// by Damon Noisette
Not many restaurants have a mission statement on their website, but chef Matt Gilligan’s 904 Restaurant does, and the cover of his menu has an involved exposition on the farm-to-table movement, with the word “local” appearing frequently. In keeping with its philosophy, 904 seems committed to purchasing the bulk of its ingredients from inside the 904 area code, and while that means some favorites may disappear from the menu (no turnip croquettes for us this time), diners can at least be certain that their meals will be comprised of fresh and seasonal items.
Located in the Penman Square commercial strip towards the south end of Penman Road, the thoroughfare that connects Jacksonville Beach to Atlantic Beach, 904 Restaurant is a casual spot with light wood tables and booths along the walls, accommodating a little over 80 diners. The kitchen is open to the dining room and patrons at the bar have a front row seat to all of the action; those seated in the booths on the south wall can peruse a selection of house made jams and relishes available to take home ($7-$9).
Our recent visit started with the grilled local sausage appetizer ($9), sourced from the legendary Azar Sausage Company. The sausage was intensely flavorful and came sliced thin with grilled onions and red peppers and paired with a bold, creamy lemon datil aioli. The buttermilk fried chicken slider ($5) is a great value for diners with a small appetite; it comes with French fries and is topped with lettuce, tomato and a smooth dijonnaise.
The fresh catch special for that evening—a hog snapper topped with a garlic and chive champagne cream sauce ($28)—was my selection and it hit the table expertly seared. My mac and cheese side was a bit more mac and panko than cheese, but I happily focused my attention on the large snapper filet and the accompanying fresh broccoli.
My companion chose the South Georgia chicken entrée ($14), a deboned, pan-seared Joyce Farms chicken breast with a wing drummette attached, served over a bed of red mashed potatoes. She hoped for a little more gravy and seasoning, but the inclusion of the drummette did in fact keep the chicken moist.
The service was excellent throughout our meal, even with every seat at the bar and table in the restaurant occupied on a Tuesday night.
Never ones to shy away from dessert, my companion and I split the chocolate chip bread pudding with ice cream ($6) and were glad we did. The bread pudding had a fantastic crunch that is oftentimes missing in the dessert.
1289 Penman Rd., Jacksonville Beach; 372-7562; 904restaurant.com
Hours: Mon.-Tue., 11:30 AM-9:30 PM; Wed.-Thu., 11:30 AM-9:30 PM; Fri.-Sat., 11:30 AM-10 PM
Prices: Appetizers: $5-$10; Lunch: $6-$14; Dinner: $9-$28
Local Brew: A selection of craft beers from breweries such as Aardwolf, Engine 15 and Veterans United are available on draught ($5). The wine selection incorporates options from domestic brands with sustainable growing practices and even a few made with organic grapes ($7-10 a glass; $28-60 a bottle).
Check Facebook: With its emphasis on local and seasonal foods, 904’s Facebook page is the best place to see the newest menu additions and nightly specials.
Call Ahead: The restaurant is not on OpenTable, so calling ahead or using the website form is the only way to get on the reservations list.