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Great Expectations

by Virginia Chamlee  //  photos by Agnes Lopez

MOXIE

The brainchild of chef Tom Gray (formerly of Bistro Aix), Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails quickly made its mark on the evolving landscape of the St. Johns Town Center. Wall-sized maps, concrete flooring, industrial lighting fixtures and contemporary cuisine all come together to create an atmosphere a lot sexier than most of the neighboring franchise restaurants.

At first glance, the menu is a little confusing—there are several sections devoted to appetizers, though each is labeled differently, and at least two sections on the menu contain entrées. “Snacks” features small bites (corn nuts, pork rinds and kettle corn among them), while “Appetizers” features slightly larger portions of, well, small bites—cheese curds, seared octopus and deviled eggs. There’s also a selection of “Cured + Aged” meats and cheeses and two different types of “toasts”—one topped with pimento cheese and pepper jelly, the other with smoked salmon, egg salad and radish. And then there are the “Shucked / Shelled” items, including East and West Coast oysters and chilled shrimp. And we haven’t even gotten to the salads, soups, meat and entrée options yet. In short, the menu can be overwhelming.

Amidst all of the choices, Moxie shines with its sophisticated takes on down-home comfort foods. The fried cheese curds (featured under “Appetizers”) are a glorified, and mighty tasty, version of the fried cheese sticks you loved as a kid. These come battered in PBR and served alongside a spicy ranch dip. The crispy chicken livers are bathed in blue cheese and hot sauce and are an addictive and sophisticated take on Buffalo wings.

The entrées run the gamut from earthy, vegan dishes to stick-to-your-ribs meat and potatoes. The short ribs (with Dr. Pepper glaze, shaved vegetables and buttermilk mashed potatoes) have proved very popular with diners, as have the chicken and waffles, which marry sweet and savory and come drizzled with pepper jelly. The restaurant also offers a number of seafood selections such as scallops, rainbow trout, Scottish salmon and a Maine lobster roll with nori fries and green tomato ketchup. There’s also a vegan option—tofu with red rice, preserved black beans, ginger and rapini.

Even the kids’ menu is ambitious, with seared scallops and cheese grits and short rib nuggets with whipped potatoes.

Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails

4972 Big Island Dr., St. Johns Town Center • 998-9744 • moxiefl.com 

 

Hours: 11 AM-10 PM, Monday-Friday; 10 AM-10 PM Saturday; 10 AM-9 PM, Sunday

What’s In a Name?: “Moxie” is another word for energy, courage and determination—fitting for a new restaurant—but it’s also the name of the state soda of Maine, where chef and owner Tom Gray spent many summers as a child.

Cocktail Time: If you’re crazy for craft cocktails, Moxie knows how to blend ‘em. The Corn ‘n Oil, a mix of Cana Brava rum, Cruzan Blackstrap rum, falernum, Angostura bitters and lime, is a must-try.

Parking: Empty parking spaces are a hot commodity at Town Center. Your best bet just might be valet. It’s complimentary for diners.

Breakfast of Champions: Brunch is served on weekends, 11 AM-4:30 PM. The enormous pecan sticky bun can easily be shared with one or two others. Only if you want to, of course.

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