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Photograph: Silkies Chicken and Champagne BarSilkies Chicken and Champagne Bar

The 11 best Jacksonville restaurants

From hot chicken to ramen and arepas, the best Jacksonville restaurants serve up some of Florida’s most exciting flavors

Megan duBois
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Megan duBois
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When people think of iconic Florida restaurants, images of bayfront dining in Tampa, theme park restaurants in Orlando, or beachside seafood in Key West might come to mind. But hiding in plain sight is a culinary gold mine—at the best Jacksonville restaurants, you’re in for a treat.

No doubt, one of the best things to do in Jacksonville is eat. The Bold City is home to an eclectic dining scene that features everything from street-style tacos to authentic Nashville hot chicken and incredible Filipino delights. The city is a melting pot of people and cuisines, and there’s plenty of new and exciting foods to keep the crowds hungry for more.

After soaking up some sun at the beach, cheering on the Jacksonville Jaguars at a home game, or swinging your clubs at the golf course, you’re never far from incredible food. From high-end cuisine to piled-high burgers (grab some extra napkins), here are the best places to eat in Jacksonville.

RECOMMENDED: the best restaurants in Florida

Best Jacksonville restaurants, ranked

Restaurant Orsay is known around town as the go-to spot for celebratory meals and special occasions. The restaurant has a Southern-inspired menu with a distinct European twist—dishes like bouillabaisse, beef stroganoff, and berkshire pork chop are prepared with classic French techniques. And even if you aren’t celebrating, don’t skip an impressive dessert menu by Rebecca Reed, a Chopped champion who cranks out picture-perfect treats like petit fours and macarons.

Barbeque is a southern must-have, and there’s plenty of joints to enjoy a good piece of meat in Jacksonville. Chief among them is ABBQ at Atlantic Beach—the restaurant specializes in Texas-style brisket that comes out of the smoker perfectly cooked with a great bark, deep smoke ring, and oozing juices. Outside, the restaurant’s patio and green space offer lawn games and live music on the weekends, making this a fun spot to watch sports or hang out with friends.

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Chef Kenny Gilbert, who gained national attention after competing on Top Chef, found roots in Jacksonville by opening Silkies Chicken and Champagne Bar in the historic Springfield neighborhood. The restaurant serves four variations of the southern-style biscuit (including one with plantain and ginger, and another with truffle and gouda cheese) while the rest of its dinner menu is just as creative. Try Gilbert’s Korean chicken sandwich, a fried chicken breast on a plantain ginger biscuit that’s topped off with gochujang honey sauce and a kimchi with watermelon rind.

What do you get when you fill a traditional Venezuelan arepa with ingredients inspired by the classic New York deli? You get Arepa Please, a one-of-a-kind joint in Jacksonville’s food scene. Here, indulge in freshly made arepas like the Fancy Monkey (made with fried plantains and black beans) or the Jax Blond (made with shredded beef and cheddar cheese). Feeling ambitious? You can make your own arepa with any fillings you choose, but it’ll be hard to compete with the tasty creations already on the menu.

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Sink your teeth into a juicy burger and a side of loaded cheese fries at Carolina Jax, a local favorite that routinely brings in crowds for made-to-order burgers. Our favorite item, the Riverside Burger, comes loaded with creamy goat cheese, salty applewood smoked bacon, sweet orange marmalade, and an amped-up datil sauce.

Eleven South is located in Jacksonville Beach and specializes in fresh seafood. The softly lit restaurant is a solid choice for date night or even a girls night out. When it's time to order, skip the bread and opt for the fried green tomato appetizer topped with herbed goat cheese and pepper jelly. Don’t like seafood? Don’t worry: the entree list has plenty of meaty options like Mongolian-style short ribs, and a fantastic double-cut pork chop.

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Bold Birds Nashville Hot Chicken is a local hangout in the food-centric neighborhood of Murray Hill. The restaurant specializes in traditional Nashville hot chicken with spice levels that go all the way up to “Hotter than a Mother Clucker.” We can’t get enough of the restaurant’s signature item, the Huges’ Hot Chicken Sandwich, which comes with coleslaw, comeback sauce, and a pickle on a perfectly toasted bun. Word of advice: the medium spice level is plenty spicy for most people (we’d even call it hotter than hot!).

8. Catullo’s

Before it was a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Catullo’s was a food truck that roamed the streets of Jacksonville. Now with a permanent home, the small restaurant serves classic Italian dishes with hand-rolled pastas, house-made sauces, and decadent desserts. The signature dish, pear fiocchi, serves up pasta purses stuffed with pear, grant padano, taleggio, and robiola. The pasta is tossed in a caramelized pear, gorgonzola, and goat cheese sauce before it’s topped with fried prosciutto. Trust us: if you order this dish, you won’t want to share.

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Karai Ramen is the pinnacle of ramen restaurants in Jacksonville. The chefs at the restaurant have over 35 years of experience in Japanese cuisine, so you know this ramen is a guaranteed cozy bowl of perfection. The signature ramen here has a chicken and duck broth with ground sesame, Japanese hot sauce, and white miso. Besides ramen, Karai serves a small amount of sharable small plates like gyoza and katsu chicken tenders.

Outdoor dining on a stunning farm? Yes please. At Congaree and Penn, the beautiful setting overlooks vines used to make cider, farm animals, and picturesque views over green hills. The menu at the restaurant is seasonal, so expect something different every time you visit. The shrimp and grits, with Tasso ham and tomato gravy, is something of a menu staple for good reason. Family hours at the restaurant end at 4:00 p.m., and evenings are reserved for adults to enjoy a quiet night out.

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The French Pantry has been a Jacksonville staple for more than 20 years, and even still, there’s typically a line out the door at lunchtime. The restaurant has a good mix of salads, sandwiches, and bruschettas, but it’s really known for its desserts. One sweet not to leave in the glass case is the French Pantry wedding cake, a yellow cake made with fresh strawberries and cream cheese frosting. Even if you’re not getting married anytime soon, say yes to this cake—you won’t regret it.

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