Best in Jax 2017

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// photos by Agnes Lopez

Each year, we ask readers to offer their input on the best of the best in the River City. Though trends come and go, excellent service, quality products and attention to detail are always in style, and the winners of our poll consistently tick off all those boxes. Featured here are Jacksonville Magazine readers’ picks for the best places to eat, drink, shop and relax in Northeast Florida in 2017.

Jump to: Food | Shopping | Beauty | Kids | Entertainment and Recreation | Best of the Neighborhoods

Food

 


New Restaurant
South Kitchen + Spirits
The construction of the new building on Park Street was the source of much anticipation in the summer of 2016. Now that it’s open, the Southern-eats-inspired restaurant whose menu consists of tasty American standards—burgers, biscuits and cornbread, oysters, chicken pot pie, banana pudding, the list goes on—is still getting plenty of attention. “It seems like we have a lot of people looking at us but we’re here doing our thing,” says bar manager Dylan Williams. “We’re not really trying to compete. We want to keep doing our best.” So what’s their best? According to Williams, it’s the fish and grits: a plate of catfish, grits and collard greens “that will make you cry.”

Special Occasion Restaurant
Orsay
Intimate, chic and refined—French bistro Orsay has all the ingredients for a romantic anniversary dinner or lively birthday celebration. (If you’re thinking more romantic than lively, we suggest requesting a table in the front dining room, as the bar area isn’t as cozy.) Start with foie gras or escargot, move on to the filet mignon or duck breast, and don’t skip the cocktails. If you let the staff know it’s a special occasion, they might even stop by with some champagne or creme brulée on the house.

Moxie

Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails

Appetizers
Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails
There’s a lot to love at Moxie, from the modern building to the cool cocktails, but our readers are big fans of the appetizers. And who wouldn’t be, with their stylish comfort-food appeal—blue fin crab cakes over a bed of arugula, frisée and pickled fennel, and topped with yuzu aioli and citrus vinaigrette (above), cheddar biscuit tots sprinkled with BBQ dust and house-smoked trout dip.

Local Craft Brews
Intuition
Now that it’s moved to its new digs in Downtown Jax, with its rooftop beer garden, pub eats from BLK SHP and expanded production and event space, Intuition is the brewery to beat in this city. One can find flagship brews I-10 IPA and Jon Boat in cans around town, but that view from the roof with an only-at-the-brewery pint in hand is worth the drive. Try the All Night Diner, a BBQ breakfast stout brewed with smoked malt, rolled oats, wheat, pure maple syrup and Bold Bean coffee.

Pizza • Chicken Wings
V Pizza
For the second year in a row, V Pizza brought home both the pizza and chicken wings categories. Both are roasted in V’s Neapolitan-style 900-degree ovens, coming out fast, hot and a little charred around the edges. It’ll be pretty hard to choose between these two winners, so we suggest the pizza alla di pollo—V’s chicken wing pizza. It’s topped with caramelized onions, gorgonzola, mozzarella and chicken marinated in lemon, olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic.

Burger
M Shack
The burger-and-a-shake restaurant model is becoming a more crowded field all the time, but M Shack is a standout. There’s not much room for improvement here, as menu items such as the Insanity Burger, two beef patties in between two grilled cheese sandwiches, and the Swamp Burger, topped with pulled pork, BBQ sauce, pickles, Swiss cheese and ranch coleslaw, are deliciously over-the-top and go great with an Oreo cheesecake milkshake.

Mexican
Tacolu
Just accept right now that you’re going to have to wait a while for a table, because the line at TacoLu is always out the door. But it’s going to be worth it. Fresh ingredients that aren’t usually found on a Mexican restaurant menu (around here anyway), such as brisket, tempeh, swordfish and ahi tuna, are staples at “The Lu.” We suggest ordering an array of the tacos—don’t miss the Carne Royale with carne asada, brie and grape salsa—to get the full experience. And an order of street corn. And a margarita.

