It goes without saying that picking “best” or “top” restaurants is a subjective exercise. Because no two diners have exactly the same preferences and tastes, compiling a one-size-fits-all list of favorite eateries is not a scientific endeavor. What it is, however, is extremely labor intensive, sometimes contentious, often rewarding and always challenging.
No matter a diner’s preference for flavors and spices, we believe our readers can agree on a few features and amenities that separate the good restaurants from the great. These are the things Jacksonville Magazine looks for when settling upon eateries to highlight in our annual list. For example, an establishment’s attention to cleanliness is always appreciated. In addition, aspects such as pleasing decor and atmosphere, perceived value (regardless of the price for entrées), consistent food quality, creativity and innovation, professional and attentive service elevate the best above the rest. Then there are other intangibles, including how the staff handles a mistake or a complaint from a customer, if the bartender remembers your favorite drink, if the busboys retrieve plates, silver and glasses quietly, and if the manager or chef stops by the table to converse with guests.
As you review and digest this year’s Top 25 list and the various side dishes that accompany them, we anticipate you will see some old neighborhood favorites as well as a few restaurants you have yet to visit. We know there won’t be universal agreement with our choices. And that’s okay. We believe you will agree that the story is arguably the most thoroughly researched and informative article on fine dining and good eats served in Northeast Florida.
950 Sawgrass Village Dr., Ponte Vedra Beach, 285-3017
Many Ponte Vedra restaurants have come and gone over the two decades since Aqua Grill opened its doors. An unpretentious atmosphere and a consistent focus on seafood and meat-and-potatoes staples with a twist may explain some of its longevity. From pork osso buco to braised beef shortribs to herb-crusted tofu, the menu covers lots of ground. Some regulars stick to the classics like the fried seafood platter with panko-coated fish, lump crab cake, scallops, shrimp, fries and cole slaw.
Most Expensive Entrée: Wild mushroom smothered grilled filet mignon with horseradish whipped potatoes, grilled asparagus and fried onion straws, $34
Least Expensive Entrée: Eggplant parmesan “To Die For” with plum tomato sauce, three cheeses, and sautéed angel hair pasta, $17
Jax Mag Recommends: Day’s catch prepared First Coast Hemingway-style coated in parmesan, herbs, sesame seeds, sautéed crispy, with a sun-dried tomato mornay sauce and rosemary red potatoes, $22. Aqua Grill knows fish.
A few of bb’s dishes have been on the menu since day one, including the Mediterranean chicken salad and mozzarella bruschetta. The grilled pizzas—white truffle, marinated artichoke, Thai bbq and jambalaya—are perennial favorites. However, arguably the best way to go when ordering are the daily chef specials, a collection of dishes that really allow the chefs to stretch their creativity. Seating in the bistro is snug and it can get loud. Arrive late for lunch and the only seat available may be one at the short bar near the door. Sit and enjoy, though don’t leave before checking out the dessert case near the back.
Most Expensive Entrée: Black Angus filet of beef with bacon and shallot potato gratin, asparagus, boursin cheese, red onion marmalade, toasted hazelnuts and sauce bordelaise, $31
Least Expensive Entrée: Orecchiette pasta with spicy Italian sausage, Swiss chard, roasted baby carrots, sundried tomatoes, shaved parmesan and herbs, $21
Jax Mag Recommends: White truffle pizza with wild mushrooms, shaved parmigiano, mozzarella, prosciutto and arugula, $12; And the dessert case. Just pick one of anything here. The slice will be big enough to share.
3556 St. Johns Ave., Avondale, 387-2060
Upon entering Biscottis, check out the big blackboard above the bar to see what the week’s specials are. The dessert case will be a distraction, so be sure to peek inside it before the bill comes. The Avondale favorite offers all items one expects from an exemplary cafe, including terrific soups, salads and sandwiches (try the ancho honey glazed salmon BLT or open-faced meatloaf sandwich). Back to the dessert case—triple chocolate cake, red velvet cake, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake… oh, where does one begin?
Most Expensive Entrée: Tortilla-crusted cod sandwich, $12 (daily blackboard specials are pricier)
Least Expensive Entrée: 8-inch free range chicken pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, $10
Jax Mag Recommends: The mozzarella bruschetta, $10, is a tiny loaf filled with fresh cheese, baked with olive oil and lots of garlic, plum tomatoes, basil, pine nuts and cracked pepper. Two, please!
