by Erin Thursby
Some of the best places to eat are tucked away in hotels. Unless you stayed there or attended an event, you might never know about what they have to offer. Here are a few of the more notable hotel eateries in the First Coast Area.
Azurea at One Ocean Resort Hotel & Spa
(1 Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach, 249-7402)
Looking to impress your date and eat exquisitely? Then head to Azurea at One Ocean. The menu changes often, the wine list is impressive, the décor is plushy trendy and the food is gorgeous– on the tongue and on the plate. B, L, D. Full bar.
Casa Marina Inn & Restaurant (691 1st St, Jacksonville Beach, 270-0025) The Casa Marina’s creative Chefs design and serve “New Beach Cuisine” daily, highlighting the best of local seafood, produce and specialty ingredients with an international flair for flavor and style. Linger over lunch, delight over dinner or experience a tasting of their signatures tapas. L, D. Full bar.
Juliette’s at the Omni
(245 Water St. 355-6664 ) The menu at Juliette’s is best described as Southern bistro food with a French/urban twist. It’s an elegant eatery favored by Downtown theatre-goers on their way to a show at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. If you haven’t been to Juliette’s in a few years, it’s time to go back. Executive Chef Greg Wright, who creates their fresh and seasonal menu, joined the team last year. He has an excellent Jacksonville resume. He’s worked under Liz Grenamyer of Liz’s Catering and was a chef at the old Sterlings back in the 90s. B, L, D. Full bar.
Pho Cali Vietnamese Restaurant
(5624 Cagle Rd. 730-7333 ) Tucked inside the Ramada is the hole-in-the-wall Pho Cali. Don’t let that discourage you as the family owned restaurant serves up some of the best Vietnamese cuisine in Jacksonville. Enormous steaming bowls of spicy or mild pho, a type of rice noodle soup with thin sliced beef, spices and sprouts, are the specialty. It’s cheap, filling and tasty. L, D.
(1521 Riverside Ave. 354-5080) The restaurant is named for “the row,” which is what the row of luxurious mansions lining Riverside Avenue was called in the early part of the last century. It captures the 1900 flavor of Riverside beautifully, with white table cloth settings and fresh flowers. Perhaps the pinnacle of the Row’s entrées is their signature Chicken Marsala. It’s not the standard thin, rough-pounded chicken, but is instead served as a roasted de-boned chicken stuffed with a stunningly flavorful spinach, goat cheese and pecans, topped with an excellent Marsala sauce, mushrooms and capers. Reservations are recommended, but you can always take a seat at the stylish Gum Bunch Pub. D. Closed to the public Sundays and Mondays. Full bar.
(1201 Riverplace Blvd. 396-6200) Dine on corn-fed Midwestern beef or fine seafood with a view of the St. Johns at the Crown Plaza. They pride themselves on fun with class, but it’s the class that people go back for. They season the steak with very little, letting the true flavor of the aged beef show through. If you’re not up for steak, go for the lobster, it’s nothing less than delicious. D. Full bar.
(4750 Amelia Island Pkwy, Amelia Island, 277-1100) One of the premiere dining experiences here on the First Coast is Amelia Island’s Salt inside the Ritz-Carlton. And yes, they do serve a ridiculous variety of salts. (Ask for their menu of natural and infused salts. You’ll get an education.) A beautiful ocean view and stunningly tasty meals combine for extraordinary dining. D. Full bar.
Salty Rock Cantina
(43 PGA Tour Blvd, Ponte Vedra Beach, 280-0931) Salty Rock is a casual dining experience, but they serve exceptional fare and it’s comfortable whether you’re there for the bar or the restaurant experience. It’s Southwestern food in the expert hands of Chef David Williams. Don’t miss the Southwestern shrimp and grits! Salty Rock Cantina is located in Ponte Vedra, just past Sawgrass in the Hilton on the right side of PGA Tour Boulevard. L, D. Full Bar.
Shula’s 347 Grill at the Sheraton
(10605 Deerwood Park Blvd. 642-0063) Well-spaced black-and-white pictures of sports moments in the same style of frame give it a unified decor. It’s essentially a steakhouse with an unassuming sports theme. Steak aficionados will want to go straight for the really good stuff: the Shula Cut. Every steak is a center cut, well aged and expertly handled on the grill. If you love steak, you should make it your business to order the filet mignon. B, L, D. Full Bar.
Restaurants in Hotels
by Erin Thursby