Sushi
Kazu
Don’t be fooled by its strip mall exterior—Kazu is the River City sushi standard. Items like the Spectrum Roll (tuna, salmon, yellowtail & avocado, lightly torched with Japanese mayo & spicy mayo and topped with tobiko, rich crunchy and scallion, drizzled with a sweet wasabi sauce… it’s a mouthful) and the sushi burritos set the eatery apart. “The sushi burrito has been around the West Coast for a while, and I wanted to bring it to Jacksonville,” says owner David Chen. He recommends the poké-poké burrito, “it has the best ingredients.”

dreamette

Dreamette

Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt
Dreamette
Dreamette has operated in Murray Hill since 1948, and in that time they’ve perfected the soft-serve ice cream cone. A new location opened last year in Neptune Beach, bestowing a local option for milkshakes and cake batter-dipped cones upon the beachgoing masses who only had fro-yo and national chains before. #blessed.

Seafood
Safe Harbor
Now that they don’t have to make the drive out to Mayport every time the craving hits for a fried shrimp basket or mahi sandwich, Jaxsons are taking full advantage. The Jax Beach location of longtime favorite Safe Harbor is never without a line backed at least halfway down the walkway, and parking can get a little hairy during peak hours. But one look at that view of the Intracoastal and the golden-fried fish in front of you, and all stress is forgotten.

Pho
Bowl of Pho
There are a handful of eateries in town that serve pho, the Vietnamese soup of silky broth, noodles, herbs and meat which seems to be growing in popularity all the time. Bowl of Pho takes top honors in our poll. A popular choice is the P1, the “Bowl of Pho special,” a hearty pool of broth with rare beef, beef flank, brisket, tendon, tripe and meatballs, topped with all the accompanying accoutrements.

Gluten Free menu
Sweet Theory Baking Co.
Though there are more gluten-free items popping up on menus these days, gluten free desserts are still somewhat few and far between. That’s not the case at Sweet Theory, a small Riverside bakery where many of the decadent cupcakes, cookie sandwiches and coffee cakes are sans gluten. Bonus—most items are made with no nuts or dairy, either. Try this: the stretch pants cupcake. The donuts are tempting, but they’re not gluten free.

Vegetarian/Vegan
Native Sun Natural Foods Market
It can be hard out here for a vegan. Sometimes it’s a bowl of lettuce or nothing. Native Sun’s deli is a dependable option for something much more interesting. Sure, they have salads, but the menu offers a wide selection of sandwiches and wraps for non-meat-eaters like the Native club with tofurkey and tempeh and the house tofu Reuben, and funkier choices such as the sweet potato quesadilla if you’re feelin’ spicy.

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India's Restaurant

Indian
India’s Restaurant
Curry enthusiasts pile their fluffy naan with tandoor specialities such as the chicken tikka and sag paneer at this simply decorated Southside eatery. We bet you can’t eat just one of the Indian twist on chips and salsa that come to your table while you wait for your piping hot curry. Don’t pass on the lunch buffet if you’re on that side of town—or even if you’re not, as it’s worth the drive for some of that kheer.

Southern Cuisine
Gilbert’s Social
Southern food is a full-fledged trend across the country, and a lot of imitators design their restaurants to look like a country kitchen and still turn out dry cornbread. You’ll find authentic Southern fare with a dramatic flair at Gilbert’s Social, housed in a decidedly un-trendy orange building—because the food is what’s important. Try the burnt ends platter with cheese grits and cornbread dressing.

Brunch
Black Sheep
There’s no shortage of brunch in this town, but Black Sheep’s takes the (pan)cake. Standards like mimosas, sausage, bacon and country ham sit alongside chicken liver mousse, cardamom pancakes, and truffled Black Hog Farms egg toast with fontina cheese. Sit on the rooftop patio for a great view if the weather’s nice.