1440 San Marco Blvd., San Marco, 398-1949
For a decade now Bistro Aix has been among the city’s most popular fine dining establishments. Stylish without being stuffy, the restaurant earns raves for consistently delicious food, including innovative seasonal specials and classic menu favorites. Creamy French onion soup, house-made bacon and brie pizza, lamb short ribs, roast chicken and fresh pasta dishes—the menu is diverse, but all the while pays homage to the Southern French cooking roots favored by executive chef Tom Gray.
Most Expensive Entrée: Angus beef filet mignon with green beans, shallots, Stilton bleu cheese and au gratin potatoes, $36
Least Expensive Entrée: Three-cheese wood-fired pizza with tomatoes and basil, $12
Jax Mag Recommends: Steak frites bistro “onglet” steak with green beans, red wine shallot sauce and French fries, $23. The next-door Onyx Bar is a chic spot in which to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail.
112 Bartram Oaks Walk, Julington Creek, 287-0766
The River City has too few white tablecloth dining spots. Count Blackstone among those few. Chef Charles Wang characterizes his cuisine as “modern American fusion.” Diners who frequent the attractive Bartram Oaks restaurant just call it good. Blackstone features an impressive collection of wines, capped by bottles of Opus One Meritage, $240. From grilled quesadillas to flambéed quail and vegetable dumplings to lobster ravioli, deciding upon what to eat can be a challenge.
Most Expensive Entrée: Grilled rack of lamb with dill sour cream sauce, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, spinach and asparagus, $32.95
Least Expensive Entrée: Grilled vegetables on a bed of linguine pasta with tomatoes, basil garlic and olive oil, $17.95
Jax Mag Recommends: Tea-smoked duck breast topped with apricot shallot demi glaze and served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, spinach and asparagus, $20.95. Unusually delicious.
3820 Southside Blvd., Southside, 646-1478
They don’t come any nicer in the restaurant biz than chef/owner Dennis Chan, a UF and CIA grad and author of Hip Asian Comfort Food. The title of his first book jibes perfectly with his popular Southside eatery and his preference for accessible Asian fare like peanut lime chicken salad, fried soft-shell crab, chile mango salmon and shrimp pad Thai. For something new, try a lycheetini cocktail from the bar.
Most Expensive Entrée: Javin dusted lamb rack with samosa potato patties, grilled bok choy, $38.95
Least Expensive Entrée: Singapore street noodles, $9.95 (add chicken, tofu or shimp, $3.50)
Jax Mag Recommends: Red curry shrimp and grits with peppers and onions, $21.95, is a fun Asian twist on a Southern classic. And Friday and Saturday nights the kitchen goes Deep South with dishes such as peachy chicken and waffles and chicken pot pie, $17.95
The Blue Fish
3551 St. Johns Ave., Avondale, 387-0700
Florida is prime seafood country, and nowhere is that captured better than Blue Fish. The casually hip eatery satisfies meat-and-potatoes patrons, but the menu really shines with its fruits of the sea. Peel-and-eat shrimp, seafood gumbo, seared diver scallops, crab cakes, pan-steamed mussels, fried clam strips, stone crab claws—we could go on and on. The bright blue color scheme is fitting and fun. Check out the bar upstairs for a nightcap.
Most Expensive Entrée: Roasted New Zealand rack of lamb with garlic, herbs and red wine demi, $32
Least Expensive Entrée: Chicken picatta sautéed with lemon, capers, garlic and white wine, $19
Jax Mag Recommends: When Apalachicola oysters are in season, there’s nothing better. Raw, stuffed, whatever—just order them. The fried calamari is tasty, too.
1527 Penman Rd., Jacksonville Beach, 241-4496
Dwight’s is a shining example that a Beaches restaurant need not be anywhere near the sand and surf to attract a loyal following. Offering perhaps the shortest menu in the city, chef Delude doesn’t look to impress with countless variety and gargantuan portions. No, he prefers outstanding ingredients and tried-and-true preparation. Lamb chops with mint jelly, escargots with garlic and shallot butter, spinach greens with bleu cheese and pancetta—what’s not to like? The restaurant itself is charming and kind of funky with splashes of tile and color everywhere.
Most Expensive Entrée: Mixed grill of lamb, quail, fish and tenderloin of beef, $40
Least Expensive Entrée: Angel hair Putanesca with Calamata olives, capers, tomatoes, garlic, anchovies and hot pepper, $25
Jax Mag Recommends: The fresh mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes and olive oil is a simple delight, $18; the chef is a pasta-lover at heart so the ravioli of the day, $27, is never a bad choice.
