The First Coast has been making waves lately in regards to its culinary breakthroughs with no signs of backing down. As new and unique eateries continue to make a scene in Amelia Island, Jacksonville and St. Augustine, visitors looking to add a little spice to their palette have a plethora of options that’ll send them on a trip to the other side of the world.
Amelia Island is a quiet retreat for those looking for an easy and romantic trip to the beach. Nestled on the island are a variety of new and beloved restaurants that offer one-of-a-kind dining experiences. Voted as having the “most romantic dinner” on Amelia Island, España Restaurant and Tapas offers a Spanish culinary experience like no other. Specializing in flavors from Spain and Portugal, España’s menu features small plates that pack intense flavor. The paella dishes are fan favorites, and patrons can order for one, two or four. The Paella Marinera features a seafood medley of clams, shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari and fresh fish for the perfect island dinner.
For a more laid-back atmosphere, give the Salty Pelican Bar and Grill a try. Known for its seafood and beautiful view overlooking the Amelia River, the Salty Pelican makes for an easy lunch or dinner for those wishing to enjoy the local scene at a more casual pace. Catch the sunset or a Sunday football game while enjoying the Fish and Shrimp Duo with a side of deliciously crispy onion rings and a cold beer. The Seared Tuna BLT, prepared rare, is also a signature item and uniquely exquisite on its own.
South of Amelia Island is the metropolitan mecca of Northeast Florida—Jacksonville. A massive city full of nationalities, this melting pot of the southeast has arguably one of the most interesting culinary scenes in the state.
One breakthrough cuisine is barbecue. Once associated with states like North Carolina and Texas, barbecue has made its way to Florida, with Jacksonville leading the pack. Mojo Bar-B-Que has been a local favorite for years, with several locations scattered across the First Coast. Its smoky flavor, homemade sides and quick service make Mojo the ideal barbecue destination for lunch and dinner.
Begin your meal with the smoked chicken nachos before diving into the main attraction. Order the two-meat combo to get the full effect. Can’t decide on just two? Order the Whole Hog for the table and have your pick of ribs, chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket, turkey breast and smoked sausage served with four sides. Top it all off with one of Mojo’s perfectly curated sauces and you’ve found yourself in barbecue heaven.
Greek food on this side of the United States may seem like a challenge to find, but Jacksonville serves up a delicious Mediterranean scene for those looking for classic Grecian flavors. Taverna Yamas Greek Cuisine offers a fresh menu with a wide array of Greek specialties, seafood, steak and housemade desserts. With its family-style offerings, large parties are more than welcome to dine and enjoy lively entertainment.
Don’t miss authentic belly dancing shows each Friday and Saturday evening as you dine on Grouper Plaki—fresh grouper with tomatoes, onions, garlic and white wine served with spinach leek rice—or the signature lamb chops, marinated with fresh herbs and garlic.
Last on our culinary wonderland list is the oldest city in the United States—St. Augustine. Named the South’s Best Food City by Southern Living for 2019, St. Augustine has more than tourist attractions and beautiful beaches to offer residents and visitors.
One cuisine that has survived the test of time is that of the Minorcans, who first settled in St. Augustine in 1777. A Minorcan-focused restaurant may be tricky to find, but many eateries offer inspired dishes that pull classic flavors from this important group. We recommend stopping in for dinner at Catch 27 and ordering the ever-popular Minorcan Seafood Chowder. Celebrate the heritage by feasting on this unique dish made with spicy clams, fish and bacon in a red chowder sauce.
Finally, it’s no surprise that the First Coast features endless Southern feasting options. Find authentic Southern food with a modern twist at The Floridian, and discover classic, down-home dishes with First Coast flair. Using local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients, The Floridian is a local favorite.
One of the go-to dishes is the ‘N Waffles with slow-smoked barbecued pulled pork served atop crunchy cornmeal waffles. Bourbon-brown sugar fruit, local honey, house buttermilk ricotta and candied pecans top this South-inspired favorite that will give you the faint reminder of grandma’s house.
No matter the cuisine you’re craving, Amelia Island, Jacksonville and St. Augustine all have just what you’re looking for in a meal. Take the drive to these culinary wonderlands for a delicious outing you’ll rave about back home.