Thai
Indochine
Bustling Thai bistro Indochine is a perennial favorite on our poll, and it’s easy to see why. One can’t go wrong with any of the flavorful curries, noodles and soups, and the summer rolls and curry-infused crab rangoons are decidedly not like the ones in your Chinese take-out order. By the way: Spice level five is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned.

French Fries
Cruiser’s
It looks as though Cruiser’s has weathered its PR nightmare from earlier this year, as our readers are still keen on the burger joint’s fries. Ordering them plain is one way to go, as they’re always the perfect blend of crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. But if you don’t experience Cruiser’s fries piled high with cheddar, bacon, chives and jalapenos, and dipped in ranch dressing at least once in your life, you’re really missing out.

Barbecue
Mojo BBQ
With smoked chicken, pulled pork, brisket and spare ribs on offer, Mojo has all the trimmings for a spicy, smoky feast. The appetizers, platters, salads and sandwiches—try the Smitty, with beef brisket and smoked sausage covered in cheddar and mustard sauce—never disappoint, and the cocktails, many made with Mojo’s huge selection of whiskeys, are in a class by themselves.

Pinegrove Market & Deli

Pinegrove Market & Deli

Lunch
Pinegrove Market & Deli
One word to describe Pinegrove around lunchtime? Busy. But since we have space for a few more words, we’ll start with the open kitchen, from which burgers, rider sandwiches and Mediterranean-inspired sides like tabouli and hummus fly. Not to mention the meat counter, which almost always has a few patrons perusing the steak choices. Try this: The Greek, a house ground lamb burger seasoned with spices and topped with tabouli and feta, and a glass of lemonade.

Italian
Il Desco
At the corner of Park and King in a historic building sits Il Desco, a “modern Italian” eatery. Think Italian sausage orecchiette, not spaghetti and meatballs. Entrées such as rabbit lasagna and short rib bolognese and pizzas including the Brussels, topped with pancetta, roasted Brussels sprouts, garlic purée and pecorino Romano, drive this motto home with sophistication ­and style.

Breakfast
Metro Diner
There are plenty of worthy contenders for this category in town, but Metro Diner is a French toast- stuffing, strawberry butter-dolloping, sour cream-drizzling powerhouse. If you’re not in the mood for Yo Hala on the Square, fried chicken and waffles or huevos rancheros, there’s always an even crazier daily blackboard special. They’ve got scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy and lox and bagels too, but… why?

Dessert
Biscottis
When you walk into Biscottis, the first thing you see is that dessert case. At that moment you know no matter what dinner you choose, you’re going to need to save room for some of that. Coconut cake, Grand Marnier cake, key lime cheesecake, mini eclairs, croissant bread pudding, the list goes on. Our tip? Make sure everyone at your table orders something different, and then pass around the plates so you can try them all.

Bakery
Cinotti's
There aren’t too many bakeries like Cinotti's left in Jax—if any. It’s been around for more than 50 years, and some of their offerings are like time capsules in pastry form. The shortbread cookies with colorful sprinkles, old-fashioned doughnuts and seasonally decorated cupcakes take patrons back to a simpler time.

Steakhouse
Ruth’s Chris
Ruth’s Chris is nationally known for its white tablecloths and red meats, and though it might not truly be local, it’s a local favorite. The focus here is on steaks and chops served sizzling on a 500-degree plate and bountiful sides of lobster mac, creamed spinach and sweet potato casserole. Get the porterhouse for two if you feel like sharing… or if you’re just really hungry.

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The Happy Grilled Cheese

Food Truck
The Happy Grilled Cheese
Sure, the line for The Happy Grilled Cheese is usually the longest one at a food truck gathering, but it’s also the best food truck around, according to our poll. The long-awaited brick-and-mortar location is said to be coming to Downtown soon, but there’s no word yet on an official opening date. Until then, you’ll have to follow the truck around town to get your mac and cheese melt fix. Don’t forget the tomato soup.