216 11th Ave., S., Jacksonville Beach, 241-1112
How about a plate of grilled bone-in pork chops with potato and pumpkin smash, sautéed spinach, pomegranate onion jam and port wine jus? Or perhaps the grilled North Atlantic salmon with sweet potato, mushroom and cippolini hash, broccolini, white wine butter sauce and crispy parsnips? Both dishes give one an insight to the creativity being churned out of Eleven South, a Beaches restaurant with a decidedly upscale aura. Crisp linens, soft earth tones throughout and bright white plates ensure that nothing distracts from the presentation of the night’s meal.
Most Expensive Entrée: Mesquite grilled Angus 18-oz. ribeye with locally grown greens and cara-melized cippolini and bleu cheese crumbles, $37
Least Expensive Entrée: Parmesan pappardelle, hand-cut pasta with portobello mushrooms, roasted roma tomatoes, asparagus and cippolini in a parmesan cream sauce with grilled chicken, $24
Jax Mag Recommends: The seafood martini with Ahi tuna tartare, lump blue crab, Mayport shrimp, avocado, mango salsa and citrus aioli, $17, is an Eleven South classic for good reason. The lobster mac and cheese…yum!
J.J.’s Liberty Bistro
330 A1A N., Ponte Vedra Beach, 273-7980
The enormous Eiffel Tower replica informs diners at J.J.’s of two things. First, you have arrived. Second, all things French is the order of the day here. Vichyssoise, jambon fromage, croque monsieur—you get the idea. The French countryside mural on the wall continues the theme. Part-restaurant and part-marketplace offering baked goods, coffee, bottles of wine, cheeses and gourmet to-go eats, the chef-owned establishment (yes, there is a real J.J.) has been a Ponte Vedra landmark for more than 15 years. A second J.J.’s operates in the Shops at Village Walk, 7643 Gate Pkwy. (996-7557).
Most Expensive Entrée: Grilled veal tenderloin topped with a lobster medallion and finished with crevette sauce, $34
Least Expensive Entrée: Vegetarian trio with mushroom risotto, chef’s daily ravioli and pesto grilled vegetables, $18
Jax Mag Recommends: The daily soups are sure bets. For an entrée, fish is always a good choice, in particular, the rainbow trout à l’oscar with crab and asparagus and hollandaise sauce, $27
14549 Beach Blvd., Intracoastal West, 223-1534
This waterside favorite earns high praise from fans for truly professional service and an ever-changing menu that leans slightly toward seafood with dishes including cracked conch with spicy red pepper aioli, blue crab cakes with crushed new potatoes and shrimp and andouille fettucine with smoked pepper tomato sauce. It’s not all fish and crustaceans, however. Molasses glazed pork short
ribs with sweet corn slaw and seared sirloin with shoestring potatoes and brandy peppercorn demi sauce highlight the meat offerings.
Most Expensive Entrée: Wood-grilled beef tenderloin with truffled mascarpone grits, greens and brown butter Hollandaise, $26
Least Expensive Entrée: Farmer’s risotto featuring a daily selection of local produce, $13
Jax Mag Recommends: Unusual desserts such as warm almond and olive oil cake with cracked pepper goat cheese ice cream and strawberry jam, $8, and brioche doughnut with honey five spice ice cream, $8
2107 Hendricks Ave., San Marco, 396-9922
The high-backed booths near the rear of the restaurant provide the best vantage point to enjoy the chic sophistication that is Matthew’s. A seat at the small counter in front of the kitchen is the ideal spot at which to take in the culinary magic happening in the kitchen. Some 2,000 bottles of wine are kept close at hand in the cellar, ensuring that every dish is paired with an appropriate glass. The bar bites menu in the lounge is an inexpensive alternative (all plates are $6) to a meal in the main dining room.
Most Expensive Entrée: New York strip with roasted portobello mushroom, braised arugula and cauliflower purée, $36
Least Expensive Entrée: Fairytale eggplant Napoleon with sautéed spinach, goat’s cheese and tomato coulees, $18
Jax Mag Recommends: First, don’t be timid. The ever-changing menu at Matthew’s is all about exploring new flavors, so dive into dishes such
as Francaise grouper with lemon braised spinach, mint and shallot herb broth, $26, or diver
scallops with butternut squash purée and celery
truffle apple salad, $29. You’ll thank us later.
