bar
MILLER’S ALE HOUSE
Favorites: Whiskey Jax, Sneakers Sports Grille
The first Miller’s Ale House sprang up nearly 30 years ago down in Jupiter. The casual sports-centric place quickly produced offspring; there are now 81 Ale Houses in 12 states; five locally. Our readers approve of the fresh, familiar fare: chicken, pasta, steaks, sandwiches and, of course, a full bar with local craft brews. And the wall-to-wall screens! My god, you can see every sport known to man in vivid HD—every drop of sweat, every ripple of muscle, every divot fly … getting carried away here. For sports bar fever, the cure is Miller’s Ale House.

Best Burrito
BURRITO GALLERY
Favorites: Lola’s Burrito & Burger Joint, La Nopalera Mexican Restaurant
When it comes to readers celebrating the best local burrito, the Burrito Gallery has it wrapped up tight. Locations in Downtown, Brooklyn and Jax Beach each feature a signature menu, but all three spots are known for consistency in serving some serious burrito action, as well as tacos, nachos, enchiladas, salads and the ‘dilla: a bowlful of the burrito action with tortilla-wrapped-cheese on the side. Pick your protein, between steak, carnitas, chicken or tofu, pack it up in a corn or flour tortilla, fill it with savory add-ons, and discover why FW readers chose Burrito Gallery as the numero uno burrito spot.

Best Bagel
EINSTEIN BROS. BAGELS
Favorites: Bagel Love, Panera Bread
Now with locations in Riverside and at University of North Florida, Einstein Bros. Bagels keeps Northeast Florida fed and happy on the quest for fresh-baked, boss bagels. You want variety? The geniuses at Einstein’s offer more than 30 flavors. So along with classics like Everything and Cinnamon Raisin, you can score a Cheesy Hash Brown or Green Chile bagel. Seasonal fare gets represented with Pumpkin (natch!) while the “Shmearfuls” offer a new take on bagel spreads.

Best Barbecue
MOJO KITCHEN
Favorites: 4 Rivers Smokehouse, The Bearded Pig BBQ
“What is the law? Not to eat meat.” While that little epigram might’ve worked for the man-beasts of Island of Lost Souls, for many of our readers, enjoying delicious barbecue is the only law. Mojo Kitchen takes top honors for its skills at cooking old-school BBQ with some seriously downhome sides. All your faves like brisket, pulled pork, chicken and turkey breast are on the menu, along with Mojo’s killer Texas Hot Links. Seafood meets the smokehouse with Delta catfish, grilled salmon, and shrimp & grits, while you can get a pre-meal fill-up with appetizers and then fill your plate with side dishes like collard greens, dirty rice, BBQ beans and some seriously good potato salad.

Best Comfort Food
Best Food Truck
SOUL FOOD BISTRO
Comfort Food Favorites: Sliders Seaside, 4 Rivers Smokehouse, Metro Diner
Food Truck Favorites: On the Fly, Happy Grilled Cheese
Wednesday is baked spaghetti day at Soul Food Bistro, so that makes hump day the best day of the week (but get there early, they tend to sell out). Under the direction of Chef Celestia Mobley, the restaurant is the best/worst-kept secret on the Westside. And now, for folks who find the trek to Normandy a little too far (even for ox-tail, mac ’n’ cheese and the most amazing bread pudding, ever), they’ve got an award-winning food truck (thanks to our sagacious readers); find it by checking the Bistro’s Facebook page.

Best Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurant
SOUTHERN ROOTS FILLING STATION
Favorites: Grassroots Natural Market, Sweet Theory Baking Company
Offering breakfasts like granola and chia pudding, to small plate-snacks, salads, rice-bowls and tasty sammies, Southern Roots Filling Station will fill your belly but not your arteries. But wait, there’s more: they offer healthy foods in bulk from things that are in most folks’ kitchens, like brown rice and olive oil, to harder-to-find fare like milk thistle seed and wormwood. Housed in a small storefront on King St. in Riverside, the space has recently expanded to make room for a larger dining area as the food has proven so popular—filling station indeed.

Best Restaurant serving Locally Sourced Food
KITCHEN ON SAN MARCO
Favorites: The Local Jax, Sliders Seaside Grill
Located in the historic neighborhood of San Marco, Kitchen on San Marco has quickly become the top restaurant serving locally sourced food. The gastropub combines imaginative, upscale cooking technique with a casual dining experience that stuns. Kitchen’s inventive dishes with fresh, local ingredients are miles ahead of the pack. The friendly staff and professional chefs go out of their way to provide guests with a dining experience that keeps ‘em coming back for more.

