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Cemetery Gravestones

RIP to the OG - Restaurants that Closed

Pour one out for the places that have closed their doors. Here is the restaurant graveyard that I wish didn't have to exist, but alas we can't have beermosas and poutine on a rooftop while overlooking the St. Johns River. Gone are the days of rolling out of bed and into Deerwood Diner. 

Change is the only constant.

Lemon Street Brewing

Lemon Street Brewing, Sept. 2019 -Dec. 2023

 

When I headed for 2100 Dennis Street, I decided I should start all the brewery fun with a beer. I saw a bunch of offerings (unlike the limited Aardwolf selection). Oooo, a stout! I sometimes love me a good oatmeal stout like Breckenridge's, but that’s a heavy beer to start with. Plus if I didn’t like it then I would be consuming a lot of unnecessary calories. But it might be good!

Leave the Stout, Opt for Something Lighter

So I asked the friendly bartenter, a brunette with curly hair, for a sample. She kindly obliged, which was very sweet considering the chaos of thirsty yelpers that were packed around the bar. The women next to me grimaced saying I had the right idea as she was stuck with a full stout she didn’t love. Curly bartender brought me a sample, and it was DELICOUS. But also, very strong. I should ease into the night with a lighter drink. I ordered an IPA and snapped a pic with my phone. I got a notification my iphone was at 10%. This was a travesty! A Yelp nightmare! Good thing I brought my Nikon. It might be my saving grace.

 

For the brewery tour and we shuffled into the backroom to look at the factory like display of working brewing equipment. Carlos, the tour guide/brewmaster, gave us lots of information about Lemon Street's goals and priorities as well as the brewing process. He told us how the brewery is committed to making a lager that tastes great and not just doing wild craft beers.

Hoppy Real Estate

He told us about the brew masters there who work hard to get the chemistry process just right. He mentioned the water filtration being a key to good beer. It took me back to my Starbucks barista days when the triple filtered water was part of our everyday coffee brag. Yes, yes, this is the business of good beverages and I love it!

I asked him if they would make an oatmeal stout. I think he said there were oats in the stout they currently have. He mentioned that that keep some beers for longer than 2 weeks and pointed out the importance of beer tank real estate. Space is important! So is selling the beer they make! Carlos gave an excellent tour, though I told him add some jokes to make it like Cigar City’s tour. We returned to the main room and were directed to grab a table because the night’s presentations were about to start!

Appetite of Lions

I returned to my table, and the night quickly progressed. Next thing I knew I was in line to sample tacos from The Mitt, while Lion King’s intro was playing in the background with a loud NAHHHHSAVVVENNHYAAAAAHHH. Alicia was feeling the music. I was in my happy place. (Maybe I would enjoy every drop of the stout I’d purchased).

Armed with Mexican food and napkins, we returned to our table to play some trivia. In our rush to socialize, eat, snap pics and drink, we forgot to give our team a name. Now that I think about it, IPA LOT woulda been a good one. Oh well, next time. We weren’t winning anyway. Who knew that they baptized babies in beer one time? Who knew that George Washington had a brewery in Mount Vernon! I was learning with every sip!

The live musician paused for a bit and Yelp Community Manager Carly took the stage. The brewmaster talked about how we would first sample Experiment 626, a pale ale with a bunch of hops thrown on top. It was bright and drinkable. I enjoyed it. The thing was, I was starting to miss that stouty taste of the first beer I tried. I thought about ordering another beer. But before I knew it, it was time for nachos. I got some queso, guac, and super spicy salsa. It was all yummy. I wanted more! And I decided to get some more beer. I asked for the Berry Tart, but alas the keg is tapped now.

You have to PAY for the beer, here?

I went to order another beer. The curly bartender got me the glass I ordered and asked if I wanted to start a tab. Awkward moment here. I had missed the beginning intro where they explain the drink policy. I told the bartender, no, I didn’t want to start a tab. (Why would I want to pay?!). And she proceed to explain that the first beer was free and after that, it costs. This information would have been helpful before ordering. We had plenty of samples ahead and I truly didn’t need that much beer. I had to drive home! It was a Monday night. (I was missing the Bachelor premiere for this event!).

