Won’t You Be My NEIGHBOR

I never like to lose a neighborhood spot, but it’s OK when it gets replaced by something as good as the Five Points Tavern. Instagram has been sporting glossy reviews and photos from diners and the restaurant itself, but nothing prepared us for the great experience that awaited at this Margaret Street treasure.

The Five Points Tavern is a vision in black and white. Everything has a new coat of paint and the interior sparkles, but doesn’t outshine the menu, which strikes a nice balance between comfort food and more sophisticated items. In fact, we had a hard time deciding because everything just sounded so darn good. It’s broken up into several categories, like small plates (shareable appetizer size), sandwiches, salads, pasta and grains, and large plates (regular entrées).

To start, we tried out two small plates, the crab cake ($12) and calamari ($11). The sautéed calamari, in a bowl brimming with a juicy tomato sauce with garlic, shallots, chunks of tomatoes and olives, was accompanied by a small dish of dippable bread. If you carb lovers need more, just ask for an extra order ($1).

Crab cakes can be hit or miss, but unlike some sorry breadcrumb-filled hockey pucks that others occasionally try to pass off as a crab cake, Five Points Tavern’s is not too bready and it’s clear there’s a full portion of jumbo lump crab. You can also get a crab cake sandwich ($16) or order it as a large plate ($23).

From the large plate selections, we ordered duck confit ($21) with sweet potato, which tasted like an early Thanksgiving dinner. The duck was salty, tender and falling off the bone. It was plated with a beautiful, deep-purple port wine huckleberry reduction that had so many notes it was like a symphony. My favorite note was the braised fennel, which mellowed out the usual sharp, clean taste of licorice, providing an almost caramelized sweetness to the duck confit.

From the pasta and grains section, we were compelled to order the tagliatelle with lamb ragu ($21). Not many places in Northeast Florida serve the wider tagliatelle noodle, so I was quite excited to get my fork into this rare dish.

Experiencing these noodles (even though they weren’t made in-house) made me feel like I was tucking into the ultimate comfort food, and the sauce in the dish even more so. The rich, slightly creamy, red sauce was robust with lamb, parmigiana, rosemary and truffle flavors. Each bite made me want to curl up in a sweater with a glass of wine, next to a crackling fire, and wait out our long, arduous winters. Oh, not so arduous? Still works.

We were talked into having dessert, which wasn’t really a tough sell because who wouldn’t want to end a meal as divine as this one with a salted chocolate mousse ($7)!? The mousse is served in a brandyesque glass, finished with a butterscotch drizzle. The salt balanced out the chocolate perfectly – it was a fitting end to a delectable dinner.

One last tip: Five Points Tavern was fairly crowded the night we went there, so I’d recommend making reservations!