Best All-You-Can-Eat Special/Buffet
TERRA GAUCHA BRAZILIAN STEAKHOUSE
Favorites: China Buffet, Al’s Pizza
Strap on the feedbag and dig into a dizzying array of foodstuffs at Northeast Florida’s Best All-You-Can-Eat Special/Buffet in Tinseltown on the Southside. Fear not: That smiling angel with the platter of meat will come your way again. And again. And again. Seriously, it’s so good, you’ll probably want to fast for a few days before your reservation at Terra Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse, a delightfully upscale buffet experience like no other.

Best Meal For Under $10
Best Mac ’N’ Cheese 
Reader Nominated Category
SPLIFF’S GASTROPUB
Meal Under $10 Favorites: TacoLu, Al’s Pizza
Mac ’n’ Cheese Favorites: Mojo Kitchen, Maple Street Biscuit Company
This spot sandwiched between businesses on Ocean Street in Downtown Jax is easy to miss unless you know what you’re looking for. But locals know just what they’re looking for at Spliff’s Gastropub: quality meals at an unbeatable price point and the Best Damn Mac ’N’ Cheese on this side of the planet. That’s why they’re our readers’ fave for Best Meal Under $10 and that cheesy, noodle-y fix.

Reader Nominated Category 
Best Soup
CRAB BISQUE, The Blue Fish Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Favorites: Bowl of Pho, Harpoon Louie’s
Laced with sherry and loaded with crab meat, the crab bisque certainly takes a cue from she crab soup, but according to Folio Weekly readers, it is much better—indeed, it’s a creamy panegyric to Lord Neptune’s bounty, a bowl full of briny, unctuous goodness studded with the buttery lusciousness of crab. We think the soup is the perfect way to start a meal, and if paired with a salad it makes a lovely and elegant lightish meal (especially when complemented with warm bread and butter).

Best Tapas
13 GYPSIES
Favorites: España Restaurant, Hawkers Asian Street Fare
Helmed by the extraordinary polymath Howard Kirk—he’s an artist, a DJ, and does fancy computer stuff, too—13 Gypsies has consistently been one of the city’s most well-respected (and busy) restaurants since it opened its doors back in 2008. We think it’s because Howard is a damn genius with a peerless palate. Pop in for a little sangria and honey garlic hummus or stay a while and enjoy sampling—and sharing—the menu. Try the daily risotto and cured meat if it’s available, we’re certain you’ll be impressed; oh, and the pan-seared cod, too.

Best Smoothie
SMOOTHIE KING
Favorites: Tropical Smoothie, Grassroots Natural Market
Locals looking for a healthy way to enjoy a tasty, nutritious drink slam full of healthy ingredients, and even super-vitamin boosts, get their smoothie fix at Smoothie King. Boasting 11 locations in Northeast Florida, SK uses the freshest ingredients to make stellar on-the-spot drinks that run the gamut from health-geared smoothies, including fitness, slim and wellness blends, along with healthful snacks and kid’s cups. Stevia, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options give every diet the chance to sip on some serious smoothie action.

Best Frozen Yogurt Shop
SWEETFROG PREMIUM FROZEN YOGURT
Favorites: Yobe Frozen Yogurt, Mochi Frozen Yogurt
Some of us are lucky enough to have friends who can be persuaded to skip lunch and have froyo (as the pros call it) instead. Their go-to spot: sweetFROG. With a selection of low-fat, fat-free and dairy-free treats that can be swirled or stacked, plus a toppings bar with chocolate flakes and all the whipped cream you need, we could be persuaded to skip lunch and eat sweet treats instead, too.

Best Breakfast
Best Brunch
Best Restaurant in Orange Park, Fleming Island, Green Cove Springs
THE METRO DINER
Breakfast Favorites: The Fox Restaurant, Maple Street Biscuit Co.
Brunch Favorites: The Local Jax, Hoptinger Bier Garden & Sausage House
OP/FI/GCS Favorites: Mojo BBQ, Mellow Mushroom
Our readers like to “rise and shine” with a cup of fresh coffee and the mega-comfort breakfast foods of The Metro Diner. Now with six locations, this ultimate eatery offers breakfast entrées including The Bissell Breakfast, the French toast-style Yo Hala on the Square, and a crowd favorite—Fried Chicken & Waffle. Breakfast fare is served ’round the clock, but Metro Diner has an equally impressive lunch and dinner menu, with killer deli classics, homestyle stuff like meatloaf and chicken and dumplings, and full-tilt burgers.