Then, I remembered I forgot to bring cash for tipping (a yelp event must!) so this was the perfect opportunity for me to pay and add on some gratitude dollars. So, I said sure and paid for my beer. After all, it was delicious and the bar was hosting this delightful event.

Let them Eat Cake

Some yelpers celebrated a jovial birthday.  I wanted to try the next beer samples, so I finally had to abandon my stout in favor of safely driving home. Luckily, Alicia helped me by refilling one of her sample glasses with part of the stout. (Now that’s a beer you can chew on!).

With all the beer carbonation and sips sinking in, our bellies started growling and we eyed the taco station.

 

We started discussing how hopeful we were that our fellow yelpers would share the alluring chocolate-covered birthday cake sitting at the table across from us. I took a few minutes to talk to Carlos about how much I was enjoying the craft beers. I asked how he planned to compete with Jax brewers. He said he didn’t plan to, but that it was a community he was excited to participate in. What a good spirit! He said he likes Aadwolf’s offerings. I said I liked the location but wasn’t nuts about sours. I recommended he try Bottlenose and have the Lemon Street beers on tap at Kickbacks. It was a beery fun talk.

Then the moment finally came – Birthday cake! And I got a yummy vanilla slice. What a perfect way to finish this tasting! The Yelp crew gathered in the grassy area to take a picture in front of the butterfly art. Multiple silly poses ensued.

Moxie

It was December 26 and the year was 2017...

Moxie stands out from the highway like a tall rectangular cube of ice inviting Butler drivers to slow down and stroll in for a drink. I recently stopped in for a Saturday night's date.

 

Date Night

He had suggested a few options. Burgers or a swanky Jacksonville joint called Moxie. I chose the latter. I opened the door to survey a modern scene with couches, high tops, long tables, bars, alcoves, and long tables for parties. People stood around dressed for the evening. Our server in a vest, suspenders, and crisp shirt – dressed in finer clothes than some of the bar-goers he might serve. Freshly shaven and in well-fitting slacks he crept toward our table to take drink orders.

To See and Be Seen by the Towncenter

My date and I swirled up the wire and wood spiral staircase to perch in a corner on comfy leather stools. Nearby a girl in a golden sequin short dress leaned against the railing and laughed with a friend. On the bench not five feet away sat a couple leaning in and back and forth sharing intimate stories, having private moments in a public place.

Outside the porch bustled with drinking parties and friends, gathering, drinking celebrating Saturday’s eternity. I peered at the menu and didn’t see a single food item, but drink after drinks. So many wines. Beer options too. A whole slew of craft cocktails with enigmatic names and even stranger concoctions as descriptions. Similar to the Black Sheep happy hour fare, these strangely spiced beverages did not disappoint my taste buds.

A Sure Thing

I ordered the Sure Thing, a blend of Vodka and sugar. I was unsure of how to pronounce Beauregard, one of the options. Just the name seems to eke back to a long-ago battle, or perhaps a Humphrey Bogart nod. My second drink was a gin blend. My date tried the Moscow Mule, poured unceremoniously in a juice glass, though delightfully garnished with candied ginger.

The same non-Moscow glasses, in all likelihood, meant to be vases, were used for our water glasses also. Music played at a comfortable, yet thrilling decibel. People flitted past the bar, through the restaurant, and out the door. We stayed some time and enjoyed good conversation. I glanced up to see light fixtures in shapes like giant industrial Hershey Kiss sculptures. The place was rustic chic. An art display of decor and bar-goers. Craft cocktails a-plenty to sip. The staff cleaned up the place as the night grew later, and let us take our time heading back out into the outside world.

Black Sheep

Black Sheep

My friend and I headed to Black Sheep after church as we were craving a Sunday brunch and the menu for this place looked tasty without being overly expensive.

We picked an outside table since outside it was a perfect combination of sunlight and breeze. We did get a glimpse inside to see a cafe area that was decidedly more modern but still fitting the Black Sheep theme.

