by Erin Thursby
The summer sun is shining down. It?s time to go to the beach. If you don?t live in the area, you might not know about some of the new (and old) places to eat. Here are a few of our summer dining picks for the Beaches area.
TacoLu?s (1183 Beach Blvd. Jacksonville Beach, 249-8226) is easy to miss as you pass it on Beach Boulevard. The parking lot fills to overflowing on the weekends. While it is casual and on the cheap side, it?s also a stop for folks to nibble on scallop tacos before they go bar hopping in Jax Beach. It?s ridiculously crowded and you WILL be towed if you park in the wrong place.
Burrito Gallery Express (1333 3rd St. N, Jacksonville Beach, 242-8226) might be your alternative to TacoLu?s madness. It can get crowded, but it doesn?t reach those levels. The place might not be as interesting to look at as the Downtown Jacksonville locale, but it does serve up the same burrito goodness. Plus, it?s closer to the surf than TacoLu?s.
For subs, the go-to place is, as always, Angie?s Subs (1436 Beach Blvd. Jacksonville Beach, 246-2519). It is a hole in the wall, and sometimes it takes an age to get your grub, but locals agree that their Peruvian Sub makes it all worthwhile.
Mojo?s Blues Kitchen (1500 Beach Blvd. Jacksonville Beach, 247-6636) often has evening entertainment and always has fab barbecue. I love the sweet jalapeno corn bread and the smoked corn. During the day, it?s an awesome place to get a full lunch, as their platters are substantial.
Featuring local flavor from a local brand, Salt Life Food Shack (1018 3rd St. N, Jacksonville Beach, 372-4456) has a beachy atmosphere and a good bar. All of these elements work to make this perfect for Jacksonville Beach. The poke bowl is the item I?ve come back for, but there?s a wide variety of beach-inspired cuisine. While Salt Life exudes a casual-hip beach vibe, you?ll see plenty of starch-shirted execs mixed in with the more casual diners. Prices are mid-range, about what you?d pay in a Ruby Tuesday.
Sundog (207 Atlantic Blvd, Atlantic Beach, 241-8221) has been a favorite of mine for a later-night bite. The burgers are tasty but I come back for the spicy buffalo-style popcorn shrimp. This bar/diner has outdoor seating in the Beaches Town Center, so that you can people-watch if you like, and it?s about a block from the surf. It doesn?t have a beach view, but I go to look out onto the street and watch the night life. They?re also dog friendly if you sit on their patio.
Really delish pizza is a staple of the Beaches area and everyone has their flavor. Newer to the Beaches on the pizza front is the Mellow Mushroom (1018-2 N. 3rd St, Jacksonville Beach, 241-5600), which, while a chain, is well-loved. They have a full bar, gluten-free options and some tasty pie. Both Al?s (303 Atlantic Blvd, Atlantic Beach, 249-0002) and Joseph?s (30 Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach, 270-1122) in Atlantic Beach have outdoor seating, and people do dine with their dogs. Joseph?s also has gelato to finish off your meal.
Of course if you want to eat with an ocean view, there are several super-swanky establishments where you can dine on fine food and gaze upon an azure horizon. 619 Ocean View Restaurant (619 Ponte Vedra Blvd, Ponte Vedra Beach, 285-6198) is pricey but worthwhile, both for the panoramic view and the food. It?s not on most folk?s radar, so you can impress your date with your killer area knowledge when you take her there. Inside the One Ocean hotel, Azuera (One Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach, 249-7402) sits right on the beach. The menu changes from week to week, but the high quality of the dining never does. Most people opt for the posh-but-hip dining area inside, however, there is outdoor seating available. Post dinner, you can easily take a beach stroll, as there is boardwalk access. The Casa Marina Inn (691 1st St, Jacksonville Beach, 270-0025) has an elevated lounge over-looking Jacksonville Beach. It?s a great aerial view. Order appetizers whilst you imbibe an excellently crafted cocktail. The deck outdoors can get crowded around sunset, because that?s when and where the view is spectacular.
On the not-so-swanky side, there?s always Joe?s Crab Shack (6 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville Beach, 249-6160). Joe?s might be a chain and I?m not going to claim their food is stellar, but they have one of best views of Jacksonville Beach. Unlike some of the other view-worthy eateries (Casa Marina, 619 Ocean View and One Ocean) you can actually feel comfortable eating here in a cover-up, after an afternoon in the ocean. It is the sort of place you?d take your family as there is a convenient sandy play pit you can place your kids to play while you enjoy a meal.