110 N. 1st St., Neptune Beach, 249-5573
The wood-fired pizza oven and tasty selection of pasta entrées lend a decidedly Italian vibe to Mezza Luna. But don’t expect checked tablecloths and candles stuffed in chianti bottles. Instead, look for crispy calamari with lemon basil and marinara, sea scallops with truffle cauliflower purée, roasted mushrooms and baby carrots and grilled Ahi tuna and fingerling potatoes with smashed basil and lemon oil. The interior is cozy with aged red bricks, mustard walls and lots of stone and wood.
Most Expensive Entrée: Filet mignon with slow roasted tomatoes, spinach and sweet garlic herb butter, $29
Least Expensive Entrée: Spaghetti pomodoro with tomatoes, sweet garlic, olive oil, basil and parmesan, $15
Jax Mag Recommends: The selection of pasta dishes is top-notch. The black pepper fettuccine with pancetta, parsnips and black garlic is hearty and ideal for a cool winter evening. Also, the wood-fired pizzas are longtime faves. Try the four-cheese white or the spicy Mayport shrimp.
TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, 273-3238
Club members and PGA Tour players are treated to exclusive dining spaces. The rest of us, however, are welcome to enjoy the impressive TPC Sawgrass clubhouse and its signature restaurant, Nineteen. The entire building is a showplace to the prestige of the Tour and pro golf—literally. Volunteer docents will give you a tour, if you wish. The menu continues the golfing theme with
dishes named in honor of champion players. Phil Mickelson’s lobster ravioli comes with sautéed spinach, corn and tomato basil cream sauce.
Most Expensive Entrée: Pan-seared grouper with julienne vegetables, soba noodles, lobster, lemon grass, miso broth, $33
Least Expensive Entrée: Tim Clark’s lamb T-bone, with mint demi-glaze, eggplant and white bean salad, spinach, tomato and pesto, two chops, $19
Jax Mag Recommends: The house burger, $15, a 10-oz. patty served with a toasted brioche bun, all the fixings and a tangy sweet barbecued Vidalia onion jam. It’s a toss-up which is better as a side, the French fries or the housemade kettle chips.
North Beach Bistro
725 Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach, 372-4105
Back in 2008, the idea behind the launch of North Beach was to build something of a small, neighborhood hangout but one with top-shelf food and cocktails. The live music acts, seasonal parties and events, and drink specials account for some of the “where everybody knows your name” spirit. A menu laden with lump blue crab cakes, nightly pasta creations and bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin takes care of the really good food part.
Most Expensive Entrée: Char-grilled prime ribeye with ditalini mac and cheese, shallot jus and onion straws, $32
Least Expensive Entrée: Chef’s nightly vegetarian plate prepared with seasonal vegetable sautéed or steamed, $16
Jax Mag Recommends: The seafood bouillabaisse is
a rich melange of Mayport shrimp, sea scallops,
mussels, calamari and fish in a white wine broth, $22
60 Ocean Blvd., Atlantic Beach, 247-0060
The interior of this 11-year-old Atlantic Beach gathering spot is clean, warm and welcoming, the kind of place where diners feel comfortable dressing up or going casual. The adjoining Martini Room features live music and flowing cocktails. The menu changes frequently and is often spiced with subtle Asian accents. Flavorful nods to island cuisine come through in items such as plantain chicken nachos with chorizo black bean chili and cilantro-lime creme fraiche and whole fried pompano with citrus greens and seasonal vegetables.
Most Expensive Entrée: Grilled filet mignon topped with a garlic and port wine cheese fondant served over parmesan potato dauphinoise and finished with caramelized onion demi glace, $31
Least Expensive Entrée: Crisp fried eggplant layered with a black olive, sun-dried tomato and feta tapenade, served over tomato romesco,
drizzled with herb oil, $14
Jax Mag Recommends: Can’t go wrong with the nightly specials, particularly the seafood choices (such as Asian style soft shell crab). The artisan cheese plate with cured meats, house-made dips and sun-dried tomato tortilla chips is terrific.
3630 Park St., Avondale, 381-0909
Sophisticated without being pretentious is a suitable way to describe the general vibe at Orsay. The restaurant is a Slow Food proponent and a big supporter of local purveyors and sustainable farming operations (Black Hog Farm, Twinn Bridges, and others). We’ll raise a glass of IPA to that. The menu hits a home run from the roasted oysters to the yellowfin tuna nicoise to the homemade s’mores dessert. Enjoy a French pear martini on the small patio or in the lounge.
