- The experience of having a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail with one’s meal is a time-honored tradition that I totally support. It’s easy to say that support for this tradition runs high, considering the plethora of restaurant bar options that are available in our fair metropolis. It goes without saying that some restaurants have better bars than others, and that sometimes a particular place will be better for satisfying a specific craving than others. For the sake of brevity, these four restaurants provide a good mix of tasty food and delightful libations that make them some of my favorite places to eat and drink in Jacksonville.
- Riverside/Avondale: Orsay
Orsay is very well known around town for its delicious high-end French cuisine and swank decor. It is certainly the way to go if you want to impress someone special for dinner or a weekend brunch. However, Orsay is also a great place for a drink, be it a cocktail or a glass of wine. The beautiful bar invites you to linger over your libation of choice while you ponder the good life. The cocktail list at Orsay changes frequently and uses seasonal and unique ingredients when appropriate to create well-balanced and delightful drinks that are very enjoyable. The wine list at Orsay is very impressive indeed, perhaps one of the most impressive in the area. Whether you’re in the mood for a glass or a bottle, you will find something that will meet your needs. Most interestingly, they were the first local bar or restaurant to publicize their use of the Coravin, which is a device that allows for pours out of bottles of wine without disturbing the cork or the remaining wine in the bottle. Orsay made good use of their Coravin, making pricy glasses of ridiculously expensive bottles available to those of us on a somewhat limited budget. With exquisite food and sumptuous drink options available in a beautiful space, Orsay is great place to go out for a night on the town for a special occasion.San Marco: Food Trucks at Aardwolf Brewery
Food trucks and craft beer are easily two of the most popular elements of the food scene in Jacksonville. Festivals that feature food trucks and local craft beer bring out the locals in droves, especially when the weather is nice. But what is a Jacksonvillian to do if they are craving some tasty, tasty food truck goodies to have with their local craft beer when there are no festivals going on? For those in the know, the answer is simple: Go to Aardwolf Brewery! Aardwolf Brewery has a large indoor space with air conditioning and a lot of seating that lends itself to a leisurely visit. The outdoor space available has made it a mecca for fans of casual al fresco drinking and dining (usually with their dogs under foot). Naturally, the presence of expertly crafted local beer serves to elevate the experience. Fortunately for all of us, Aardwolf has opened their parking lot to the food trucks of the area in the evenings in what has become a nightly miniature food truck/craft beer festival. The food truck in the parking lot usually changes every day, so it’s possible to go to Aardwolf for dinner multiple times in week and not have the same food experience twice. If you find yourself hungry for something casual and tasty, and thirsty for unique and local beer, it’s hard to beat the Aardwolf/food truck experience.
Jacksonville Beach: Blind Rabbit
Whether you want the frenetic, youthful energy of a weekend night at the clubs or a slow, calm moment to commune with nature in the sand and surf that we are so fortunate to have ready access to, a visit to the Beaches is a fun treat. Blind Rabbit in Jacksonville Beach is a great place to go for a fun and classy iteration of the classic burger and fries that so many of us love so dearly. Their bar is justifiably widely known and loved. While beer and wine are available, whiskey is truly the spirit of choice at Blind Rabbit. The extensive whiskey list includes Scotch and Irish, but the true focus is bourbon. Recently, the proprietors selected a barrel of Knob Creek bourbon for their exclusive use in the bar when it is ready. Most of the rich and decadent cocktails involve whiskey in some way. They also offer occasional whiskey flight specials for true connoisseurs and curious amateurs. For the ultimate primal American experience, Blind Rabbit is the place to get your burger and whiskey fix in a cool place in a wonderful location.
In the middle of the hustle and bustle of the St. John’s Town Center, Moxie’s distinctive building rises as a beacon to hungry and thirsty shoppers in need of an oasis. The cuisine at Moxie is best described as modern Southern, with a focus on classic dishes of the South presented with fresh and seasonal ingredients, usually with some kind of twist. Happy hour at Moxie is truly delightful, with good deals to be had on beer, wine and classic drinks. The beer list is heavily local, which I appreciate. Their house cocktail menu consists of nice, complex drinks that incorporate the more esoteric ingredients available to the modern bartender. A great bonus for those who choose not to imbibe alcohol are the handmade sodas that contain various fruits, herbs, spices, and interesting ingredient preparations that are unique to Moxie. The bar experience at Moxie is sophisticated and modern in a comfortable way.
It’s easy to find restaurants that have good bars and serve good food. Depending on your mood, you can have a number of different experiences, from eating fried food while drinking cold beer in a rustic environment to having a high-end dining experience with luxurious cocktails and huge wine lists in a meticulously decorated interior, and everything in between. The variety that is available to us is truly part of what makes our lives richer, fuller, and happier here in Jacksonville.