Best Bakery
SWEET THEORY BAKING COMPANY
Favorites: Cinotti’s Bakery, Village Bread Café
Donuts like pillows (root beer and lavender are just a couple of flavor favorites), dense sweet breads, sky-high gluten-free cakes, and breakfast sandwiches with vegan bacon and sausage abound—and with soy-free, peanut-free and vegan options, there’s a reason that on weekend mornings there’s often a line out the door. Sweet Theory also run specials regularly, so keep an eye on its Instagram account and score a cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven.

Best Sushi
FUJI SUSHI
Favorites: Kazu Sushi, Sake House

It’s hard to find good quality sushi at a price that won’t have you taking out a second mortgage on your house. But Fuji Sushi is not only delicious, it’s affordable. Word from the wise: drop in midday for the lunch special. Three sushi rolls and some bomb-ass miso for the price you’d usually fork over for one roll anywhere else—spicy tuna is the best, just sayin’. You can’t beat that with a stick!

Best Fish Camp
Best Neighborhood Bar in OP/Fleming Island/Green Cove Springs
WHITEY’S FISH CAMP
Fish Camp Favorites: Clark’s Fish Camp, Julington Creek Fish Camp
OP/FI/GCS Favorites: Brewer’s Pizza, Roadhouse
A longstanding Florida tradition, fish camps are a slice of Southern charm and hospitality-especially Whitey's. In its 54-year history, Whitey and Ann Ham's slice of the real Florida has survived a massive fire and several floods. Now the couple's three children run the family-owned spot that is our readers' favorite Fish Camp and Neighborhood Bar in OP/FI/GCS. Whitey's Fish Camp serves all-you-can-eat fried catfish all week, holds a bass fishing tournament on Thursdays, and offers live music Friday and Saturday. Do not miss their Christmas boat parade where all the proceeds are donated to a local animal shelter. And seriously, try the catfish. You won't regret it.

Best Indian Restaurant
5thELEMENT INDIAN RESTAURANT
Favorites: JaxSpice, India’s Restaurant
Baymeadows is home to many Indian cuisine restaurants, but Folio Weekly readers have crowned the 5thElement as the city’s best. Locals love the lunch buffet that lets you try an array of Indian dishes without emptying your wallet. Appetizers, entrées and desserts are equally filled with authentic flavors, all made with the freshest ingredients. South Indian, Tandoor and Indo-Chinese offerings abound, along with one of most satisfying vegetarian menu selections in the city. The owners accommodate the most nit-picky spice requests (“Garlic Chicken with a heat level of somewhere between mild and taste-bud scorching”) and if that still gets a little too warm on the palate, wash it back with a mango lassi or traditional Indian beer.

Best Burger in Jax
M SHACK
Favorites: Poe’s Tavern, The Loop
With four locations and six years under its belt, M Shack has become the go-to spot for Jax peeps looking to nosh on the Best Burger in Jax. With 10 specialty burgers and the ability to customize your own—we’re talking Scooby and Shaggy sandwich style—you get what you want and a little more at M Shack. Not to mention, they have a gluten-free bun for wheat-intolerant burger lovers.

Best Burger in St. Augustine
THE WORLD FAMOUS OASIS DECK & RESTAURANT
Favorites: M Shack, Ice Plant
Nestled in the heart of St. Augustine you’ll find the Best Burger in town at Oasis, a famous watering hole for locals and tourists alike. Oasis is advertised as an oyster bar, but we love their burgers, which take the classic diner-style burger and make it even better. Our suggestion: The Special Burger with grilled onions, shredded cabbage, special sauce and a slice of tomato. Put it on top of your head and your tongue will slap your brains out trying to get to it. 

Best Burger on Amelia Island
T-RAY’S BURGER STATION
Favorites: Tasty’s, The Salty Pelican
Go too fast and you might miss it. To those out of the loop, what may look like an unassuming gas station holds within the Best Burger on Amelia Island. Originally an Exxon station, T-Ray's was eventually converted into a restaurant by dearly departed Fernandina icon Big Ray Mullis at the urging of his son, T-Ray. Today T-Ray and his son Trey keep those big, juicy and cheesy burgers coming so fast you'll hardly believe it. That's why everybody, and we mean everybody, goes to T-Ray's. So save that five bucks you were going to spend at some fast food spot and go get yourself a real burger! Ya hear?

