#EATUPJAX is a monthly column featuring restaurant openings, closings, new locations and other food news in the local Jacksonville food scene brought to you by GastroJax, Inc.
Native Sun, Bread & Board, Pizza Cave and Pizza Vending Machine
We were all sad to hear that our home-grown, green-conscious grocer Native Sun, shuttered their locations in August 2019. There’s some good news on that front, but first, a little on our grocery store situation and their history. Opening in the 19997, Native Sun filled a need–namely the desire for an organic, sustainable, large-scale grocer, and this being sprawling Jacksonville, they had plenty of room to do it. They’d expanded from one location in Mandarin to three in their two decades of serving the community, but in the past five years or so many other not-so-local chains have opened up here, flooding the market. This flood brought national specialty grocers in Native Sun’s niche: Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Trader Joe’s, The Fresh Market, Lucky’s and Sprouts. But with these and other stores moving in all over Florida, a market die-off was inevitable, even among the big chains with the deeper pockets. Southern Grocers closed some Winn-Dixies and Harvey’s mid-2018 here in Jax, a sort of harbinger of things to come. This past December all the Lucky’s in Florida, save one, closed, and we’ve seen even the wildly popular Publix shut a store in Gateway Plaza. Earth Fare, which first opened a location here in 2014, is closing all of its stores, including three here on the First Coast. The difference between these chains and Native Sun is that Native Sun has community roots. Though the leaf has died, those roots mean new growth is possible. To the delight of many, Native Sun re-opened their Beaches store on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. All I can say is: go local. Their deli alone makes it worthwhile.
Speaking of local–Sun-Ray Cinema in 5 Points is just so dang local. Their food was good enough that people came in to order even when they weren’t seeing a movie. So, they’ve opened a restaurant next door. The Pizza Cave. Over-designed but in the most fun R.Landish way possible. If you love pizza and you haven’t had Sun-Ray’s, it’s time y’all.
Bleu Chocolat in Springfield has closed. The area has seen lots of eateries opening there in the past couple of years, but Bleu Chocolat was a bit off of the main drag. The owner, Erica Cline, is a bit of a celebrity chef: she’s cooked at the James Beard House in New York City, was a judge on the Food Network’s Rock ’n’ Roll Pastry Challenge, and contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts. She got a good reception here: landing on Jacksonville Magazine’s “Top 50 Restaurants” and among Visit Jacksonville’s list of “Best 48 Bites.” She plans to reopen a more sweet-oriented place rather than the brunch-type spot it was before.
At the former Pita Pit location at 8380 Baymeadows Road, Jax Fish Fry has opened. It’s one of those fast-cas places where you order at the counter. Their spin on things: Northern Fish Fry, specifically that of Troy, New York. Sounds delish, and they have local ownership.
Bread & Board is opening up a new place at the Markets near the Town Center. Great to have another local option out there!
UNF just installed a Pizza ATM. That’s right. A pizza vending machine. Though college students have notoriously low standards when it comes to food, I don’t know if this is going to be decent pizza or food for the desperate. But it is rare here in the U.S. and vending machines like this serve up quality food in places such as Japan. It hasn’t yet caught on here, but I am super curious about how good it will be.
Maple Street Biscuit Company might be opening their doors on Sundays. Cracker Barrel, who bought them out in October, hasn’t changed much, with a refreshing “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mantailty, but they are considering opening up on Sundays and are said to be testing it out soon in select stores. It’s a change I can get behind.
So Beach Road Fish & Chicken dinners shook up their concept under new ownership, and those co-owners (who also own OP Fish House & Oyster Bar and Seafood Kitchen) are looking to open up more “sister” restaurants in the Fish House concept, both in Tallahassee and on Jacksonville’s Northside. It’s kind of like a chain with a local sensibility, so they’ve enlisted local owners for the Tally Fish House & Oyster Bar in Tallahassee, with a menu reflecting local Panhandle flavors such as oysters. It’s not a franchise though, it’s more of a business partner arrangement.
Southern Grounds has bought Biscuits and Buttercream from Anita Adams, with a plan to use her pastry and cake-making skills in their San Marco location. This should make you excited. Because Anita Adams is the bombdiggity when it comes to cakes and things in this town. She ran Let Them Eat Cake back in the day, selling it in 2012. She’s freelanced since for people like Liz Grenamyer (a caterer with famously high standards) and restaurants such as Biscotti’s, Cafe Carmon and Sterling’s, among others. Before the buy, she ran Biscuits and Buttercream, taking orders from those in the know, but the move to Southern Grounds and San Marco will be giving her more of a presence for the public at large. (And, having had her cakes, I feel it’s my sworn duty to help spread the word). She’ll be selling whole cakes and other smaller sweet things like she did with Biscuits and Buttercream.