Guys Night Out
TopGolf
If you’ve been intrigued by the enormous netting and colorful targets while driving by on I-295, but still aren’t sure what Topgolf is all about, here’s a summary: It’s like a bowling alley, but golf. The guys can perfect their swing until 2 AM on weekends while sipping a local brew and sitting on a comfy couch. And aiming for the targets offers a little more thrill than hitting a ball in the hot sun, then chasing it down a fairway again.

Girls Night Out
Flying Iguana
With live music every weekend, unpretentious ambiance, charming bar and waitstaff, guacamole made tableside and bottles of tequila, Flying Iguana was made for a fun night out with the girls. Try this: the crispy pork belly taco—the pork is glazed with rum and Coke and topped with watermelon, cotija cheese and pickled onion—complemented with a watermelon bliss margarita (pictured left) and a plantains foster to share.

Singles Spot
The Ritz
If you’re single and looking for someone easy-going who likes to drink beer, dance and play pool, look no further than The Ritz. The crowd at this Beaches landmark is a good mix of ages and social groups—you’re likely to meet surfer dudes, cougars, businesspeople and club rats on any night of the week. Try this: Buy ‘em an Arnold Balmer (sweet tea vodka dropped into a Tropical Yellow Red Bull) and offer to pay for a game of foosball.

Hipster Hangout
Birdies
If you’re searching for a place filled with plaid-clad bearded men drinking PBR, look no further than Birdies. This unpretentious Five Points spot packs ‘em in with its cool front patio for prime people-watching and diverse music selection. Though it might seem that sleeve tattoos are a must here, you can try to fit in by drinking one of the craft beers the bar has on tap.

Shrimp & Grits
North Beach, Julington Creek & Palm Valley Fish Camps
Shrimp and grits is about as essential to a local menus as it gets, as one can find it on menus across town. The chefs at the Fish Camps have perfected the recipe, though, according to our readers. “We do our grits in a really creamy style and we make every pan fresh for the order. The freshness makes it really delicious,” says Palm Valley Fish Camp manager Kate Dunton. “We serve about 40 or 50 dishes in a day.” Save us one, please.

Bar
Sidecar
For the third year in a row, Sidecar has taken our top honor for its expertly mixed drinks and laid-back atmosphere. The dimly lit lounge feels miles away from bustling and bright V Pizza, though the two are separated only by a door. But pizza goes well with a La Buena Vida (Vida mezcal, Ancho Reyes, pineapple, chorizo, lime, celery bitters) or Dr. Bombay’s Mule (Sobieski, Cardamaro, turbo, Garam Masala, lime, ginger beer). Hey, bartender!

Bold Bean

Bold Bean

Wine Shop
Riverside Liquors
If you’re looking for a certain bottle of wine, there’s a good chance they have it in the extensive selection at Riverside Liquors. And the speakeasy-style bar and restaurant in the back is a great place to pop the cork once you’ve found the right vintage. Free wine tastings are offered on Friday nights from 5-8 PM, just in case you’re not quite sure which label to purchase next.

Wine list
Royal Palm Village Wine & Tapas
Royal Palm stocks 1,200 bottles of wine and more than 200 craft beers, a lot for an unassuming Atlantic Beach joint. Have a seat at the bar and start with a flight of wines and some small plates (try the pimiento mac and cheese and the daily flatbread). You’re going to be here a while.

Coffee shop
Bold Bean
Forget Unicorn Frappuccinos, Jaxons want their coffee locally roasted, hand-poured and topped with a hipster vibe—and Bold Bean is the place to get it. The shop’s new location in San Marco is a modern and sleek addition to the burgeoning chain, where you’ll find the same imported beans, house-made syrups and passion in every steaming cup.

Smoothie/Juice Bar
Grassroots Natural Market
While you’re doing your shopping for organic kale and natural face cleanser, it’s the perfect time to squeeze in a smoothie or juice. The most popular smoothies are the Mojo Monster, a mix of pineapple, ginger, mint, spinach and orange, and the Turmeric Twister, with banana, turmeric, ginger, mango, cinnamon, almond milk and dates. If you’re in a hurry, go for an on-tap orange, apple or carrot juice.