My first impression was all wrong. Siri directed me to the back of the restaurant in the middle of the Riverside/ 5 Points Jacksonville area, it took me the back way. The restaurant looked like an industrial area with businesses and a gym. But a short walk around the building revealed a pickle barrel outside porch and a trendy spot for brunchers, lunchers and more.

Craft Cocktails & Brunch Booze

We started with a brunch basic – a tasty bev. I got a beermosa – my first time trying this combo and was served with a goblet of goodness. The cigar city beer and orange created a sugary and hoppy citrus blend. My friend got an elderberry infusion something or other with big, gorgeous ice cubes, a cucumber flavor and a solid dose of vodka. The drinks were delightful! We also ordered the deviled egg app which had an interesting yoke spice. They weren’t my fave deviled eggs ever, but they were a yummy app.

If you’re a drinker who likes craft cocktails and gets hyped reading about the latest speakeasy that opened in town, you will like this place. They have all the aromatherapy infusions and herb extractions to muddle into your drink or stir with a swizzle spoon. I usually balk at the the thought of egg whites with alcohol. And if someone is adding drops of a mixture that looks like medicine into my drinks, I say no thanks. Especially since it will most likely taste strange and cost twice as much. Contrary to my stance on this though, my friends infused bev was actually tasty.

Sausage & Hash Heaven

Now my friend and I went into Black Sheep with serious appetites. It was 12:30 and we skipped breakfast, so this was the ideal time to devour heaps of food. Which brings up one of my fave quotes, “Hunger is Nature’s Greatest Spice.” It was time to order. I got the sausage omelette with breakfast potatoes and Sheri got the potato, egg and hash skillet. I asked for hot sauce and they asked if I wanted the house hot sauce. They make their own sauce! This was a sign our meal would be good.

“Hunger is Nature’s Greatest Spice.”

My omelette was great. The eggs were fluffed, the inside of it was filled with perfectly spiced sausage and pimento cheese. I would never think to put pimento in an omelette but it was good. I topped my ‘taters with the house sauce – mildly spicy, smoky and a little vinegary- and dug in. Sheri’s dish was topped with yokey eggs and filled with tons of hash chunks. We were both expecting it to be ground (which I think we both prefer) but it was still a tasty and filling meal. I will definitely be going back here.

Later, as I mentioned this restaurant to friends, they all asked the same question: did you sit on the roof? WHAT? I had no idea there was another sitting area and bar up there. Now I have to go back to experience this and check out their happy hour offerings.

Deerwood Diner

Deerwood Diner

  • 9934 Old Baymeadows Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32256

  • Written July 29, 2017

Is the smell of sausage grease, brewing coffee and pancake syrup reason enough to get out of bed on the weekend?

I think so.

You can shake off the slumber of the methodical work week and the demands of shower, type, write reports, repeat with that first sip of diner coffee, cradled in a ceramic mug.

Today I tried Deerwood Diner for the first time. It’s right by my house in the Publix shopping center. A tiny storefront with a big personality inside. The theme is retro movie and lots of bubble gum pink. It’s casual and cozy.

Today I tried Deerwood Diner for the first time. It’s right by my house in the Publix shopping center. A tiny storefront with a big personality inside. The theme is retro movie and lots of bubble gum pink. It’s casual and cozy.

There are those vinyl and metal type chairs, square tables and a nice row of booths – that was packed full this morning. That means no booth sitting, which was sad, but at the same time the occupied seats hinted that the food here just might be delicious.

 

My friend was having a post birthday night out meal, so he was ready to bring on the food and lap up some coffee. Although, in his sleep-induced haze he order orange juice first. I’m sure a little vitamin C wasn’t a bad idea.

Hangover Food or Just Plain Tasty?

I ordered my second cup of coffee for the day and was met with a bold, slightly bitter flavor – dinner coffee that packed a little more punch than your average restaurant Joe. I added a few creams, sprinkled the sugar shaker and reached for a menu.

The menu was full of all those breakfast staples that make the weekend friendly. I knew I wanted pancakes and honed right in. I took a peek at the side options and found the hash brown option.

