by Damon Noisette // photos by Agnes Lopez
TOP CHEF ALUM KENNY GILBERT brings his menu of complex interpretations of Southern food and smoked barbecue from Fernandina Beach to the Southside at his second Northeast Florida restaurant, Gilbert’s Social.
Kenny and his wife Anna opened Gilbert’s Social in late August, and it shares a distinct vibe with their Fernandina joint, Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen. Dishes are meant for sharing and drinks are served in mason jars. The dining room manages to be both cozy and spacious at the same time, with just 52 seats, a soaring ceiling and an open kitchen.
With a résumé a country mile long, Gilbert has had notable stints at Ritz-Carlton resorts, as well as an impressive competition record on the TV chefing circuit. He advanced deep in season seven of Top Chef, scored a win on Alton Brown’s Cutthroat Kitchen, and in May, Gilbert bested Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay with his chicken and dumplings.
The menu features a blend of cultural fusions but opting for the more traditionally Southern appetizers like the skillet cornbread and jalapeño drop biscuits ($8) is a sure thing. Gilbert’s incredible duo of beef brisket and burnt ends ($25) made their way down A1A, though it’s unfortunate his alligator ribs are still only available north of town. Luckily the array of house-made barbecue sauces are on tap at both restaurants.
The fried chicken ($20) comes hot or not, and half a chicken is plenty to share. Larger groups would be well-served to order the ultimate sampler ($45), a huge meat plate of pulled pork, grilled andouille sausage, pork loin, turkey drums, brisket, jerk chicken drums and more.
The lunch menu skews more towards barbecue, with sandwiches of pulled pork ($8), brisket ($11), burnt ends ($13) and fried catfish ($15). Gilbert’s Social even offers a heady kids menu at dinner service with dishes like beef stroganoff ($11), smoked turkey noodle soup ($5) and saut.ed local shrimp ($12); it’s not just mac and cheese, though that kid-friendly staple is an option ($9).
Having room left for dessert could be a challenge, but the Kentucky Derby pie ($8) satisfies both the sweet tooth and the desire for an after-dinner drink with its candied pecan and bourbon flavor.
Plan Ahead With less than 60 seats, a reservation via OpenTable or by phone is recommended. The eatery is closed all day on Monday and on Sunday evenings.
Gluten-free Friendly A fair number of items on the menu are gluten-free or can be prepared sans gluten.
Going With U If you’re traveling north on Southside Boulevard you’ll be able to turn right in, otherwise you’ll need to make a u-turn at the Hogan Road intersection.
4021 Southside Blvd., Southside