Rifle through the pages of the menu at Nirvana Cafe, and you'll see dishes inspired by cuisines from across the globe—there's tender gyros and kebabs from the Mediterranean, plump perogi from Eastern Europe, and tangy Korean-style carrot salad. But there's also a variety of American favorites, such as chicken salad wraps and creamy new york cheesecake. As chefs bring these dishes to life in the kitchen, diners lounge on banquettes amid the bold red walls of the bright dining room, sipping freshly squeezed juices and imported Russian beers.
Named for gangsters and criminals such as John Gotti, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde, Wise Guys Pizza Cafe's slate of deli-style sandwiches arrest hunger with fillings such as roast beef and cheddar, tuna salad, turkey, and meatballs. Chefs also hand-toss New York-style pizza crusts, topping pies with such ingredients as bacon, black olives, and pepperoni. Burgers, wings, and stromboli round out the menu, and calzones hide ingredients inside gooey pockets of ricotta cheese, where they are eventually uncovered by forks that have become FBI informants.
North Beach Bistro is more than a restaurant—it's a legacy. The upscale eatery was the vision of renowned chef Tony Pels, who trained with culinary giants such as Wolfgang Puck and Michel Richard, and chef David Seavey, whom Pels mentored for 15 years at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa. Pels passed away only two months before the restaurant's opening in June of 2008, leaving executive chef Seavey to carry on his tradition of culinary creativity and generosity.
Spurred on by this responsibility, Seavey combines the freshest ingredients with a genuine love for his fellow Floridians. The Jacksonville native crafts hearty and flavorful surf 'n' turf entrees such as the bistro bouillabaisse with Mayport shrimp, sea scallops, mussels, calamari, and fresh fish or chargrilled Black Angus filet mignon with sauteed mushrooms and port wine sauce. Reddish-gold fixtures in the bar emanate light that's as warm and welcoming as the chef himself. DJs and live music keep the space vibrant, and the dining room's wood floors and spot-lit art give it an air of sophistication. Weekly trivia nights arm guests with knowledge that makes an ideal conversation starter or helps pass the time while stuck in an elevator with Ken Jennings.
Pillowy dollops of icing sit atop Caketails Cupcakes’ gourmet miniature cupcakes, whose flavors find inspiration in classic fruit and chocolate cocktails. Though free of alcohol and perilous olive spears, each pintsize dozen packs in the tempting tastes of drinks such as piña coladas, mimosas, and strawberry daiquiris. Lift a round of champagne cupcakes high into the air for a poignant post-dinner toast, stage impromptu fiestas on palates with the moist cake of the margarita, or bob for cherries nestled into the icing of caramel appletinis. After a 48-hour advance order, cupcakes pop out of the oven and don crowns of fluffy frosting studded with decorative treats such as chocolate, fruit, and gummy candies.
Bravo Baja, which has recently undergone a name change, swiftly silences ornery appetites with fresh meats, vegetables, and 14 inches of tortilla weaponry. Consult a menu of edible building materials to construct a Bravo burrito ($5) beaming with structural innovation. Fill the void with spicy carnitas (pork) spooned over white or spanish rice, Baja black or SoCal refried beans, and a selection of more than 20 fillers such as peppers, bacon, guacamole, and mexican potatoes. Dress beanbags in queso or chimi sauce for $1 more. Diners can also buck carnivorous currents by diving into plates of Ensenada fish tacos ($2.50 each) and fluffy breakfast burritos ($7). Wash down lingering hints of spice with canned drinks ($1) or juicy Spanish sodas ($1.50).
Artwork, gifts, and feminine white vines line the walls of Ashes' Boutique & Tea Garden, where a cozy tearoom is nestled among gauzy curtains and white-lace tablecloths. Owner and artist Dana Roby serves up pots of leafy brews and assorted nibbles during afternoon tea services, suitable for patrons of all ages and hat sizes. Roby also curates a thoughtful collection of gifts that include candles, jewelry, and attire.