An alternative to the tourist trap that is Joe?s for good, casual family-style eats is Lulu?s Waterfront Grille (301 Roscoe Boulevard N, Ponte Vedra Beach, 285-0139). The view here isn?t of the beach, it?s of the Intracoastal Waterway. Kid?s entrees are generally under $5. For adults, fried baskets of seafood are popular here and they?re just over $10. There are also other, more upmarket options if you?re not into fried things.
Ponte Vedra has a different feel than the rest of the Beaches. It takes a little more to search out places to eat. In the bar category you can try Salty Cantina (43 PGA Tour Blvd, Ponte Vedra Beach, 280-0931) if you like Southwestern food, and Pusser?s (816 A1A North, Ponte Vedra Beach, 280-7766) if you?re into island-inspired Caribbean. Pussers features an outdoor deck, and while it doesn?t sit on the beach, it does have a water feature. You can get a little more upscale with Urban Flats (330 A1A, Ponte Vedra Beach, 280-5515) where the focus is on wine and flat-breads. Restaurant Medure (816 A1A North, Ponte Vedra Beach, 280-7766) is a fancy choice (it?s one of Matthew Medure?s restaurants), but is surprisingly affordable. Since the recession hit, they?ve revamped their menu to feature a variety of price points. There?s also a separate bar/lounge area, so you can pop in for drinks and an app. Palm Valley Fish Camp (299 N Roscoe Blvd, Ponte Vedra Beach, 285-3200), owned by Ben Groshell of Marker 32, isn?t the typical fish camp (it?s not stuffed with animal heads or mounted fish). Instead, it makes the fish camp concept less down-home and more affluent, while still offering some choices at the standard fish camp prices.
What ever your dining preference is, the Beaches have your summertime cravings covered. Those that live over the ditch are often very passionate about their favorite haunt. Whether you go mainly to drink, to surf or to shop, there are plenty of fantastic food choices for your refueling pleasure.
Dogs and Dining
People love their pooches at the Beaches. Most of the places that have outdoor seating are dog-friendly. Small and medium sized dogs will have an easier time, because some restaurants have policies against certain breeds or dogs over a 100 pounds. Make sure you bring a water container and always keep your dog leashed (or in a carrier) when dining. Expect that people will stop to say hello to your dog, especially if it?s cute and small.
A few dog-friendly eateries:
Al?s Pizza (Atlantic Beach)
Joseph?s Pizza (Atlantic Beach)
Sundog (Neptune Beach)
Caribee Key (Neptune Beach)
Azurea (Atlantic Beach inside One Ocean)
Tips for a Bites on the Beach
If you?re eating right on the beach, nibbling between a dive in the ocean rather than in a restaurant, you might want to consider these tips:
–Put salt in your cooler. Sodium lowers the temperature of ice, so if you?re looking to cool your soda down quick, add a bunch of salt.
–Eat a food that?s easy to handle. Casseroles aren?t a great idea if you?re ordering or packing a beach lunch.
–Sand is a factor. Try to gain some cover from the wind or put your body between the food and the sandy breeze. Lids and caps are your friends.
— Birds will pass the word. Don?t feed anything unless you?re done eating. Otherwise you?ll be swarmed by hungry gulls who will steal from you.
–Stow your trash. Bring an extra bag for refuse. Secure napkins and other light objects so you won?t have to go chasing after them.
–Avoid over seasoning. Salt air tends to ramp up your taste buds and you might notice that things taste saltier. Pack salt so that you can season at will.
Beaches Restaurant Unofficial Dress Code
Post-sun and surf you might be hungry, but it may seem too much trouble to change before you dine. If you?re wearing a bathing suit, a short cover-up, at least on the bottom (for women) and a t-shirt (for men) are the minimum you should be wearing. Men, if you?re wearing a speedo, bottom cover-up is advisable. Everyone should always wear shoes.
The higher the sun is in the sky and the closer you are to the beach, the less you have to wear, particularly if there?s outdoor seating and the place is casual. If a place isn?t within walking distance from the actual beach, the bathing suit thing will be less and less respectable the further you go from the sand.