Jacksonville’s Best Restaurants in 2018

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jacksonville restaurant cover

Jacksonville has a lot of restaurants, but I know that the number of options can appear to be overwhelming for some people. I’m making this list of food reviews to help narrow down the choices for people who are indecisive but don’t be afraid to read it nonetheless. My mother was a food critic for many years, so my perception and input may be of value as opposed to someone who only eats purely fast food.

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Regardless, the first Jacksonville restaurant on my list is Gilbert’s Social. The name suggests that the Jacksonville establishment would be something similar to a coffee shop or a nightclub, because of the “social” part. Fret not, as it’s just a Southern-style restaurant. If that’s the opposite of what you were looking for, then stay tuned. I am going to mention multiple types of restaurants in this article.

Gilbert’s Social is located right next to Brackridge in Jacksonville, Florida. Before eating here for the first time, I actually read a lot of great online reviews on Yelp and google. Most of them just commented on how good the food and service were, pretty generic stuff. The ones I was specifically looking for were suggestions for what to order, so I would know what to get. Unfortunately, there were so many different suggestions that I ended having to ask my waitress. She recommended the BBQ sampler, which has been my steady mainstay ever since.

It includes so much different great meat, and honestly, I don’t even remember all of the different things that are included. I usually eat it so fast that I don’t get the opportunity to see it on my plate. Keep in mind that a lot of the food is fried, but if you’re a vegan or you’re dieting there are plenty of things for you to order as well. I also really like the BBQ corn at Gilbert’s Social. Whatever they put in that seasoning is an absolute killer. It’s probably also terrible for my heart, but there’s nothing wrong with a cheat day here and there.

Everything here is amazing, from the brisket to the grilled chicken breast. Once you’re inside, you can look forward to some great interior decorating and lighting. Natural light has its benefits, but if a restaurant can pull off artificial lighting and make it look like real sunlight, I won’t complain. In addition, the music is always kept at a tolerable volume. Enough for you to hold a conversation, at least. I can’t stand eating in restaurants that blast music that I don’t even like, and it forces everyone else to raise their voices in turn.

I never knew this until recently, but a friend of mine who works in a commercial kitchen said that some restaurants like to keep the lights down because it hides the dirt on tables and people won’t notice it. Considering how bright the lights are, I’d say that Gilbert’s Social has nothing to hide when it comes to clean tables and sanitation. Earlier in the review, I mentioned that a lot of Southern food happens to be fried during the cooking process.

It would be vital for Gilbert’s Social to be in close contact with a Jacksonville hood cleaning business, as grease fires are one of the biggest dangers in a restaurant’s commercial kitchen. You might not take my word for it, but there are plenty of other reviews online that agree with me. My thoughts are more articulate and organized, plus I’m a pretty cool guy if I do say so myself.

jacksonville bread and board restaurant

Next up, there’s Bread & Board. This restaurant has more in common with a diner than Gilbert’s Social, but that doesn’t stop the chefs from preparing amazing meals. Here, you’ll be eating somewhat close to Five Points in Jacksonville. I have some pretty boring and simple tastes, so I usually just end up ordering the pesto brisket burger.

It sounds like some weird burger, but the process of making it is simple and it actually involves very few ingredients. All of the ingredients taste super fresh, so I’m not even sure that I would ever want to order anything else. Plus I’m kind of a regular at Bread & Board, so they pretty much automatically order it for me. My wife typically orders the chicken salad sandwich, which she says is very good too.

I’d try some of hers, but pesto’s pretty filling. Both of us wrote very good online reviews after eating here for the first tie, and we definitely look forward to the next time we can find a spot in our schedule. The interior is very roomy and well-lit, so Bread & Board would make the perfect location for a business meeting. I love the breakfast food they serve in the morning. The perfect way to kick off the day.

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Finally, the last restaurant that I’ll be reviewing is The Bearded Pig. The name makes it sound like something you would see in a freak show or circus, but the food here is on par with the best restaurants in Jacksonville. The Bearded Pig is also only a few blocks away from the St. Johns River, so you’re in for some beautiful scenery.

This is yet another restaurant that serves BBQ food, but The Bearded Pig also serves a wide variety of sandwiches. I’m a sucker for pulled pork sliders, so I can never say no to the waitress. In fact, the waiters and waitresses are what set this restaurant apart from all of the others in Jacksonville.

All of the waiters are super friendly and helpful, and if you eat here enough (as I did) then they will come to learn your name. Restaurants that make you feel like you’re wanted automatically earn bonus points. Again, you’ll come to see that a recurring theme across all of my favorite restaurants is their mountains of positive online reviews.

In the end, I’m still having trouble deciding which restaurant was my favorite. There’s only three that I talked about, so it shouldn’t be that hard to decide, but each one of them is so great in its own special way. Sounds pretty corny, I know.