Shopping

 

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Momni


Women’s Boutique
Momni
The boutique opened in Murray Hill in late 2015 and has been a neighborhood favorite of locals since. Apparel includes custom, boho and classic pieces designed for work, a night out with the girls and everything in between. The shop also features a variety of knickknacks perfect for dressing up empty desk space and shelves. They even do free alterations on purchased clothing.

Jewelry Boutique
Beyou Jewelry
Jax Beach local Lacey Smith launched the online jewelry boutique in 2016. She finds inspiration from nature and her love of water to create pieces within a modern bohemian aesthetic. The collection includes earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces and hair accessories, made from stones, crystals, bronze, silver, gold and leather. Pieces can be purchased online or at Aqua East Surf Shop and Jax Surf & Paddle in Neptune Beach.

Pet Accessories
Bark
Pets typically “need” more than the essentials. Sometimes a treat and spa day are needed. Bark on Park and Bark Downtown offer a variety of pet accessories and services.

Florist
Kuhn Flowers
April showers might have brought out the May flowers but Kuhn Flowers has been bringing gorgeous blooms to Northeast Florida for 70 years. This family owned and operated florist has weekly flower specials and arrangements for nearly every occasion.

New Shop
The Copper Closet
Copper Closet started out as an online shop and opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Five Points in September 2016. “Our style is super casual and comfortable, more bohemian style,” says owner Danielle Dallas. She wanted a boutique that carried items people could afford and not have them disappointed after looking at the price tags.

Home Décor
Cottage by the Sea
In 1997 it was a side hobby in a garage. But more and more business forced an expansion into its storefront in Jacksonville Beach. The shop offers a wide selection of beach chic furniture, lamps, signage and gifts. If you’re looking for unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, items from local artists are also available.

Vintage Shop
Fans & Stoves Antique Mall
For nearly 40 years, this treasure trove has served the Five Points neighborhood. It relocated in 2016 but remains in Riverside. Will its numerous aisles, the mall is said to be a labyrinth of antique goods from every era imaginable. But customers still compliment Fans & Stoves on the organization of it all, with items categorized and sorted into numbered booths.

Bike Shop
Zen Cog
Whether they’re looking for a brand new bike or accessories for their old faithful one, our readers favor local bike shop Zen Cog. The shop carries bikes and accessories, and performs a full range of bike repair and maintenance services.

Athleisure Wear
Lululemon
You may be a yogi in need of some new stretchy pants, a runner in need of a sports bra or just want some comfy clothes to lounge around in while you tell yourself you’re definitely going to the gym, Lululemon has just the thing.

Men’s Boutique
Rosenblums
Shop owner Bob Rosenblum says a man should own a few essential pieces: a solid gray suit, white shirt, casual navy blazer, dark denim and a tie. The suit can be worn to weddings, funerals and interviews, while the blazer can be worn with denim if you don’t want to be too dressy. Looking for a signature suit or a casual blazer? Rosenblums has been selling them for decades.

Beauty

 

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Redfields Salon


New Salon or Spa
Redfields
Upon entry one might forget that they’re in a hair salon and mistake the décor for a luxury spa. The shop opened in Five Points in early 2016 and is winning the hearts of locals one hairstyle at a time.

Salon
For Your Eyes Only
For Your Eyes Only salon and spa has served clients throughout Northeast Florida for more than 30 years. And, after being in business for so long, owner Carlos Alvarado knows which trends last and which ones fade. “The trendy new hairstyle is balayage. It’s a new technique and it’s a lot less evasive on the hair,” he says. Another hot trend is to use four or five shades of a color blended together so that it looks like a lot of different colors.

Men’s Salon
Hawthorn Salon
Typically men stray away from hair salons and opt for the man-talk offered at barbershops. But one can’t deny good service. Hawthorn Salon offers services for men, too. And clients rave about the massaging shampoo.

