You may not know that Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city (area-wise) in the United States and the largest city in Florida by population, which makes it super diverse. What you might also not know is that the 904 actually has a bangin’ food scene as a result of this diversity. Southern, international, urban and high class cuisine all intersect into one foodie haven that’s really come a long way within the past few years. Here are 50 dishes you should definitely chow down on while in dirty Duval.
1. Chicken and Waffles at Metro Diner
Nothing says southern more than chicken and waffles, but Metro Diner takes the dish to the next level. Even Guy Fieri paid a visit during an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. And that strawberry butter? Delish.
2. The Squawking Goat at Maple Street Biscuit Company
When in doubt, go for the creamy, crunchy fried goat cheese and tangy pepper jelly biscuit. It was hard to choose one favorite from Maple Street, but this one trumps all.
3. Grass-Fed Hamburger at Black Sheep
We’re not sure how Black Sheep’s burgers are always correctly seasoned every time. Each bite is buttery, tender, and hearty – just the way a burger should be. Their fries aren’t too shabby either, especially with that garlic aioli.
4. Roti Canai at Hawkers Asian Street Fare
The amount of flaky layers in these flatbreads gives croissants a run for their money. Don’t worry, nearly everyone flags down their waiter to put in extra orders of roti mid-meal. You won’t be the only one!
#SpoonTip: Small plates (roti included) are $3 during happy hour.
5. Taiyaki at Five f(x)
Fish-shaped waffles? How cute! Stuffed with the filling of your choice? Even better! You can be basic and go with Nutella, or be a bit more experimental and try red bean. Both are quite satisfying.
6. Sweet Potato Red Pepper Soup at Biscottis
This golden gem is hidden in the outskirts of Biscotti’s menu but is one of the best soups Jacksonville has to offer. Finish it off with one of the restaurant’s many desserts – if you’re having trouble choosing just one, you can always get multiple slices of cake. We’ve all been there.
7. Guacamole at The Flying Iguana
Out of the many places that offer guac in Jacksonville, this one is absolutely one of the best. And they’re located right next to the beach, which makes it perfect as a post-sun snack.
8. Donut Burger at M Shack
Eggs and burgers are a match made in heaven. Throw in a donut as the bun? Oh hell yes.
9. Bruschetta at The French Pantry
How can you resist melty cheese and ripe tomatoes on toasted bread? Sometimes The French Pantry changes it up and puts eggplant, artichoke or even truffle oil on top.
10. Homemade Pop-Tart at Vagabond Coffee
Yeah, the processed pop-tarts are nostalgic and all, but Vagabond’s homemade pastries may even inspire you to make your own toaster treats at home.
11. Frozen Custard at Whit’s
Made daily in-store, Whit’s custard is sure to bring back fond childhood memories, or even craft new ones as an adult. You don’t know happiness until you’ve had a lick.
12. Ahi Tuna Taco at What’s the Catch? Food Truck
With the Japanese-Mexican trend getting traction lately, this truck knows exactly how to fuse the two cultures together into one creative dish. The owners are experts in the industry, so rest assured – they know what they’re doing.
13. Chocolate Stuff at Barbara Jean’s
It’s literally called “stuff” because it isn’t exactly a cake, a cobbler, a brownie or pudding. Rather, it’s a combination of all 4 desserts. They offer both a cup and bowl size, but we don’t judge you for choosing the bigger one.
14. Butter Chicken at Flavors
Silky smooth tomato cream and tender dark meat chicken makes for a very happy tummy. Best of all, this is a staple at Flavors’ daily lunch buffet.
15. Coffee Tangerine Taco at Corner Taco
Coffee isn’t just for drinking? Whaaaat? It actually pairs nicely with the tart citrus flavor, making a super unique taco you can’t find anywhere else.
16. Elephant Ears at Cinotti’s Bakery
Otherwise known as palmiers, these cookies are made extra crumbly and cute. Bless Cinotti’s for feeding our addiction.
17. Milk Tea at Aroma Corner
Aroma is the place for boba in Jacksonville. There are so many things to order here, but a must-have is their basic milk tea, with the flavoring of your choice or the iced matcha milk tea with lychee jelly.
18. The Castro at Angie’s Subs
This insane sub features ham and pulled pork, plus a generous topping of fried pickles—this is the south, after all. You’re probably going to need multiple napkins to wipe up all the juices and mustard, which is totally fine.
19. Spicy Cream Chicken Noodle Bowl at Bento Cafe
This is like your typical sweet and sour chicken, but on steroids. The spicy cream almost tastes like a lighter version of spicy mayo, which is all the more reason to smother it on the crispy chicken. It also doubles as a sauce for the noodles… yaaas.
20. Bam Bam Shrimp at Shrimp Shack
Sure, it sounds like something to come out of an Emril show, but it has just the right kick to spice up the shellfish. Right by the beach too, so you know these are all hella fresh.
21. Mountain Dew and Dorito Cupcake at 4 Rivers Smokehouse
This cupcake tastes like every single late night drunchie got married and had a baby. We know you’re already a fan of sweet and salty combinations, so this shouldn’t be a problem.
22. Duck Wonton Napoleon at bb’s
This is one of the most beautiful edible creations we’ve ever seen. Talk about some strong stack game. Boursin cheese, balsamic vinegar… What’s not to love?
23. Black and Bleu at TacoLu
Steak and blue cheese are already a good mix, but TacoLu kicks it up a notch and wraps the combination in a soft tortilla. It’s like a steakhouse-baja fusion dream come true.
24. French Toast at First Watch
This brunch-y cafe alters their menu every season, but you can always rely on the French toast. Our favorite has bananas and candied bacon. Bless the heck up!