Best Burger in OP/Fleming Island/Green Cove Springs
THE LOOP
Favorites: Five Guys Burger & Fries, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
The Loop’s burgers can be most aptly defined as old-school. No special sauce or fancy-shmancy toppings. Just a bun, beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and ketchup/mustard if you want. It may sound plain on the surface, but it works. There are more than 10 locations throughout Northeast Florida, and for good reason. There are a few other menu choices if you want a little more thrill on your tastebuds. And if beef ain’t your bag, they have veggie, gluten-free and chicken-style burgers.

Best Japanese Restaurant
WASABI JAPANESE STEAKHOUSE & SUSHI BAR
Favorites: Sakura, Fusion Sushi
Folio Weekly readers agree that Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar offers up the Best Japanese fare in town. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu—you’ll probably end up drowning everything in shrimp sauce anyway. Also, word to the wise: If you’re there for a family gathering, just make sure Uncle Joe doesn’t try to do his rendition of a Japanese accent. Not cool, Uncle Joe. Not cool.

Best Caribbean Restaurant
BAHAMA BREEZE
Favorites: Pusser’s Bar & Grille, Mango’s Beach Bar & Grille
Living this close to the crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea means that the delightfully spicy cuisine is top-notch in Northeast Florida. It also means that we know Caribbean food. If you’re looking for the very Best Caribbean Restaurant around, look no further than St. Johns Town Center, where Bahama Breeze’s island flavors will make you feel like a honeymooner on a picturesque tropical beach—sans hurricanes.

Best Mediterranean Restaurant
ATHENS CAFÉ
Favorites: Hovan Gourmet Mediterranean, Taverna Yamas
It’s a no-brainer that thousands of years of Greek civilization would naturally lead to the development of truly fabulous cuisine. If you’re in the mood for a taste of the Old Country, Northeast Floridians point that GPS to Athens Café, where the hummus is creamy, spanakopita is a flaky, buttery wonder, and even the baked chicken is unforgettable. The best thing about the Best Mediterranean Restaurant: The food might taste like you’re cheating on your diet, but it’s actually good for you. #Truth.

Best Italian Restaurant
ENZA’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT
Favorites: Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Taverna San Marco
Since 2004, Enza’s Italian Restaurant has built a reputation for serving authentic, fresh and fabulous Italian in a welcoming atmosphere. Don’t let its low-key San Jose addy fool ya, though, Enza’s has the perfect amount of class, sophistication, pasta, eggplant and sauce. Chefs Enza and Mike have put together a menu that features all your faves plus some newbies that will keep you coming back to our readers’ choice for Best Italian Restaurant.

Best Chinese
HAWKERS ASIAN STREET FARE
Favorites: Wok ‘n’ Roll, Chef Chan Asian Cuisine
Hawkers Asian Street Fare is undeniably Jacksonville’s top stop for Pan-Asian cuisine. The Asian fusion eatery creates small dishes traditionally served on the street in various countries all over Asia. It’s always packed, so grab a drink and watch the pretty people. Or just ogle the plates coming outta the kitchen at breakneck speed. Fan favorites include the Roti Canai, Stir Fry Udon Noodles, and Spicy Edamame. The plates are small, so order a bunch and share them with your friends. You’ll see why our readers love this stylish, bustling place.

Best Thai
INDOCHINE
Favorites: Buddha Belly, Pattaya Thai
For a classy yet casual dining experience and fabulous Thai cuisine, Indochine will not disappoint. The Asian bistro delivers delicious food inspired by the bold food of Southeast Asia. Dine on unique dishes, like a sweet red curry-based whole snapper, or dive into something more traditional, like drunken noodles. Nom nom nom. Both locations—downtown and San Marco—also offer signature cocktails and sushi served in a relaxed, modern atmosphere.