Massage
One Ocean Resort & Spa
One Ocean offers more than ocean views and a top-rated restaurant. It’s the place to get pampered, too. Try the Spring into Relaxation special which features an 80-minute warm stone massage with aromatherapy. Yes, please.

Facial • Luxury Mani-Pedi
The Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club
The menu of services at The Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is comprised of more than 100 different selections, ranging from intensive massages to gentle facials. Try the Blueberry and Lemonade facial—it helps to calm redness and improve overall radiance of the skin. Manicures and pedicures offered at The Spa are also far from the average soak and polish. Services like the Anti-Aging Guava manicure and pedicure soak hands and feet in a milk bath made with coconut milk and exotic nut oils to soften and hydrate. A raw cane sugar exfoliant and a guava body butter masque is then applied to add more hydration. Sounds luxurious to us.

Yoga Studio
Soluna Yoga + Spa
It can be hard to make time to relax in the midst of a busy schedule, but Soluna Yoga + Spa offers a sanctuary of peace. Their yoga classes promote the wellness of the body, mind and soul, and the studio welcomes all levels of enthusiasts, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced yogi. Sessions include yoga therapy, prenatal yoga, yin yoga, chair yoga and more.

Wax
LunchBOX
Whether you want hair removal from the classic spots (bikini, legs, eyebrows) or trickier areas (ears, nostrils, and a cheeky mankini) the LunchBOX is a one-stop shop. According to waxologist Ashley Holmes, spring and summer are the busiest times of year. It’s no wonder, with the weather warming up and making way for bikini season.

Spray Tan
Tan Like A Celebrity
Get the look without enduring the rays. Tan Like A Celebrity promises visitors a no-stain, orange-free, flawless tan for every occasion and at an affordable price. The Australian is the most popular solution at the salon. Choose from Aussie Golden or Mocha Glow. And if you’re lucky, your glow may come out like J. Lo’s.

Kids

 


Kids’ Clothing
Kyds
Gladiator sandals and cold shoulder tops for girls, and green T-shirts for boys are on trend for kids, according to shop owner Melody Joy Snelen. It’s never too early for kids to start developing their own style and Kyds can help them do just that. The shop sells everything from infant to tween name-brand favorites, and shoes and accessories to match.

The Growing Tree

The Growing Tree

Restaurant Kids’ Menu
Mellow Mushroom

On any given night, Mellow Mushroom will be holding one of their weekly events, whether it be trivia, bingo or live music. The kids can enjoy the fun, too, at just $5.50 per meal. This groovy selections include comfort food favorites like meatballs, grilled cheese, eight-inch pizzas, mac-and-cheese and pretzel dippers.

Summer Camp
Tommy Hulihan Sports Camps
Parents of sports-crazed kids look no further. Tommy Hulihan Sports Camps are open to boys and girls entering kindergarten and rising sixth graders. Campers participate in team sports and age-appropriate activities including basketball, soccer, flag football and kickball. This year’s camps begin in June and run through early August.

Local Website for Parents
Jax Moms Blog
Founded by two moms who thought Northeast Florida could use a little help with parenting resources, and backed by a team of like-minded mothers, Jax Moms Blog is the website to visit for navigating the city with your children. Their blog posts have everything you need to know about activities, parks, restaurants and more, all of them family friendly, as well as specialty posts such as kid-friendly communities and seasonal events.

Kids’ Consignment Shop
The Growing Tree
The Growing Tree is a consignment store that goes beyond resale. Their mission is to minimize contribution to overflowing landfills, and along with clothing and toys, they offer locally made items such as children's art and baby items like bibs and pacifier clips. Buying from them means a wardrobe and trinkets for your kids at a fraction of the price.

Party Space
Pump It Up
If you have kids, you’ll probably be planning a birthday party sometime soon, and Pump It Up wants to help you host it. Groups of children and adults alike can let loose at the inflatable indoor playground. For a private party, the birthday boy or girl is given their own bounce house arena, private party room and inflatable birthday throne. Packages offering food and goody bags are available. No sharp objects allowed.

