Outside the Box
Beach Boulevard is a veritable international food corridor, home to a United Nations of hole-in-the-wall eateries serving everything from spicy noodle soups and dumplings to fluffy rice and crispy tacos. Jax Mag complied a list of favorites, but these are just a few that the area has to offer. So ditch the burgers and fries and spring for something new and different—we doubt you'll be disappointed.
5262 Beach Blvd., 398-8242
In addition to selling the produce, meats, and packaged ingredients typically found in West African kitchens, this establishment offers a selection of rotating hot meals for dine-in customers. The menu changes daily, but expect dishes like Jollof rice with goat and plantains and jasmine rice and Nigerian fish pepper soup.
10769 Beach Blvd., 645-3334
India and Pakistan happily coexist at Apna, where rice, meat, and veggies benefit from a hefty dose of spice. Pillowy vegetable samosas and spicy chana masala round out the menu—both of which go great, incidentally, with a bottle of mango lassi, available at the attached grocery store, Apna Bazaar.
Asian Noodle House
11757 Beach Blvd., 240-1362
The menu at Asian Noodle House is small but mighty, with a smattering of ramen choices and dumplings being the big draws. Bypass the fried rice in favor of the ika geso (chewy fried squid with shishito peppers), shio ramen and, for dessert, a cup of Japanese red bean ice cream.
8595 Beach Blvd., 998-9333
The Bosnian menu at Balkan Cafe is heavy on meat, with grilled sausages, beef strips with mushrooms, and pljeskavica (Balkan burgers) all taking up residence on the menu. There are also Greek salads, cheese-stuffed pitas, homemade cakes and—for good measure—chisel mlijeko, a fermented-milk product. Yes, the meals here are hearty, but with entrйes ranging from $5 to $11, they won’t break the bank.
Gangnam Korean Restaurant
5161 Beach Blvd., 551-7115
Korean food makes an especially appropriate choice for Valentine’s Day, as nearly everything is ideal for sharing. At Gangnam, diners can indulge in seafood pancakes, hot pots (full of broth still boiling when it reaches the table) and fried tofu—all of which serve as perfect vehicles for the complimentary garnishes (kimchi, omelette slices, spicy cucumbers and more). Bonus: World Food Mart, located just next door, offers a selection of hard-to-find Korean ingredients.
La Gran Parada
5266 Beach Blvd., 379-0463
This small but mighty Dominican eatery in Arlington specializes in bold flavors. Bowls of mondongo, a hearty soup, feature tripe, diced vegetables, and a broth punctuated with spice. Enchiladas come stuffed with tender chunks of pork and benefit from a hefty dose of salsa verde. A selection of Dominican sodas are just the thing to wash it all down.
Maharlika Hall & Sports Grill
14255 Beach Blvd., 434-7251
This restaurant-meets-sports bar is a lively choice for dinner, as it allows patrons to nosh on Filipino eats while listening to live music—or, occasionally, karaoke. The menu includes a few traditional, family-sized dishes (think pork menudo cooked in a clay pot), along with items such as mussels in coconut sauce and crispy fried chicken. For dessert, the halo-halo (an unapologetically messy mound of shaved ice, red beans, fresh fruit, purple yam ice cream and coconut) is a crowd favorite.
11380 Beach Blvd., 206-612-6596
With a focus on flavors found in the Mariana Islands (Guam, Saipan, Tinian), Marianas Grinds offers everything from spam musubi (think spam sushi) to plates overflowing with rice and teriyaki chicken. There’s also Hawaiian beer to complement the working-man’s menu. The vibe is no-frills, with wood paneling, photos of islands and food served on paper plates.
11969 Beach Blvd., 645-6969
There’s more than one grocery store named “Mi Pueblo” in Jacksonville but if you’re hungry, you’ll want to head to what is affectionally known as “Mi Pueblo #2.” The store sells plenty of hard-to-find Mexican cookies, canned goods and cold beer. A taqueria dishes up quesadillas, tacos, and tortas (i.e. sandwiches) stuffed with house-butchered meat.
12620 Beach Blvd., 683-1286
The kitchen at Thai Orchid turns out nuanced versions of familiar dishes—clear noodle salad is bursting with flavor courtesy of ground chicken, shrimp, peanuts and lime juice; while red curry comes dotted with eggplant, peas, bamboo shoots and sweet basil. The ambiance (dark wood paneling, dim lighting and fabric napkins) makes it an option fit for a first date or a more special occasion.
Check out the full list here.