Yep, with these low prices and yummy treats, it would be a nice Saturday. My friend searched the menu and landed on a protein sampler of sorts, getting sausage, eggs and toast. Our waitress who was awesomely accommodating even offered to substitute basic toast for sausage gravy. It was a solid trade. We sat back and waited for food.

Disco Balls and Retro Walls

The walls of the diner are covered in old movie ad and movie star pics, resting in aged frames. Simple black rectangle borders with gold rusting edges on some, and even 3D box type frames. My favorite one held a gumball machine and even had little round gumballs filling the bottom of the contained frame. We were surrounded by the greats. Judy Garland stares forlornly into the distance. James Dean smolders from a bench. Marilyn Monroe crouches by the street. Elvis slouches with handsomeness. The decor oozes nostalgia.

“Judy Garland stares forlornly into the distance. James Dean smolders from a bench. Marilyn Monroe crouches by the street. Elvis slouches with handsomeness. The decor oozes nostalgia.”

And the food arrived, barely fitting onto the tiny table. My pancakes were fluffy and that perfect level of almost undercooked. Butter played slip and slide on all three of them. I added just a dab of syrup and dug in. The hash browns were better than the Metro Diner’s (gasp!). The potatoes tasted fresher, less greasy and perfectly salted. They were browned on the top and I ate every last one.

 

My friend enjoyed his sunny side up eggs (eww, I don’t do runny yokes), and dipped the side of rye toast our waitress brought to add to the stand alone plate of sausage gravy and biscuits. The gravy was tasty, but I couldn’t tell where it ranks, because I’ve only recently started sampling this Southern sensation. Maple Street had thicker gravy, but I don’t think the same size of sausage bits mixed in.

I saw a stack of books on the counter and a bar perfect for solo breakfasts.

Maybe soon I will return for some crossword puzzles, reading and french toast.

Sorrento Italian

Sorrento Italian Restaurant

  • 6943 St Augustine Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32217

Garlic, freshly baked bread, oregano, and piles of cheese. These are the keys to my heart. Italian food just happens to be synonymous with romance in my book. So when Emily told me to come to check out her family’s restaurant, Sorrento, I was chomping at the bit to get out and sample some new marinara-drenched fare.

With all the quarantine solitude, I was craving some time out of the house and in unfamiliar surroundings. I’ve worn out my saucepans making Monday night home-made spaghetti. I wanted to venture out and get cozy in a booth I had never sat in before.

A free Friday night rolled around, and my husband and I put date night on the calendar. I knew just the place I wanted to go! I donned a summer dress, he put on a crisp button-down and we headed into our evening plans.

About 15 minutes from our home and right down St. Augustine Road, was the ivy-covered spot with a black awning and the welcoming Sorrento sign.

COVID-clad in her mask and safety gloves, Emily, the fabulous hostess on duty, greeted us with a smize when we walked in. (Smize, circa Top Model, is when you smile with your eyes. It is especially effective when your face is covered by a mask). She escorted us through the little halls to a cozy blue booth to spend our evening in.

The layout of the restaurant has a great intimate feel. It’s the kinda place with flattering ambient lighting where you want to impress your date (even if it’s your husband) with good manners and proper etiquette. It’s the kinda place where you could bring the whole family to toast for Dad’s birthday, then eat way too much pasta. I definitely got special occasion vibes there.

Would You Like to Start with an Appetizer?

Beer & Blue Booths

In honor of a special night out, we ordered a celebratory appetizer. We’ve had our share of calamari so we browsed the menu for something different. Now we considered the roasted peppers which sounded savory but decided to go a teeny bit fancier and order the stuffed mushrooms.

I was envisioning the battered mushrooms that you dipped in horseradish sauce that was served at Houlihan’s (I worked there some years back and ate far too many stuffed shrooms). Instead, these had Italian flavors. Large mushroom buckets were filled with steaming cheese. I think there was mozzarella and parmesan in there. These healthy-ish exotic cheese shroom boats were quite yummy.

They’re On a Roll

Emily really hooked me on the idea of visiting the restaurant by bringing me a sample of their dinner rolls with garlic butter. Their homemade dinner rolls were soft and fresh from the oven, ruining your appetite by eating too many kinda flavors.