25. Shrimp and Grits at Salt
Salt is a bit of a drive outside the center of Jacksonville, but so worth it. Shredded phyllo replaces the grits and sandwiched in between is shrimp and goat cheese. Fancy AF.
26. Cake Batter Dipped Cone at Dreamette
Take a bite and let the outer shell crumble in your mouth. It’s just about as messy as ice cream can get, but you’ll be too busy devouring your cone to even notice.
27. Deviled Eggs at Moxie
There are so many possibilities for deviled eggs toppings, but Moxie is constantly switching it up with combos like smoked salmon, picked onion and candied lemon (seen above).
28. Glazed Doughnut at The Donut Shoppe
Sorry, Krispy Kreme. Jax natives will tell you that these glazed doughnuts are always delightfully fluffy and sweet, putting Krispy Kreme’s famed glazed doughnut to shame. The best part is licking all that excess glaze from your fingers.
29. Snow Bowl at Mochi
The Snow Bowl is kinda like shaved ice, but just a bit creamier thanks to the addition of sweetened condensed milk. Toppings include fruit of your choice, chocolate fixins and even ice cream.
30. Pad Thai at Indochine
While these noodles are a staple in Thai cuisine, Indochine has it down pat. They prove that you simply can’t go wrong with a simple pad thai, especially with their slightly sweet and nutty sauce.
31. Blueberry French Toast Cupcake at Sweet By Holly
Breakfast or dessert… why not both? The owner has won Cupcake Wars three times so far, so you know these are legit.
#SpoonTip: Mini cupcakes are $1 each every Monday. You’re welcome.
32. Cappuccino at Bold Bean
The original Bold Bean in Riverside used to be über packed, but thankfully. the expansions to Jax Beach and Murray Hill allow more people to get their coffee fix. And besides, the latte art screams Instagram.
33. Flourless Brownie Cookie at Knead Bakeshop
These taste just like the chewy chocolate cookies you always used to get at Regency Square Mall back when it was a thing, but better! And flourless! Gluten-free for the win.
#SpoonTip: Bold Bean often sells these cookies near the register. Makes it easy for you to knock out two from the list at once.
34. T-Rex at Moon River Pizza
Moon River seems to be on a mission to see how much meat they can put on a pizza, and thankfully, it doesn’t look like there’s a limit. The mozzarella on top gives you a cheese pull for days.
35. Bowl of Pho Special at Bowl of Pho
Ask any local and they’ll point you here for authentic pho. Why, oh why is their broth so damn good? Make sure to add a heavy squeeze of lime and some hoisin sauce, too.
#SpoonTip: Try their sweet and salty lemonade soda with any of their entrées.
36. Shrimp Cobb Salad at Burrito Gallery
Blackened chicken, fresh sliced avocados and a creamy cilantro-ranch dressing. Be still, my beating heart.
37. Escargot at Orsay
These escargot are so adorable that you won’t want to eat them. That is, until you get a whiff of the mushrooms, butter and garlic they’re cooked in. You’re gonna want to eat the buttery sauce too.
38. Everything Bagel at Bagels R Us
This is probably the closest thing you’ll get to a New York bagel in Jacksonville. So yummy you probably won’t even fret about having poppy seeds stuck in your teeth.
39. Chocolate Dipped Sea Salt Caramels at Sweet Pete’s
These confections are handcrafted in small batches, covered with smooth chocolate and made in a cute, old-fashioned building. How do we cope when we run out? Oh wait, you can order online…
40. Marshmallow Brûleé Milkshake at M Shack
This milkshake is the brainchild of s’mores and crème brûlée. That golden-brown toasted marshmallow on top… It’s calling to you! Just let it in.
41. Annabel Lee Burger at Poe’s Tavern
Crab cake on top of a beef patty with remoulade sauce? Yes daddy, I do.
42. Tres Leches Cake at Tres Leches
While it seems counter-intuitive to get anything else than the titular cake at a place called Tres Leches, the desserts here are always spot-on. Nothing can beat their classic though.
43. Scallops at Taverna
These tender scallops rest on creamy butternut squash risotto, making for an unbeatable combination of flavors. Go on, try to leave some leftovers on your plate. We dare you.
44. Plantain Chips and Guacamole at Mossfire Grill
Whether they’re dipped in sugar or drenched in frying oil, plantains are always a treat. The faint sweetness of the plantains goes well with the spicy guacamole – the perfect departure from your typical appetizer.
45. Crispy Duck at Sala Thai
Duck is one of the most richest and savory poultry out there, but Sala Thai prepares it like no other. It’s always a delight to bite into crispy fried skin and find juicy meat on the inside.
46. Pappardelle Bolognese at Ovinté
Both pork and veal are slowly simmered in tomato sauce, spread over freshly made pasta and topped with ample amounts of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Hold on tight, this is the life.
47. No Hangover Melt at The Happy Grilled Cheese Food Truck
If you’re around downtown Jax a lot, you’ll probably recognize this cute little truck ridin’ around every now and then. Who needs sliced cheese when you have mac ‘n’ cheese and pulled pork?
48. “Coffee and Donuts” Bread Pudding at 29 South
A fun riff off the traditional pairing, 29 South makes a bread pudding made out of donuts and tops it with coffee ice cream. It’s served in a cute mug, but you’re probably gonna want to spill it out onto a plate so you can eat it faster.
49. Shrimp Kilawin at HOBNOB
This fancy ceviché-type dish is a spin-off of the Filipino delicacy. It’s garnished with peppers, served with an avocado puree and sure to please.
50. Fried Gator Tail at North Beach Fish Camp
Perfectly seasoned and perfectly fried. Gator meat? How Floridian.