Chef Kenny Gilbert brings the heat to the beach
//photos by Agnes Lopez
At this point, Kenny Gilbert has earned the title of celebrity chef. After cutting his culinary chops at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island two decades ago, he has gone on to stints on Bravo’s Top Chef, wins on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay and Alton Brown’s Cutthroat Kitchen, as well as regular appearances in the kitchens of mega-celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. And yet with all that acclaim, Gilbert continues to expand his culinary offerings to include a third—and technically fourth—restaurant in Northeast Florida, opening Gilbert’s Southern Kitchen & Bar in January in Jax Beach.
Seachasers owner Jim Franks partnered with Gilbert on the beachside location to bring what Chef Kenny calls modernized yet traditional southern fare. The restaurant’s main dining room on the second floor accommodates over 80 guests and features a full bar, tall ceilings and reclaimed wood accents to go with the large windows that provide a fantastic view of the beach and Atlantic over the dunes. The Seachasers Lounge downstairs has live entertainment two nights a week.
The names of dishes on Southern’s menu are deceptively simple, but like with most of Gilbert’s recipes there is much more to the story. His cornbread and biscuits ($8) starter is a whole skillet of cornbread paired with moist vanilla buttermilk drop biscuits, house-pickled red grapes and a heavenly muscadine grape pepper jam. KG’s BLT biscuits ($14) are stacked with smoked and fried chicken thighs, pickled green tomatoes, remoulade drizzle, crispy pork belly, and come with a challenge to order them “FB Hot” (with “FB” meaning Fernandina Beach). Gilbert’s pulled alligator ribs are also on the menu in the form of BBQ tacos ($12) and a hearty smoked gumbo ($6/12) with okra, sassafras, and garlic rice. The smoked Wagyu beef brisket ($26) is an attractive plate of meat, with the chunks of brisket resting on a black bean mole, topped with cornbread crumble, golden-brown sweet plantains and colorful radishes. Anna’s mac & cheese ($9) is always an excellent addition to any entrée and can be made into a meal itself with garlic crab ($19), drunk chopped brisket ($19), or pulled smoked turkey drums ($16).
As for the entrées of the swimming variety, there’s a grilled Georgia trout ($21) served with stewed tomatoes and okra, a lima bean purée and a herb salad. The smoked conch bolognese ($17/25) is an interesting twist, where the conch is mixed with a Pomodoro sauce and Ricotta salata on rigatoni pasta. Gilbert’s North Florida surf & turf ($23) brings it all together, combining pork belly burnt ends with alligator gumbo.
PARK IT | With a dedicated lot and an ample number of spaces, parking usually isn’t an issue.
GET IT HOT | Gilbert’s Hot Chicken, Fish & Shrimp occupies the ground floor of the building closer to First Street and offers casual sandwiches and sides for dine-in or takeout.
TABLE FOR TWO | Gilbert’s accepts reservations on the OpenTable app.
GILBERT'S SOUTHERN KITCHEN & BAR
831 1st Street N., Jacksonville Beach