Best Mexican Restaurant
LA NOPALERA MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Favorites: TacoLu Baja Mexicana, Cantina Louie Mexican Street Food
There are few things more satisfying than grabbing a few friends and plowing through a couple of baskets of chips and salsa—with a side of queso of course (healthy eating can be damned)—with a margarita or a Modelo or three. La Nop, as most of the regulars call it, might not be fancy and it’s sure not expensive, but it is clearly the first place Folio Weekly readers think of when they get them hot cheese cravins’.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Cuban Restaurant
HAVANA JAX CAFE/CUBA LIBRE ULTRA LOUNGE
Favorites: Mambo’s, Hola Cuban Café
Part fantastic lunch spot and part fun nighttime spot, Havana Jax has been cooking up authentic Cuban cuisine for more than 23 years. Originally opened by Armando Pulido, who was homesick for the cuisine of his Cuban childhood, the original 60-seat restaurant is now a 5,000-square-foot space with a bar, a buffet and a small selection of take-out bakery items, under the leadership of Armando’s son, Rene. When you go, if it’s chicken fricassee night, we highly recommend partaking!

Best Pizza in Jacksonville
AL’S PIZZA
Favorites: Moon River, V Pizza
Looking for a place that combines old world quality with new world appeal? Visit Al’s Pizza at any of their many Duval locations and one in St. Augustine and you’ll see why they’re again our readers’ choice for Best Pizza in Jax. You’ll find a cool place for delicious pizza, and the slice special is hard to beat. Repeat after us: Dollar slices every weekday from 2-5 p.m. Not only is Al a master of the pie, he’s also a genuinely good guy; generously giving back to the community that he unabashedly loves. We love ya back, Al! 

Best Pizza in St. Augustine
Best Restaurant in St. Augustine
PIZZALLEY’S ON ST. GEORGE
PIZZALLEY’S CHIANTI ROOM
Pizza Favorites: Al’s Pizza, Pizza Time
Restaurant Favorites: Columbia Restaurant, The Ice Plant
In the mood for an American classic prepared to perfection in the Ancient City? Our readers’ choice for Best Pizza in St. Augustine, Pizzalley’s on St. George, has you covered. Since 2000, the wood-fired pies with made-from-scratch ingredients have been lighting up the alley this family-owned restaurant calls home. Fall in love with the Greek Lovers, Fajita Lovers, Hawaiian Lovers, Garbage Can (seriously), or build your own “Lover.” Oh, you’re actually in the mood for a romantic meal or special treat? Just steps away, you’ll find the Best Restaurant in St. Augustine, Pizzalley’s Chianti Room, serving all the rustic Italian classics your grandmother would’ve made if she were a Sicilian angel, as well as gourmet pizzas like the Wonder Woman, a pepper-themed concoction with enough meat to make the ladies hit the low notes. For dessert, let’s share the cannoli and the homemade tiramisu. Mangia, mangia!

Best Pizza on Amelia Island
MOON RIVER PIZZA
Favorites: Pi Infinite Combinations, Townies Pizzeria
There’s no doubt that going to Moon River for a big ol’ slice of the cheesy stuff is the best way to refuel after a hard and grueling day of lying in the sand. Located on South 14th Street, Moon River has been hailed King of the ’ZA every year since 2000, and now, once again. Come prepared with an empty stomach and some cash—no plastic, dude—and prepare to eat a couple slices of pizza as big as your head.

Best Pizza in Orange Park/Fleming Island/Green Cove Springs
BREWER’S PIZZA
Favorites: Mellow Mushroom, Renna’s Pizza
There's pizza dough and then there's pizza dough. If you've eaten at Brewer's Pizza in Orange Park, you know the difference: that made-from-scratch-at-the-crack-of-dawn-taste you simply cannot get enough of. Try the brewpub's signature The Florida Smacker, a crispity-crunchity square pie that will blow your freaking mind (almost as much as imagining a quadrilateral circle), just like it did the minds of Folio Weekly readers, who voted them Best Pizza on the other side of the Buckman. Go to the next level of pizza heaven by washing it down with their top-notch in-house brews. Magnifique!

Best Bar Food
Best Beer Selection
Best Late Night Spot
KICKBACKS GASTROPUB
Bar Food Favorites: Sliders Seaside Grill, The Shim Sham Room
Beer Selection Favorites: Green Room Brewing, Grassroots Natural Market
Late Night Spot Favorites: Spliff’s Gastropub, Locals Pub
Proving once again that they’re unbeatable for Best Bar Food, Best Beer Selection and Best Late Night Spot, Kickbacks Gastropub in Riverside has locked it down. One might wonder if they’re bribing voters with pennies. Nope. This famed joint that serves food for literally 20 hours a day, 365 days a year probs has the largest beer selection in Florida, if not the whole wide world. There are more than 200 on tap alone, y’all! Plus so many bottles that we had to break out the old abacus. If you’ve got the drunchies (if you’ve had ’em, you know what we mean), Kickbacks Gastropub or its adjacent Goozepipe & Guttyworks will set you straight, no matter if you’re a bacon-wrapped date connoisseur, a sandwich freak, Scotch egg fanatic, or a truly refined soul who prefers only the finest chili cheese fries.

