We’ve written about Kenny Gilbert closing his Southside Jacksonville restaurant, and assured you that your gift cards could be spent at his Fernandina Beach restaurant, Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen. That WAS true, for a few months, but it isn’t true any more. Seems that Kenny Gilbert is pulling up stakes entirely and moving on from the First Coast to North Carolina. He opened the Fernandina restaurant in 2015.
Over the holidays in St. Nicholas, a drunk driver plowed into the neighborhood watering hole Mudville Grille. Nobody was hurt and business resumed the next day!
In early December, the King Street District of Jacksonville let it be known that they had bought the old Tidewater Boat Works site to develop. They’re looking to make it a sort of entertainment district, with a Key West-style waterfront eatery next to The Phoenix Bar & Bowling. The build should take a while, so in the meantime scope out The Phoenix Bar & Bowling on Blanding, which is a neat place to visit for drinks in the often-overlooked Lakeshore neighborhood. (Also in Lakeshore, I recommend Puerto Plata. Order the Arroz Con Pollo).
Marker 32 and the surrounding site is scheduled for something much more than a face-lift. Developers will be shelling out about $30 million to build mixed-use spaces in and around the site–upscale homes, a marina, retail, plus the revamped Marker 32 to provide a fine dining component. Marker 32 has been part of the First Coast restaurant scene since the early 90s.
Riverside’s MShack will be replaced by Another Broken Egg Cafe. While the Medure brother’s burger joint venture into Riverside was said to be financially successful by the brothers, they have other opportunities that were simply too good to miss. The announcement to close came just a few weeks after they closed temporarily for a reboot of menu and service. Another Broken Egg Cafe is slated to open May 2020, their third in the Jacksonville area.
Besides their move just up the street, The Bearded Pig will also be adding a second locale at Jax Beach, in the former space of the Atlantic Coast Bank, across from Huguenot Park on A1A. Expect much of the same Texas BBQ, with a full-liquor bar, and, like their Southbank location, it will feature a fake turf play area for kids and adults.
Gubbio’s Italian Restaurant closed early November after 33 years. Pink Salt Restaurant and Wine Bar, which serves modern fare with a Caribbean influence replaces them at 5111 Baymeadows Road.
A third Grumpy’s will be opening at 1805 Blanding Boulevard, Middleburg, FL, in May 2020.
December 5 brought the opening doors of the long-awaited Burlock and Barrel American Whiskey Distillery at 417 Magnolia Street in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
Italian Restaurant Trend
Thinking about the trends of 2019 and what’s to come in 2020, here’s one conclusion I’ve come to: we’re having an Italian moment on the First Coast. Well, a series of moments. Italian-American cuisine seems to be old news–there are neighborhood places, but high or mid-level is difficult to sustain. It’s the food that everybody eats, so much so, that it’s hard to get excited about it. On the mid to high-end we’ve had 13 Gypsies quietly turning out some of the best quality Roman fare on their eclectic menu for years, but the small number of tables has meant that it’s sometimes difficult to get a reservation. And there are always small family joints with a devoted following of decades.
But there’s this buzz rising. It’s about how Italian food can be comfortable, but still unexpected. It’s always been there it the background, but in 2020 here in Jax, it may be time for an Italian crescendo.
Maybe it started with the brick-and-mortar Catullo’s Italian Restaurant, which opened early in 2019, born out of their food truck. The wait is long. The line to get in is long. Because it’s good, and people are willing to wait for good food. Maybe the response from the public made some restaurateurs take notice–maybe they were thinking about an Italian project already, and this hip-but-comfortable place being in the news pushed them over the edge. Maybe it was something in the air.
There are always pizza places opening up, (Catullo’s, by the way, is in the building stages of opening one up on the Eastside in addition to their restaurant location) but not much as far as mid-to-high range places serving serious Italian. But suddenly, after years of not all that much–at the end of 2019, it seems a couple of the big-dogs of Jacksonville’s culinary world are going Italian. There’s the Medure Brothers’ Midtown Table opening in January 2020 at 5016 Gateway Parkway, serving up Neapolitan-style pizza and handmade pasta. And Tom Gray’s Moxie in the Town Center–it’s being rebranded into Prati Italia.
The Italian food truck, Vucca Street Food, specializing in the Philadelphia style of Italian sandwich-making, besides pastas, was a notable enough newbie to be part of GastroJax’s Moon Over the Market in November 2019. As the event coordinator, I heard a lot of astonishment from folks about a food truck in the Italian genre, despite the fact that Catullo’s got its start that way. I don’t know if we will be seeing more of the same in terms of wonderful quality, but I do think it’s a trend worth noting (and worth eating!)