Most Expensive Entrée: Lobster pot pie with Maine lobster, mushrooms, peas and carrots,
biscuit crust, and roasted lobster reduction, $38
Least Expensive Entrée: Quiche, prepared with Black Hog Farm eggs, roasted mushrooms, spinach and gruyere with a small salad, $12
Jax Mag Recommends: Prince Edward Island mussels prepared with white wine, garlic butter and thyme, pommes frites on the side, $20. The French green bean salad with roasted hazelnuts, and creme fraiche vinaigrette, $8, is terrific. And the lobster pot pie… oh, stop…
207 Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach, 241-7877
Long before most of us had ever heard the term “craft brewer,” the folks at Ragtime were pouring draughts of Dolphin’s Breath Lager and Red Brick Ale from the tanks of their in-house brewery. In addition, the restaurant was far ahead of the curve pushing Cajun and Creole eats. And we’re all better for it. With an open-air patio, live music, late night menu and jumping bar, the establishment is as much a nightspot as restaurant, albeit one that serves Key lime shrimp and lobster, blackened fish and po’ boy sandwiches.
Most Expensive Entrée: Grilled 8-oz. New York strip steak and crab cakes combo with mashed potatoes and vegetables, $24.95
Least Expensive Entrée: Ragtime shrimp, rolled in flaked coconut and fried, with honey mustard sauce, red beans and rice and veggies, $13.95
Jax Mag Recommends: When in season, the Louisiana crawfish boil (market price) is a spicy, buttery, messy treat; the beer flight is a nice way to sample all the house beers without having to consume a full pint.
818 A1A N., Ponte Vedra Beach, 543-379
Many who visit Restaurant Medure are happy to skip the dining room and settle in at the lounge. The dining room is contemporary and stylish, as is the lounge. The all-around chic space entices with an expansive and frequently changing menu. Starters such as tuna tartare on marinated cucumbers with seaweed salad and fried wontons and entrées such as pistachio basil crusted salmon with cous cous and stuffed olives demonstrate the chef’s desire to step outside the box.
Most Expensive Entrée: Domestic lamb rack with whole grain mustard crust and red wine mushroom glaze, $37
Least Expensive Entrée: Gnocchi with marinara and grated parmesan, $14
Jax Mag Recommends: Meat-and-potato lovers will appreciate innovative dishes like braised Painted Hills short ribs with sweet potato cake and roasted turnip glaze, $27. For dessert, just ask for the night’s souffle, $8. It takes time to prepare but is well worth the wait.
River City Brewing Co.
835 Museum Cir., Southbank, 398-2299
Perched tight against the St. Johns River, River City’s proximity to Downtown and its many concert and special event venues makes it a go-to spot for pre- and post-concert meals and cocktails. It’s a big place, with some 320 seats, nearly all of which come with terrific views of a small marina and the St. Johns River. The menu covers lots of ground but with a focus on local seafood, steaks and pasta. Not surprising given its name, the house specialty is beer—Jackson Pale Ale, Jag Light, Red Rooster Ale and Riptide Porter—courtesy of the giant brew kettles adjacent to the lounge.
Most Expensive Entrée: 18-oz. garlic and herb grilled Angus ribeye served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus, $31.95
Least Expensive Entrée: Jerk chicken penne pasta with sherry, sweet onions, sun-dried tomatoes, cream and green onion, $17.95
Jax Mag Recommends: The house gumbo is made with Andouille sausage, seafood, okra and rice and is a top-seller. Also, the day boat seafood choice of the day is literally fresh off a local dock.
Sorrento Italian Restaurant
6943 St. Augustine Rd., 636-9196
This Jax Italian food mainstay represents a family run restaurant in the true classic sense. The interior is pleasing, not fancy. The moderate prices make it a family-friendly establishment with plenty of buttered noodles ready and waiting. All the traditional Italian favorites are represented, including roasted peppers, fried calamari, baked manicotti, spaghetti and meatballs. A dozen pasta dishes are offered and the day’s catch may be ordered with seven different preparations.
Most Expensive Entrée: Zuppa di pesce, fish, shrimp, calamari, clams and scallops in a light tomato broth, $23.95
Least Expensive Entrée: Ravioli, stuffed with meat or cheese in red sauce, $10.95
Jax Mag Recommends: The chicken parmigiana, $15.95, is tender, topped in melted mozzarella and drenched in red sauce. Don’t pass on the tiramisu for dessert.