Our dinner included these tasty rolls. Sorry Oprah, but I WON’T be skipping out on the bread tonite. I dunked each piece in the butter and spice tip dipping plate which came with it. Then we had their house salads complete with red onions, tomatoes, fresh greens, and a creamy house-made Italian dressing. We barely had room for our entrees!

Cannelloni

The Pastas & The Cheeses

For my entree, I chose the Cannelloni, a dish I’d never tried before. A bit of a risk, but it combined so many things I liked! Three kinds of cheese, spinach, chicken, and veal were all stuffed into a big tube of pasta. To me, it was like a burrito of Italian cheese bliss. I choose the pink sauce, so the large pasta pillows were swimming in a tasty pool of olive oil and creamy tomato sauce. It was quite decadent and I ended up saving half for another delicious meal to spice up my weekend.

My husband chose the Tortellini Alla Panna with white sauce. He’s a fettucini alfredo fan so I wasn’t too surprised at his pick. The restaurant serves pretty large portions, and he was kind enough to offer me a bite of his dinner. I ended up having two! Cheese-filled pasta circles. Yum, just yum!

Tortellini Alla Panna

We finished off our meal with some rich cheesecake with a berry drizzle. It was a bit of a struggle to get our cheesy food coma bodies out of the booth at the end of the meal. I promised myself I’d take the dogs on an extra-long walk when I got home.

Another successful date night in Jacksonville. Let’s hope a celebratory event comes up soon, so we have an excuse to hit up this special occasion spot for another evening on the town.

The Pier Cantina

The Pier Cantina and Sandbar

  • 412 1st St N, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250

Only 20 minutes from my house is the place that settles my soul: the beach.

It’s funny because for Floridians, 60 degrees isn’t beach weather. It’s nearly fireplace weather. But I did make it to the beach my first few months here and it was abandoned, but in a peaceful way. The ocean still roared, the sand still tickled my feet, and it was a dormant place that was waiting for someone to strike the match that is summer.

Down By The Sea

It was a bit lonely at first. Me and the ocean with the Jax suburbs in between. It was also cold. Only a few degrees colder than Orlando but I wasn’t used to it. And I wasn’t used to so much alone. It made me want to hermit in my apartment. To wear thick sweaters and nestle into the couch. I didn’t want to explore that much because the sun was hiding and the air was too crisp.

Meandering to Jax Beach

One Saturday I meandered to the beach. I decided it was time to check out the boardwalk even though it was somewhat abandoned. The wind whipped at my face, but the air was salty, cool, and pleasant still. I visited The Pier. As summer months crept on I would discover that this was a loud place that filled with beachgoers, but in January, it wasn’t like that yet. I had plenty of seats to choose from. The place is mostly a patio, so I found a spot with some sunlight and settled in for a solo meal.

One bar down at the Wreck Tiki Lounge a beachy guy played guitar, singing beach jams and some reggae tunes. I was in complete adoration for a town that could have live music, nice restaurants, and a beach all clumped together – and so close to my house.

Seafood by the Jacksonville Seashore

I ordered a fish and a steak taco. The best of both worlds. The server brought my chips with killer salsa that I nearly filled up on before my food. My brother and his wife got me into fish tacos. You should see how excited my brother says fish tacos, especially after a day after surfing. I try to share his enthusiasm, but don’t always love that fish taste – even when it’s all blackened and spiced–, so part of it is the experience of trying something new.

These were delicious though. And the steak tacos had big pieces of meat. Later I took some friends there and tried the burritos. Also delicious – but big enough to share with someone (ok they’re giant and some have fries in them!). It’s a teeny bit pricier than other places, but I think it’s worth it. They have a ton of drinks too, but I didn’t see any particularly exciting specials.

Apparently this place becomes a club late at night. But I’ve yet to wait through the long line to check it out. Besides, I think that chilling by the ocean, enjoying some live music and appetizers might be more my speed.

