While it’s true that we have many different types of cuisines in Jacksonville, you will only find one Canadian restaurant, The Stuffed Beaver. Located on the corner of Oak and Barrs St in Riverside, everything about this place screams “Canada!” The décor includes a giant Canadian map where people can mark where they are from, a wall of photos showing famous actors from Canada, and a stuffed beaver in the corner, naturally. If you look closely, you will also see a very familiar face adoring the photo wall, the owner Paryse Watson.
You might be surprised to learn that Paryse didn’t start out as a chef. She mostly spent her childhood abroad thanks to a military family, then spent 22 years as a professional international model. “Because I’m a tall, big blonde girl. I did very well in the German catalog market over there. I did very well in Spain, New York City, Australia. Name it, I’ve probably been there…except Japan. I’m a little too big for Japan. I knew my limitations.” By living in various countries with different cuisines, Paryse was able to strengthen her food knowledge and become a better chef. Being afforded US/Canadian dual citizenship by her French-Canadian mother, she moved to Canada in her 20’s and continued to live there for around 10 years. She opened a restaurant in Toronto named Blondies where she was able to put all of her skills to use.
Soon after, the military brought Paryse and her family down to Jacksonville. Once here, she started noticing that Jacksonville had a very large Canadian population…with nowhere to eat. She decided to open her food truck Full of Crepe in 2015 which focused primarily on crepes. In early 2018 she opened The Stuffed Beaver. Unlike the food truck, she now had space to create the menu of her dreams that included many different Canadian staples like the Croque Monsieur and Poutine. The restaurant is very casual, an order at the counter kind of place. “I don’t ever want people to have a misconception about coming into something glamorous” Paryse explains. “You are eating out of a carton, you’re eating with plasticware. In Canada it’s called a food shack, casse-croûte. It’s really casual dining. This is just solid, grandma’s stick to your rib food.”
One of the stars of the menu is the Poutine. While a lot of places offer poutine, many are not authentic. A true Canadian Poutine starts with fresh cut fries and a simple, flavorful brown gravy. “No meat bits in it, no smoky BBQ flavor, just brown gravy” Paryse explains. While Canadians are ok with different toppings, you better get the gravy right if you want their approval. In addition to the Original Poutine, The Stuffed Beaver offers quite a few variants like the Michigan which adds chili, and the Pot Pie that includes pulled chicken, peas, and carrots. My personal favorite is the Jager Poutine. It is a traditional poutine with popcorn chicken added. I have to be special and also add mushrooms, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
While not necessarily Canadian, don’t sleep on the burgers. The Stuffed Beaver is putting out some of the best burgers in Jacksonville. They have everything from a traditional hamburger or cheeseburger to The Lumberjack, which is a beast of a burger. Its their version of a patty melt with pepper jack cheese, grilled onions, and secret sauce between 2 grilled cheese sandwiches. Another unique burger on the menu is the Frisky Beaver. This burger has jalapeno mayo, grilled onions, crunchy onions, secret sauce, and a golden grilled Wisconsin cheese skirt. Have you ever had a cheese skirt made out of cheese curds melted together? No? You know what you need to do.
Staying true to her French-Canadian roots, The Stuffed Beaver also has an extensive selection of Crepes. Many people think of crepes as just being a sweet treat, but the French also stuff them with many different savory items. Luckily, The Stuffed Beaver offers both options. If you want to get a savory and wash it down with a sweet, no one is stopping you. The dessert options don’t stop there. You can also get one of the many Snow Shoes offered on the menu. These are long flat pastries (if a croissant and donut had a baby) topped with all kinds of sweet options. If you want to really feel like a Canadian, get the Maple Bacon and Icing Snow Shoe. Everything’s better with bacon, and the maple makes you feel like the real deal.
In case you needed any further persuasion, just know that The Stuffed Beaver has been approved by the local Canadian population. Paryse mentioned that the “Canadians in Jacksonville” Facebook Group meets at least 3 times a year at her restaurant. “It tells you that, as far as traditional poutine and food fare, I tap into their inner palate, their taste buds, reminding them of home”. Paryse also likes to offer weekly specials that stray from the Canadian theme. “I also like to dabble with little concepts here and there, just from travel.”
A few of her specials include a Lobster Roll that is offered on Fridays and Fish and Chips that typically shows up in the middle of the week. As you can tell, Paryse is definitely one of a kind. She has a great personality which you can see all around the restaurant and on the menu. Fun fact: While in her 40’s she got her Bachelor’s Degree and is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. Bet you can’t say that about any other restaurant owner in town. I implore you to stop in and give The Stuffed Beaver a try. You will be glad you did.
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