Not all of Kitchen’s suppliers are outside the radius. Locally, they have Veggie Confetti out of St. Augustine supplying them with microgreens, and this summer they’ll be using some produce from Bacon’s Select Produce (you can find them at the Riverside Arts Market selling some outstanding Bibb Lettuce). As they get to know more providers in the area, they’ll be adding more local offerings. Because of the farm-fresh philosophy, the menu will be changing with the seasons.
Let’s talk pig—because that’s where the Kitchen really shines when it comes to choosing and getting an awesome farm provider you might not have tasted here in Jacksonville. If you come for dinner, get the house bacon trio or just ask your server about which dishes include some form of ham or pork. Some are obvious, such as the pork shoulder for dinner and the pork sandwich for lunch, but I really enjoyed the shaved ham from Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Ham atop the shrimp and grits. I dare you to put the bold flavor of this thinly sliced country ham against proscuitto. It more than stands up.
I haven’t dipped into the charcuterie on their Snacks and Plates portion of the menu but I’ve had the majority of other offerings in those sections. Oysters Rockefeller always brighten my day, and the Kitchen’s preparation earned high marks from me. If you order the pimento cheese, we highly recommend spending an extra buck for more crostini so you’ll be able to eat every last smokey bit of it. The calamari feature a heavy cornmeal breading, and while it isn’t my own preference, it might be just the thing a calamari connoisseur is craving. The portion is generous, they aren’t over-fried, and the rings are fairly large rather than petite. The crispy grit cake atop a ragout, delightfully flavorful and spicy, was the clear favorite that I tried on their Plates menu. It brings the heat of chorizo and brightness of heirloom veggies into a symphony of varied flavors and textures.
Beet lovers should be sure to order their beet salad. Beet haters should be encouraged to try a bite, because this is how beets should be treated and is, quite possibly, the best beet I’ve ever had, barring beet fries, which are in a category of their own. Heirloom vegetables work well in a number of their dishes, including the market fish. I tried the golden tilefish which, like all their seafood, comes from Florida waters. With a crispy, tasty skin and lovely light flavor, it was perfectly paired atop the veggies, which included heirloom tomatoes of various colors.
There are a few things on the menu that should get foodies excited: the bone marrow and their fried chicken—the bone marrow because it doesn’t turn up on menus very often, and the fried chicken because of their particular preparation. The secret is a marination in duck fat, resulting in a perfectly fried, tender chicken, with just a little bit of sweet sorghum syrup over the crispy skin and farm-fresh sides.
Representative of the age of the elevated burger, their dry-aged beef burger is not something you’ll see on a typical menu here in Jacksonville. As such, if you order it, expect a different flavor than you get from most burgers. That loss of moisture means a burger that’s less juicy, but with with more intense beefy flavor than the standard and a bit of a nutty edge. Dry-aged beef burgers are something that I believe you should order more well-done because the drying process shrinks the beef and makes the ratio of fat to meat higher. Because of that, there’s more fat to render and less moisture.
While I haven’t experienced their Sunday brunch, I’m looking forward to trying some things on the menu you won’t find other days, like the radish toast.
The one wobble thus far at the Kitchen for some of the dishes is consistency, especially where the fries and the burgers are concerned. Still, even when it’s a bit off, they tend to aim higher than most places, and they have things well in hand despite being such a new restaurant. By June I think that they will be able to stand with the best.
With that in mind, I have to say that I’m very impressed with the service. Server training and friendliness is sometimes the last thing to get polished up at a new place, but everything I’ve heard about the service has been good, and every server I’ve had has been friendly and knowledgable.
The atmosphere is sleek gastropub on the bar side and high-style commissary-like on the other side. It can get noisy, especially on the pub-side, but that’s to be expected when the joint is jumpin’. The chalkboard on the pub side is full of information, including a list of their current farm providers. Like any self-respecting gastropub, they have an impressive list of microbrews and wines. They also have a full bar with specialty cocktails. The beer list includes local favorites such as Veteran’s, Aardwolf, Engine 15, and Intuition, but they also carry beers you might not have seen elsewhere.
Overall, the Kitchen on San Marco is a great addition to a culinary scene that’s growing more and more innovative by the day.