In My Neighborhood: Clay County

NICK BLANK Clay Today staff writer

“As a journalist, you have to small-talk with various sources about something, and food is usually it. Clay County used to be known for farming rather than cuisine. The farming community dwindled as fast as the strip malls and chain restaurants sprouted up. Now the area has a solid food scene—small but diverse. We’ll start in Orange Park, with a Blanding Boulevard trio. The best spot in the area for NOLA-style Po’boy and gumbo is Mackey’s Munchies. Anything with “Mack’s sauce” is delectable. Three miles to the north, Tunis Seafood Wings and Subs, a small shack wedged between a SunTrust and a Jimmy John’s, has the most eclectic mix of takeout staples. Another mile up the road and you’ll find Brewer’s Pizza, one of the few places where you can purchase a craft beer from Pinglehead Brewing Company (a Clay standout, brewed onsite). Brewer’s out-there favorites include a Baked Potato pizza (no tomato sauce, but plenty of sour cream and chives) and the unusual but awesome Swamp Chicken pizza (complete with gator tail). Boondock’s Bar & Grill in Lake Asbury and Whitey’s Fish Camp in Fleming Island are favorites among residents and tourists alike. Indeed, they’re usually the first recommendations to fly when locals are asked. Dubbed “the king of comfort food” by a Clay Today colleague, Grumpy’s Restaurant on Kingsley Avenue is the best place for an omelet. In Green Cove Springs, La Casita offers excellent Mexican fare and tasty drink specials. I’m fond of a kabob and falafel, but before going to Mush Armenian Kitchen, I’d never tried Armenian cuisine. Seriously, is there anything better than smoked fish dip, couscous salad, roasted potatoes and lamb gyro? Heavenly.”