Oh and About The Pier

This place is the quintessential demonstration of location, location, location. It’s central, has a parking lot nearby and is full of summer life. Oh, and it is right near a pier. The pier was longer and in better condition until last Fall when it was hit by Hurricane Matthew. That was right before I showed up. Now some parts of the beach look a little worn down. Next time I move I’ll try not to send a hurricane to clear my path. 🙂

Five Points Tavern
IMG_8577-e1495402617102.jpg

Five Points Tavern

Do cafes ever invite you in as you stroll by? That moment when tumbling architecture stacks down the side of a downtown city street. Between the cluttered intersection of 5 points and the St. Memorial Park on the Saint Johns, sits a sweet cafe with a delicious awning. Walking by you’ll see delicate glassware flirting with the sun’s reflection.

The outside seating spills onto the sidewalk. The edge of the restaurant is sectioned off with the arm of an iron fence. Large terracotta brick tiles decorate the floor and an outdoor bar with a backsplash mirror reflects the faces of afternoon diners.

​European Feeling Cafe on Margaret Street

Five Points Tavern has a European feel. I can pretend the Seine is nearby. The server wears a blue and white striped linen apron and glass milk jars hold water on each table. Easy jazz tunes lounge into the air and invite one to stay awhile. Some days I dine alone. I can visit places that beckon me and observe my surroundings uninterrupted. I see another solo diner, sipping on an IPA and resting with his Boston Terrier in the sidewalk area.

My rose wine is slightly bitter, but pleasant for a warm May afternoon. Sundays like this leave a pleasant space for dreaming.

I can step away from distractions like car shopping, apartment cleaning, work development, and the usual chores of mundane existence. Certainly, a date would accompany this afternoon well, but so would being across from a duomo in Italy I could ascend. Every afternoon allows only so many charms.

How About the Soup and Sammy for Lunch?

The lunch fare here consists of some fun apps, sandwiches, burgers, salads, and two pasta dishes. Not a ton of options, but most look tasty and the atmosphere is so winning I’m inclined to enjoy whatever I may gander.

The romance of this afternoon, with La Vie En Rose filling the breeze, coaxes me to try something light and savory. I choose the soup and sammy. It’s tomato bacon bisque and tasty grilled cheese with a sweet sauce. It’s delightful.

The street here is lined with large trees bending over the sidewalks. Moss, tiny leaves, and palm fronds tremble in the wind and little wooden tables and simple chairs remain stationary in contrast to nature’s movement. My goodness, this soup has a smoky bacon flavor. I just inhaled a mouthful of barbeque smoke.

How often do you travel in your hometown? The world is ripe for your exploring. I’ve just spotted another solo dinner. An elderly woman with a glass of wine sits smoking a cigarette under the shade of a patio umbrella. I’d tip my hat to her if I were wearing one. After all, the derby was yesterday which would make the adornment and gesture completely appropriate.

Where People Are the Scenery

Some of the other diners, the communal ones who’ve brought family, friends, or a lover sip on beverages in these tall elongated martini glasses. I assume it’s a wine spritzer, cranberry mimosa, or other beverage. I hear a cocktail shaker from the bar. It’s only 1 pm but that forbids no diners from libations.

The lunch hour was just interrupted by a gaggle of motorcyclists parading down the street. The weather is perfect for their ride and maybe 70 rode past in an informal procession through 5 Points. The only thing more self-aggrandizing than my blog writing while eating is their go-pros conspicuously attached to their helmets. Let no glorious moments go unseen by the public world of internet followers.

A little girl is exploring the patio, wearing heart sunglasses and holding a purple fluffy toy in her hands. Her family decides to forgo dining at this establishment and canter farther down the sidewalk.

The French music continues to play in the background. Maybe I can believe in travel again. Maybe I can know that I have traveled. That I am discovering a new destination. One where strangers are a friendly bit of the scenery and the walls that prevent me from hearing their inner monologues allow me to imagine only the most pleasant things.

It’s funny. I’m on a screen. My laptop rests before me and I click away at the same qwerty playground as work, but I am present. I am immersed in my surroundings. Another family mumbles past me. 4 and 5-year-old sisters wear matching baseball tees with butterflies. Parents pull children gently toward the tide of the sidewalk. I knew this place would share its secrets with me. I’ve traveled 20 minutes North to become a bird’s eye diner in Riverside.

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