My Top Four Favorite Tampa Restaurants

tampa jamaican restaurant

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I’ve always lived in Tampa, and I’ll always love it. Not many people think about food when they decide to come here on vacation, so I have taken it as my duty to change that. I have professional experience as a food critic, so my opinion is not one to be taken lightly.

tampa jamaican restaurant

First up, there’s my favorite restaurant in Tampa: Yah Mon. Yah Mon is a Caribbean restaurant, which I personally think is a very unique style of cuisine. It doesn’t take much to serve regular old American food or Latin food. If you had to ask someone to name a Caribbean restaurant that they’ve been to, I’m sure they would be at a loss for words. This restaurant is located in Hyde Park in Tampa, right next to the waterfront, and they serve the best Jamaican food I’ve ever eaten. If it’s your first time eating there, make sure to order the curry chicken and the fried plantains, or “maduros”. To kick off the review, I’ll talk even more about their food.

The menu is filled with tons of things to order, so you can even bring your picky kids. Everything on the menu is modestly priced, so don’t be afraid to order whatever you want. If you want to try everything on Yah Mon’s menu, it will take more than a few visits. Trust me. The chefs make sure that you’re full before you leave, and the food is already really filling, to begin with. In addition, the service here is also very good. In fact, this might be one of the most professional restaurants I have eaten at.

The waiters are always respectful and make sure your glass is always full, but they don’t pester you like flies while you’re trying to enjoy your meal. When I ate here for the first time, the waiter was very helpful in letting me know what customers have enjoyed in the past. Now I’ve been there so many times that I’m essentially a regular. If you do decide to bring your kids, don’t worry about them getting their hands dirty or touching gum under the table or anything like that. Yah Mon is also one of the cleanest restaurants I’ve eaten at in Tampa, and their kitchen is just as clean.

One time I asked the owner if I could take a look inside the kitchen as he was making his rounds around the restaurant, and he agreed without hesitation. I looked all over in their kitchen and couldn’t find anything with visible dirt on it. Even the kitchen’s grease trap was clean, which lead me to believe that it had been cleaned that day. After all, with all of the items on the menu that are fried, you know there’s gonna be grease in the air.

I’ll have to ask the owner which Tampa hood cleaning business they get their spotless exhaust hoods from, so I can recommend them to other restaurant owners I know in Tampa. Believe it or not, Yah Mon is actually Tampa’s highest-rated Caribbean restaurant. Look at all of their amazing reviews online if you don’t believe me. Always a pleasure to dine here.

tampa restaurant lobster

Next, a trip to Tampa wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t visit a great steakhouse before leaving. Black Rock Bar & Grill gives the feel of a super high-class steakhouse, but doesn’t expect you to pay top dollar for the same quality of service as one. This restaurant is found by Cedar Hollow in Tampa. Although it’s a steakhouse, my absolute favorite item on the menu is their lobster bisque. Every time I order it, I can taste how fresh all of the ingredients are. It’s probably not that difficult to procure fresh seafood, since Florida is so close to the coast. Black Rock Bar & Grill doesn’t skimp either, always giving me a big lobster claw.

I’ve been to a few restaurants in Miami where my meal cost upwards of $100 and I get a piece of lobster the size of a sushi roll. It surprised me that they can offer such quality food at affordable prices and still manage to stay in business, but I guess it helps that the place is always packed. Don’t worry about being crowded though, because the interior is very roomy open. As busy as the restaurant always gets, the owner always manages to find me a spot.

Probably because I’ve eaten at this restaurant so many times that he knows me by name now. I’m sure my words are enough to convince any of you stragglers, but if you’re still on the fence then just check Yelp or any other review site. I looked at google’s reviews section before eating at Black Rock Bar & Grill for the first time, and I didn’t believe the amazing online reviews at first. I do now.

tampa restaurant potato dish

On Swann is my go-to place whenever I get bored with the other restaurants, and it always hits the spot. Not only a restaurant, the chefs also specialize in desserts. In my opinion, the tomahawk pork chop is the single best item on the menu. On Swann serves some unique food, like parm zeppole with whipped ricotta corn dip. I was actually kind of scared to order it at first because it sounds so strange, but there has never been a time where I was disappointed with this restaurant’s food.

Here’s another restaurant in the Hyde Park area of Tampa, right next to the shoreline. If you wanted to take your dessert to go, you could even walk along the beach and look at all the boats launching from the dock. I love On Swann’s open-air kitchen because it fascinates me to watch chefs prepare food. Also, the interior is well decorated to the point where I would bring food in from any other place just to eat it inside this restaurant.

Not that I would want to eat another restaurant’s food, considering how good these desserts are. I left my great online review after eating here for the first time, and it would be nice if I could leave positive online reviews after each time I enjoyed Swann’s food since then. There would be a LOT of reviews, though.