Fun for Kids
Bay & Bee
Your kids may have a room full of their favorite toys but are probably over them after a week. Freshen things up with the play area at Bay & Bee. Their open-concept, Montessori and Waldorf inspired play area is perfect for a variety of age groups. Toys and play sets, as well as puzzles and a 36-foot train track, are just some of the activities they have available. Additional options include yoga, gardening classes and creative dance.

Entertainment and Recreation

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Cummer Museum

Museum
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
The must-visit museum in Jax is home to 5,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection spanning 2100 B.C. to the 21st century. But perhaps the biggest appeal is the gardens, with impeccable landscaping and grand oak trees destination overlooking the St. Johns River. Visitors can browse inside through the current exhibitions while the kids are kept entertained in the Art Connections wing of the museum. On a budget? Visit the museum on the first Saturday of the month for free admission.

Concert Venue
Florida Theatre
Offering 200 events annually, the Florida Theatre hosts ballets, bands and any number of theatrical events. With seating for roughly 2,000, the interior is an attraction by itself that provides wonderful ambiance to enhance any experience. Features include full bar, light snacks, cozy seating and vintage accessories. Upcoming shows include the 2017 Jazz Piano Competition, the Happy Together Tour and Peppa Pig Live.

Local Band
The Band Be Easy
With more than 8,000 likes on Facebook, it’s safe to say that The Band Be Easy has gained a following. Complete with singers, guitarists, drummers and more, the group gained local notoriety by performing at area bars, weddings and One Spark. Their weekly schedule can be found on their Facebook page.

Wine & Paint Night
Painting With A Twist
You don’t have to be a master to create a masterpiece. At least, that’s what they say at Painting With a Twist. Grab your gal pals or hubby to visit this reader fave one night, and don’t forget a bottle of your favorite vino. Paint and sip while making memories in a festive setting with a peppy staff that will help with any artistic issues.

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Sun-Ray Cinema

Movie Theater
Sun-Ray Cinema
Since opening in 1927, Sun-Ray Cinema has gone through several transformations. Today, moviegoers can catch indie films alongside mainstream movies on one of two screens while chowing down on hot dogs, pizza and popcorn and sipping beer or wine. Readers especially love the vegetarian and vegan options that you won’t find at regular theatres. Dinner and movie? Perfect date night.

Local Theatre Troupe
Players by the Sea
For more than 50 years, playwrights and budding actors of Players by the Sea have provided Northeast Florida with productions, programs and creative experiences. But since they’ve been doing it for so long, one might wonder how they keep it fresh. “We do surveys throughout the year, asking general questions about shows in which people are interested,” says Kris Jackson, director of marketing at Players by the Sea. “We have a repertoire committee that meets and looks at submissions, and it depends on what fits our demographics.” Once the submissions are approved, a final listing of productions are selected. Got a play in mind? Submit it and you could see it on stage.

Place to enjoy nature
Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
This park has it all—picnic spots, plenty of parking, hiking and biking trails, a 1.5-mile stretch of beach and a 60-acre lake to kayak on or fish from. Keep an eye out for a variety of animals on the trails including reptiles, birds and mammals.

Place to go for a run
Jacksonville Riverwalk
Enjoy the breeze along the Jacksonville Riverwalk for your next run. The path stretches from the Shipyards past the Landing and from end-to-end on the Southbank. Simple and easy, the view of the city is unique as the water laps against the concrete. Make sure to slap on sunscreen for a daytime run!

Attraction to take out-of-towners
Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens
To impress extended family, plan a trip to the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens. There’s plenty to look at: the plains of East Africa, giraffe overlook, Land of the Tiger. The zoo is home to 2,000 species of animals, 1,000 varieties of plants and a growing number of attractions. While the walk through the zoo is long, the paved pathways make for an easy route. Opt for a train ride when you grow tired of walking. There’s something for everyone including a splash park for the kiddos.

