Food and Fun in Jacksonville, Florida

Articles and Photos by Theresa St. John

If it’s a stay at the shoreline you need, Jacksonville, Florida has many vacation rentals to choose from. Up and down that stretch of beach, you can decide from any array of cottages, single-family homes, apartments or ultra-modern condos.

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Here are some hidden gems you can enjoy during your visit to a destination that is both beach and city.
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Metro Diner

Driving into the parking lot, reading their motto: “Where the locals eat,” made us excited to go in and grab a seat. We were early– it wasn’t even 9 am yet, but the place was already hopping. Instantly, we felt as if we were in a friend’s home. The aromas of breakfast food wafted through the main dining rooms from the kitchen in the back. The menu was extensive making it hard to decide what we wanted. We chatted with the wait staff and Daniel DeLeon, the owner, until our food arrived and was placed on the long tables in front of us.On one wall of the diner, t-shirts were pinned up for sale and a large chalk board listed the specials of the day in colorful block and script lettering.

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Everyone seemed to know someone; we heard laughter and happy chatter all around us. In the end, the fried chicken and waffles dish was the number one hit. Yo Halla on the Square –two slices of Challah bread stuffed with mixture of bananas, brown sugar, cream cheese and hazlenut syrup, prepared like french toast and topped with blueberry / strawberry compote rating a close second, it was impossible to make a bad choice.
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Ocean 60

You can sit in the main dining room, which is more intimate, or choose the more laid-back martini room, where live music is upbeat and the dance floor is full on the weekends. Rooms are separated by open windows and feature the artwork of Enrique Mora, whose paintings are bright– pulsating the oomph of island life. Chef Daniel and his wife are a team that’s won numerous awards, including Florida’s top 500, the Golden Spoon award and Jacksonville Magazine’s top 25. After a delicious and fun evening there, I understood why.Above and to the left, Ocean 60 serves up delicious food and drinks. To the right, Zeta master craftsman Chris Prevatt stands in front of his seven-barrel brewing system. Below a close up of he barrels and a delightful wings dish from Zeta.

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If you want a cool place, with a cool hip vibe and a flight of beer, Zeta Brewing is the place to go. The menu is casual with enough burgers, flats, chicken dishes and specialty pizzas to whet anyone’ appetite. Zeta opened as a restaurant initially and added the brewery a few months later. As a master craftsman, Chris Prevatt creates flavorful ales in his seven-barrel system.

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Joe’s Crab Shack

Personality? You’ll find it here! The wait staff dances to upbeat music during dinner and shouts “Shark Bite!” when they serve the fruity drink to visitors. It has an informal atmosphere, most  of the meals are scrumptious seafood dishes, brought over in buckets. Funny sayings penned onto bibs are worn while eating corn-on-thecob, crab legs and lobster.

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Casa Marina’s Penthouse Lounge

The Penthouse Lounge is the only outside bar along this 40 mile stretch of sandy beach, that boasts a panoramic view of the ocean and a list of 10 plus martinis.The menu features savory appetizers, salads and tapas, with a side of live music on Wednesday nights or Sunday afternoons. Definitely a place you need to check out while vacationing.

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Things to Do in Jacksonville

The Beaches Museum & History Park

Its sole purpose is to preserve the history of Jacksonville’s beach communities. Originally a research facility, the museum soon became the place where residents arrived with a vast heritage of their own, donating treasured memories to the museum, realizing the importance in keeping the area’s past alive. Today, Christine Hoffman, executive director of the museum, takes pride in making the establishment run smoothly, as she should. It runs like a well-oiled machine; docents guide visitors around the grounds, where historical architecture, stone memorials and a 28-ton steam locomotive from 1911 are on display. Inside the large, two-story building, painted a sunny yellow, there are many exhibits. During my visit, there was an art show, featuring twin sisters Heather and Holly Blanton natives of Northeast Florida, whose work separately and together was simply amazing. A permanent video/slide show and historical timeline began with a seated presentation and a walking tour that meandered through several rooms with displays from the beginning of this beach community to present day life.

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American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps

Since 1912, when it was still referred to as Pablo Beach, men and women alike have successfully completed 12 weeks of vigorous training to become a member of “The Corps,” with the title of surfman. They patrol the beaches, sometimes on foot, or seated at their stations along the beach and sometimes while using binoculars, surveying the shoreline from atop the Peg. Mr. George Hapsis, a Jacksonville Beach native, kept us busy for hours and shared the rich history of his career as a lifeguard, as well as the evolution of the Corp itself. Gordon VanDusen, a younger generation of the American Red Cross Lifesaving Corps, took us through the WWII era building and, explained the timeline of the American Red Cross, here on the beach. We even got to climb the tower and the view of the shore and surrounding area was surreal. Walking tours are available to the public.

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Jax Beach

Jacksonville Beach has it all– surfing or paddle boarding, swimming or beach volleyball, or casting your line off of the historic fishing pier while hoping to catch the big one, the list of activities here is a long one. You can play a round of golf on the redesigned golf course during the day or walk for miles along the sandy beaches. Catch some rays while snorkeling, or plunking yourself own in a lounge chair to just read a great book. It’s all about down-time here at Jax Beach. Sometimes you’ll catch sight of dolphins, playing in the surf. A tour with Dolphin Safari can get you even closer. You can choose to take yoga classes on the beach, or rent a bike and watch the sunrise while riding along the shore.

TheresaSJTheresa St. John is a travel writer and photographer based in Saratoga Springs, New York. Her images can be found on various stock sites and they sell as fine art. She works closely with restaurants on food styling images and is published in many local magazines and on-line magazines. She works with Chambers of Commerce writing tourism articles when visiting their areas. Theresa has two wonderful sons and is “Nonnie” to a number of rescue animals. Read more about Theresa’s adventures on her blog.

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  1. Airbnb Clone Script says:

    Everyone like being in control of the booking process. See where people are traveling, all around the world. Anyway, thank you very much for this post.!


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