by Erin Thursby
In culinary circles, Jacksonville gets underrated. And yet, our dining scene is comparable to other large cities which frequently end up featured on the cover of culinary magazines. We also have a community of culinary artisans who seek to continue to evolve Jacksonville.
One such culinary artisan is Scott Ostrander, the Executive Chef for ‘town, the newest dining hotspot in Avondale. Starting in ’05, Ostrander took Bistro Savannah from a tourist establishment to a more respected eatery that locals liked. He worked with local area farmers so that they would sell to his restaurant and built relationships. He’s working to do the same here, breaking in local, small growers so that they understand how to plan for selling to restaurant.
“Once they get a feel for how much they can sell to restaurants, they’re not afraid to plant for them,” says Chef Scott. He tries to follow a farm-to-table philosophy whenever he can, looking to the best local sources.
They also make whatever they can in-house. Fresh ricotta cheese, ice cream, bacon, ham and sausage are all made on-premises.
‘Town’s full name is ‘town 3611. It shares a foyer with Emily Benham on St. Johns Street in Avondale. The place already has a hip vibe and draws quite a crowd.
Most of what ‘town does isn’t incredibly complex. It takes skill (like the roasted duck breast) but it’s a matter of putting great ingredients, as fresh as possible, together on a plate. And ‘town does that, with the skill that’s needed.
They are somewhat different than the standard restaurant. First, they encourage sharing. ‘Town is all about small plates passed around the table, wherein everybody gets a nibble and shares in the experience.
“The concept of sharing and plates is something that fits the space of the restaurant,” explains ‘town owner Meghan Purcell. “When I saw it for the first time, the first word that jumped to mind was ‘community.’ The communal tables and open kitchen lend itself to a more relaxed style of dining. The goal was to have a casual, yet high-quality experience for the neighborhood.”
‘Town also differs from a stock restaurant because you aren’t going to find the same items on the menu every time you go. Everything rotates and they’re always putting something new on the menu.
“I want to keep things fresh,” says Chef Scott of the practice. “The last thing I want is everybody ordering the same thing.” This way, it keeps him from stagnating as a Chef and attracts those who want to break out of their dining ruts. It’s apparent that he’s doing something he loves.
Items run from $5-15. There are more traditionally-sized menu items in a section called Off the Menu and you can get a fixed priced menu for $33 that allows you to choose three of the smaller plates. Food comes out fairly quickly, so if you’re still hungry you can always order more.
My friends and I sampled the scallops, piled with shaved fennel, silvers of jalapeno with an orange and cardamom vinaigrette. Every note of flavor was distinct and the scallops were perfectly seared. The roasted duck was presented with several different islands of flavor and texture; Georgia peaches, kale, smoked bacon and a red wine syrup. Each of us who tried it found that we liked different combinations of these flavors and we heartily enjoyed sharing our discoveries.
Dessert, the bitter chocolate terrine served with a sorbet, was one of richest, most heavenly chocolate experiences I’ve ever had. And that’s saying something, because I look for chocolate like a bee looks for flowers.
If you’re a foodie and you haven’t yet visited ‘town, it’s time to go. ‘Town currently serves dinner Monday through Saturday, 5 pm to 10:30 pm and is open for drinks until midnight. Sunday brunch is 10:30 am to 3:30 pm. They will be opening for lunch in September Monday through Friday, 11 am to 2 pm. They accept reservations.
'Town, new restaurant in Avondale
by Erin Thursby