Best Bathroom
Reader Nominated Category
MAGGIANO’S LITTLE ITALY
Favorites: Bold Bean Stockton, South Kitchen & Spirits
When FW readers gotta go, they gotta go. Lucky for them (and us) there’s a lavatory paradise right here in River City—more precisely, at St. Johns Town Center inside Maggiano’s Little Italy, a high-end but accessible Italian restaurant. Bright, clean tile, dark woods, gleaming fixtures and lotsa stalls. (We’re referencing the ladies’ loo here; as liberal as we are, our crash-the-men’s-room days are in the rearview mirror.) Maggiano’s cleaning staff must work 24/7 to keep all that glorious private privvy space so clean and inviting. It’s almost as refreshing as their Kiwi Moscato Mojito.

Best Happy Hour
MELLOW MUSHROOM PIZZA BAKERS
Favorites: Lola’s Burrito & Burger Joint, Sliders Seaside Grill
From 3 to 7 p.m. every weekday at Mellow Mushroom, there are two things to look forward to: cheap drinks and stuff to do while consuming said drinks. It’s kind of like summer camp, but with $3 margaritas and pizza. You like trivia? Pop in on Monday! Bingo? Swing by on Tuesday! And for the gals, Thursday is always Ladies Night—that means $2 house wine.

Best Wine List
Best Wine Bar
THE WINE BAR
Wine List Favorites: Restaurant Orsay, Taverna San Marco, Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas
Wine Bar Favorites: Bar Zin, Cooper’s Hawk
If you’re like us, sometimes you just need a hug. They totally get that at The Wine Bar, so they offer a list of “hugs in a glass,” aka wines, that catapults them right to the top of the charts for Best Wine List and Best Wine Bar. The beach-adjacent site in Jax Beach is the perfect blend of class, sophistication, live music, stand-up comedy, Bordeaux, Alexander Valley and Veuve Clicquot on the clock. We hear.

Best Margarita
FLYING IGUANA TAQUERIA & TEQUILA BAR
Favorites: La Nopalera, Campeche Bay
We’re just going to put this out there: If variety is the spice of life, then tequila is our favorite seasoning. Find the Best Margarita in the 904 at Flying Iguana Taqueria & Tequila Bar in the Town Center that traverses the Neptune Beach/Atlantic Beach line. Pro tip: Don’t try to walk that line after a few Ginger Beer or Millionaire Margaritas, featuring only the finest seasonings from Flying Iguana’s expansive selection. Lucky for us, the good lord who invented margaritas also invented tacos, taxis and ride-share apps!

Best Martini
OCEAN 60
Favorites: Casa Marina, Bonefish Grill
Daniel Groshel is one of the finest chefs on the First Coast, so it is no surprise that his elegant-but-unpretentious martini room serves up the best shaken-but-not-stirred beverage in the city. When we’re there we like to start the night with a Hang-ten martini or two, and then share the spinach salad, beef Carpaccio, and an order of whatever is on special. We finish up the night with a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake martini because drinking desert is a win-win-win situation.

Best Hookah Lounge
Best Middle Eastern Restaurant
CASBAH CAFÉ
Favorites: Java’s Brewin Hookah, Sahara Café & Bar
Favorites: Karam’s Mediterranean Grill, Hovan Gourmet Mediterranean
Since 1999 when folks are looking to nibble on something savory and sweet, and/or enjoy a calming hookah, The Casbah Café serves up some of the best Middle Eastern dishes around. Once again, the cafe gets our readers’ votes for best Middle Eastern restaurant. And it’s not surprising, with cozy indoor seating and a large patio (with heaters in the winter) this Avondale eatery has long been a staple of the crowd who likes to hang out, drink beer and play a little chess as well as those who are there for the mjaddara and sweet mint tea. The café also hosts belly-dancing, trivia, and on the weekends, live music.

