Restaurant Review: Surfer [The Bar]

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by Damon Noisette // photos by Agnes Lopez

It might not be the first place that comes to mind when listing the world’s most famous surf spots, but for the uninitiated, it can be surprising to discover the rich wave-riding history of Jacksonville Beach. The original surfers who caught waves near the old wooden pier at 6th Ave. would probably feel some pride to see their town claim the first Surfer, [The Bar] in the lower 48 after Surfer Magazine opened its maiden location in Oahu on Hawaii’s famous North Shore.

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Ramen noodle burrito

Surfer, [The Bar] sits right at the corner of 1st St. and 1st Ave. N. in Jacksonville Beach, across from the Seawalk Pavilion in what was home to the Lynyrd Skynyrd-associated Freebird Live nightclub. Greg Saig, managing partner of the Salt Life Food Shack restaurant just up 3rd St., has partnered with Surfer Magazine to develop a dozen locations along the coasts of Florida and California that capture the vibe of their respective beaches.

Surfer is the kind of place you can visit for almost any beach day scenario: coming directly off the sand and hungry for a quick bite, hanging out in the area and looking for a place to grab a drink, or in search of some weekend musical entertainment. The more than 8,000-square-foot building is split into distinct spaces that contribute to a free-flowing beach vibe. A downstairs bar area has a large video wall with a loop of local surf videos and live streams of surfing events while the upstairs bar is more club-like, with a DJ booth near the balcony, seating that offers a view of the ocean, as well as breezes coming in off the water. Everything is family-friendly until the late evening, where the crowd shifts to legal drinking age only.

Surfer has a simple and solid street food style menu with a mix of Polynesian, Baja and Asian influences. To order, you step up to a 1962 Airstream trailer in the back, repurposed in the style of a food truck. There is a whole selection of tacos, ranging from chicken ($2.99), short rib ($3.99), marinated mahi-mahi ($3.99), ahi tuna ($4.99), and Portobello mushroom for the vegetarians ($2.99).

For those set on using utensils, there are rice or ramen bowls ($7.99) with a choice of protein: chicken, short rib, shrimp or Ahi tuna. Other options include handhelds like the Ramen noodle burrito ($7.99) and dippables like guacamole ($4.99) and a shrimp and hearts of palm ceviche ($5.49). Word is the pet-friendly outdoor eating area is soon to be upgraded with a tiki bar, and the Sunday brunch menu will expand to offer an array of breakfast burritos ($5.99) and bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas ($20).

Come As You Are • Whether you still have sand on your feet or you’re dressed for a night out in Jax Beach, there are a variety of spots to settle in for a drink or a bite without standing out.

No Need to Wait • There isn’t table service, so head over to the Airstream trailer on the ground floor and put in an order. They’ll call you when it’s ready.

Stay for the Music • A mix of local and international musicians play on the downstairs stage along with DJs upstairs every Friday and Saturday night from 9:30 PM to 1:30 AM.

Surfer [The Bar] • 200 1st St. N. • 904-372-9756surferthebar.com