by Damon Noisette // photos by Agnes Lopez
Jacksonville history is everywhere in Springfield, especially in the commercial corridor along Main Street. What was once the flagship of the department stores opened by the Akra brothers, four Lebanese immigrants who settled in the area after fleeing the devastation of WWI, is now Crispy’s Springfield Gallery. John Crispens, a Springfield resident and former bar manager at Mark’s, purchased the building at 8th and Main Street in 2014 and set out on a three-year renovation that culminated in the restaurant’s opening back in August.
The terrazzo floor in the entrance still bears the Akra Bros. logo from its original commissioning in 1933, though the airy, 6,000-square-foot space has been reconfigured to comfortably seat 155 guests, split between a brick-walled, expansive downstairs and an upstairs loft. A large bar stretches along the north side of Crispy’s, with more than 20 beers on tap, liquor and wine. In keeping with the gallery part of its name, a number of oil paintings from local artist Mac Truque are currently hanging in the space, and a large mural by Shaun Thurston graces the outside of the restaurant.
Executive chef Eddy Escriba’s menu is simple, yet refined bar food. The veteran of Downtown and Springfield kitchens takes his chicken wings, sandwiches and pizzas very seriously and it shows. The chicken wings ($11) are a juicy and hot delight in both chipotle dry rub and honey BBQ preparations. And though the NY style meatballs ($8) are listed as a starter, they can easily be fashioned into a meal of little meatball sandwiches thanks to the toasted ciabatta bread that comes along.
Sandwiches are split in to cold and hot offerings also on ciabatta bread, with a tuna salad ($10), BLT ($11), and roast beef ($12) making up the cold side. The hot choices have the telltale press marks of paninis and, of the bunch, the pesto chicken ($11)
is a standout.
Crispy’s 14-inch pizzas are a real contender. The Pearl ($17) is the standard pepperoni pizza on a San Marzano red sauce, and is a solid pie, but for the money it’s worth branching out and trying the mix of savory and sweet in the Laura pizza ($19); it’s a a roasted garlic sauce base topped with sliced capicola, drunken figs, goat cheese, mascarpone and arugula. Pizzas are also available in a 10-inch gluten-free crust.
According to Crispens there are plans to expand food offerings in the future, but for now the new restaurant will keep with the one-page menu and a pair of desserts, a cheesecake ($6) and a lemon mascarpone cake ($6).
Park & Walk • On-street parking is available, though during busy times you might need to circle the block to 7th Street to find a spot.
Dinner & A Show • Running weekly on Friday nights until the end of November, the “Crispy’s Got Talent” competition features local bands competing for a cash prize. Other nights have karaoke and trivia.
What Day is It? • Crispy’s is open late every night and runs a long happy hour 3-8 PM, with $1 off drink prices.
Crispy’s Springfield Gallery • 1735 Main St N., Downtown • (904) 661-1503 • crispysspringfieldgallery.com