Best Pub
LYNCH’S IRISH PUB
Favorites: The King’s Head British Pub, Culhane’s Irish Pub
When the late Desmond Lynch opened his pub in 1994, it was as authentic Auld Sod as you can get on American shores. Really. For all intents and purposes, it’s oceanfront—separated from the sea by an infamous parking lot. The kitchen offers traditional Irish fare, like a hearty breakfast served all day. Just the ticket when you watched “football” on Lynch’s big screens till the wee hours the night before. Bands play every night, at least 50 beers flow from the taps and beer flights take off regularly. FW readers agree: Lynch’s is craic!

Best Microbrewery
BOLD CITY BREWERY
Favorites: Intuition Ale Works, Aardwolf Brewing Company
Nestled right in the heart—and gullets—of Jacksonville, Bold City Brewery is a must if a pint of suds is what you’re looking for. The brewery is on Rosselle Street, with a new taproom Downtown on East Bay Street. Bold City makes its four mainstays available year-round (Killer Whale, Mad Manatee, Duke’s Cold Nose and 1901) and releases a new seasonal brew every couple of months. Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale is its bestseller—and for good reason. Don’t forget your growler. The fine folks at Bold City will be happy to fill ya up.

Best Neighborhood Bar in Jax
THE GARAGE
Favorites: Kickbacks Gastropub, Pete’s Bar
The Garage in Riverside is the kind of place where, if you are dutifully engaged in walking your dog one evening, and pass by and see some friends, you and your dog are both welcome to enjoy a little neighborhood hospitality. And if you decide to have a snack while you’re there, they won’t discipline you for slipping Ducky, your spoiled rescue shih tzu, a few treats, too!

Best Neighborhood Bar in St. Augustine
SCARLETT O’HARA’S
Favorites: No Name Bar, Ice Plant Bar
Scarlett O’Hara’s is a bona fide institution in St. Augustine. The drinks are tasty—try the Southern Gentleman, kinda like a boozy Arnold Palmer—and there always seems to be something going on. They’ve got trivia, karaoke, live music and a ghost—the bar upstairs is supposed to be haunted. So, stop by if you’re looking for a drink and a shot of ectoplasm.

Best Neighborhood Bar on Amelia Island
THE SALTY PELICAN
Favorites: Sliders Seaside Grill, The Green Turtle
Just off Centre Street, The Salty Pelican has a little something for everybody. The drinks are always flowing and the food is always tasty—try the tuna nachos. With live music staged at least a couple times a week, and TVs tuned to every ballgame on Sunday, The Pelican is hard to beat.

Best Inn/B&B in Jax
RIVERDALE INN
Favorites: The Seahorse Oceanfront Inn, Ponte Vedra Lodge & Club
Craving a mint julep? Feeling the need to surround yourself with the finer things in life? The Riverdale Inn is a superbly refurbished stately home where you can live a life of ease—if just for a long weekend or so. Luxury suites, a full service honor bar and beautiful views of Riverside Avenue complete the experience. Indulge yourself and that special someone (no doubt also a FW reader!) and make a rest stop at Riverdale.

Best Inn/B&B in St. Augustine
CASABLANCA INN ON THE BAY
Favorites: Fairbanks House, Florida House Inn
Located inside of one of the most beautiful buildings on Avenida Menendez, the inn is a meticulously restored 1914 Mediterranean revival with 22 luxuriously appointed guest rooms. The property also boasts coach house guest-rooms, and most fascinating: a secret garden. After a hard day of dodging horse-drawn carriages, red tourist trains, and Segway tours, enjoy drinks from the Tini Martini Bar on the grand porch that overlooks the Matanzas Bay while a tropical breeze sweeps the doldrums away and reminds you, and your sweetie, why it is so good to get away…even if away is just down the road. Then head out on your ghost tour! 

Best Inn/B&B on Amelia Island
ELIZABETH POINTE LODGE
Favorites: Fairbanks House, Florida House Inn
Once again, Elizabeth Pointe Lodge on picturesque Amelia Island has wowed our readers with Southern hospitality, stunning oceanfront views, perfectly appointed rooms, adorable cubbies, fabulous dining options and just all-around awesomeness. Just catching a glimpse of the grand, Nantucket-style buildings of Elizabeth Pointe Lodge along Fletcher Avenue will capture your imagination and have you dreaming of long, delicious hours on those wraparound porches.

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