1986 San Marco Blvd., San Marco, 398-3005
There’s not a bad seat in the house at this San Marco Square gathering spot. The seats out front on the patio are pretty nice, too. The cuisine is laced with Spanish and Italian influences. Butternut squash risotto, marinated olives, skirt steak with chimichurri, olive oil-poached artichokes—menu selections flow with the seasons; however, regulars know to expect consistently delish fare and picture-perfect presentations. The upper level provides a birds-eye view of the restaurant, including the long bar and pizza oven. The patio is great for people-watching.
Most Expensive Entrée: Pork shank osso buco with parmesan and herb polenta, Eden Farms bacon and braising greens, $27
Least Expensive Entrée: House-made fettuccine in a tomato cream sauce with basil, $18; add chicken ($6), shrimp ($7) or scallops ($8)
Jax Mag Recommends: Paella with chorizo, chicken, shrimp, clams, mussels, calamari, artichokes and peas, $27. Also, the Neapolitan style pizzas, $15-$17, are a house specialty.
‘Town (closed in May 2012)
3611 St. Johns Ave., Avondale, 345-2596
A local leader in the farm-to-table food movement, ‘Town excels with innovative cuisine and a dedication to the freshest seasonal ingredients. And no restaurant in Jax packs more flavor onto a small plate, whether it be an entree of hanger steak with parmesan-herb fries or a side of brussel sprouts with cherry smoked bacon. A seat at the counter overlooking the open kitchen puts diners at arms-length from all the action. Enjoy the show—and a bowl of rosemary potato soup.
Most Expensive Entrée: Bouillabaise with Florida lobster, local shrimp, fish and mussels in a fennel butter broth, $30 ($17 for a half-plate)
Least Expensive Entrée: 7-oz. ’Town burger with wild mushroom spread and gruyere, $16
Jax Mag Recommends: Black truffle tater tots with caramelized onion fondue and white truffle oil, $8; duck confit with lentils and house-smoked bacon, $22; and the sugar doughnuts with milk chocolate fondue for dessert.
Tree Steak House
11362 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin, 262-0006
A lot of traditions can develop over four decades. And Tree Steak House, open since the late 1960s, is one Jax restaurant that holds fast to its traditions, including its hearty salad bar and rib-eye steaks cut to order tableside. Red meat is the house specialty, of course. Prime rib, New York strip and filet kabobs are top-sellers. Grilled pork tenderloin, blackened salmon, rack of lamb and fried fish and chips round out the entrée menu. Veggie sides like steamed broccoli, sautéed spinach and sliced tomatoes are served à la carte.
Most Expensive Entrée: Two, 5-6-oz. lobster tails with choice of baked potato, steak fries, garlic mashed or rice pilaf, and salad bar, $38
Least Expensive Entrée: 10-oz. marinated and grilled double chicken breast, $18
Jax Mag Recommends: The filet mignon melts in the mouth like butter and can be ordered in portions ranging from six- to 10-ounce, $25-$33. For dessert, the Key lime pie, $7, and the crème brulée, $9, are longtime Tree favorites.
1314 Prudential Dr., San Marco, 398-8989
Thirty-eight years in operation is an eternity in River City restaurant circles. That’s the track record the Wine Cellar boasts. Apparently customers thoroughly enjoy dishes such as Creole style crab and lobster bisque, crispy roast duckling with orange liqueur peppercorn sauce, and almond encrusted halibut. The three-course prix fixe menu, $36, is a popular option during the work week. And the enclosed garden area is in demand for both lunch and dinner. Not surprisingly, the wine list is second to none in Jacksonville.
Most Expensive Entrée: Grilled filet mignon and fried or grilled cold water lobster tail, $57
Least Expensive Entrée: Sautéed grape tomatoes, baby spinach, mushrooms, garlic and white wine served over angel hair pasta, $17
Jax Mag Recommends: Wine Cellar has been grilling lamb for decades and they are darn good at it. Try the Moroccan dry rubbed New Zealand lamb chops with fresh mint and basil pesto,
potato mash, and vegetable du jour, $29
Editor’s Note: Menu items were selected and verified in late November and early December. Restaurant menus and prices are prone to change, so the listings posted here are merely representative of the food offered at each location, and specific dishes may or may not be offered on your next visit. Restaurants must be in business for at least a year to have been considered for the 2012 Top 25 list. All phone numbers are in the 904 area code.