Best of the Neighborhoods

 


Beaches
New Restaurant Hawkers • Coffee Shop Southern Grounds • Desserts Whit’s Frozen Custard • Mom & Pop restaurant Beach Hut • Bar Surfer [the Bar] • Lunch Angie’s Subs • Hamburger Joint Poe’s Tavern • Chicken Wings Hurricane Grill & Wings • Pizza Mellow Mushroom • Beer Selection Hoptinger • Boutique Jaffi’s • Takeout/Delivery Joseph’s Pizza • Health/Fitness Club 4th Trimester Fitness • Dog Park Atlantic Beach • Pet Hospital Animal Care of Ponte Vedra • Place to hear live music Ponte Vedra Concert Hall • Place to go for a run The Beach

San Marco
New Restaurant The Bearded Pig • Coffee Shop Bold Bean • Desserts bb’s • Mom & pop restaurant Tidbits • Bar Sidecar • Lunch Bistro Aix • Hamburger Joint The Loop • Chicken Wings V Pizza • Pizza Taverna • Beer Selection The Bearded Pig • Boutique Rosie True • Takeout/Delivery Olive Tree • Health/Fitness Club Pure Barre • Dog Park Alexandria Oaks Park • Pet Hospital San Marco Animal Hospital • Place to hear live music Jack Rabbits • Place to go for a run Riverwalk

Downtown, Springfield & Brooklyn
New Restaurant BLK SHP at Intuition • Coffee Shop Three Layers • Desserts Sweet Pete’s • Mom & Pop restaurant Magificat Cafe • Bar Dos Gatos • Lunch Super Food & Brew • Hamburger Joint Uptown Kitchen & Bar • Chicken Wings The Avenue Grill • Pizza Joseph’s Pizza • Beer Selection Engine 15 • Boutique Wolf + Cub • Health/Fitness Club Winston Family YMCA • Dog Park Confederate Park • Place to hear live music 1904 Music Hall • Place to go for a run Riverwalk

Orange Park
New Restaurant Jimmy Hula’s • Coffee Shop Urban Bean • Desserts YUM a Southern Market • Mom and Pop restaurant Pengree’s Restaurant • Bar Whitey’s Fish Camp • Lunch Greek Village • Hamburger Joint Metro Diner • Chicken Wings NYC Meatballs • Pizza Brewer’s Pizza • Beer Selection Brew Bottle and Tap • Boutique Francesca’s • Takeout/Delivery Joey Mozzarella • Health/Fitness Club Orange Theory • Pet Hospital All Animal Clinic • Place to hear live music Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts • Place to go for a run River Road

Riverside, Avondale, Ortega & Murray Hill
New Restaurant South Kitchen + Spirits • Coffee Shop Vagabond • Desserts Biscottis • Mom and Pop restaurant Edgewood Diner • Bar Birdies • Lunch Pinegrove • Hamburger Joint M Shack • Chicken Wings Harpoon Louie’s • Pizza Moon River • Beer Selection Kickbacks • Boutique Momni • Takeout/Delivery Nacho Taco • Health/Fitness Club Verb • Dog Park Riverside Dog Park • Pet Hospital San Juan Animal Hospital • Place to hear live music Rain Dogs • Place to go for a run Memorial Park

Southside, Town Center, Arlington & Mandarin
New Restaurant Gilbert’s Social • Coffee Shop Sippers • Desserts Amaretti • Mom & Pop restaurant Johnny Angel’s • Bar Tap Garden • Lunch Blue Bamboo • Hamburger Joint The Loop • Chicken Wings Wing It • Pizza Picasso’s • Beer Selection Tap Garden • Boutique Pink Nickel • Takeout/Delivery Green Tea Chinese • Health/Fitness Club Titan Up Fitness • Dog Park Dogwood Park • Pet Hospital Julington Creek Animal Hospital • Place to hear live music Monkey’s Uncle • Place to go for a run Ed Austin Park