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.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
Dick’s quickly silences grumbling bellies with a menu of tasty grilled edibles and a tongue-tingling variety of spicy twists. Fried pickles ($4.29), buffalo shrimp ($7.49), or wings in 365 available flavors ($8.99/10) engage mouths as guests wait for the main attraction—half-pound burgers, whose meatslabs are hand-pressed and grilled to order over the heat of omnipresent flame decals. Bacon, swiss, and lettuce enrobe the Squealin' Cheeser burger ($7.59), whereas sautéed mushrooms sit proudly atop the Shroomer burger ($7.59) and a trio of cheddar, american, and jack adorn the Three Cheeser ($7.59). All burgers come with a choice of steak fries or waffle fries and can be sharpened with any of Dick’s 365 sauce blends ($0.59 additional). Before strolling over to the nearby beach to squash sandcastles, diners can clog their molars with chunks of deep-fried Oreos ($3.99), a chocolate tribute to the hamburger and a smooth ending to a spicy ride.
Taste! at 645 Atlantic's confectionary crafters whip up a sweet cornucopia of distinctive cupcakes in an array of gourmet flavors. Bipartisan sweet and savory enthusiasts can delight in the established and widely accepted union of the Chocolate Bacon Kupcake ($1.95), great for early desserts or late breakfasts. Shoo away summer heat with the tongue-cooling delight of the Strawberry Lemonade Kupcake ($1.95), or complete any meal with the Carrot Kupcake ($1.95), which endorses its eponymous veggie with a stylish wrapper and a frosting homage. Taste! at 645 Atlantic's enthusiastic bakers also welcome special orders, including gluten-free, sugar-free, or mummy-curse-free requests.
The kitchen staff at Mixed Skillet cracks eggs into omelets and sizzles sausage for breakfast, then slips meatballs into subs and wraps up burritos to offer a menu of Italian and Mexican lunch fare. Yawning diners wake up with the Atomic omelet’s sausage, jalapeños, and banana peppers ($5.95) or a philly wrap that rolls up steak with red peppers and mushrooms ($4.95). Midday ruminators can also bite into chicken piccata ($6.95) or silence the sobs of a roommate who recently dropped her favorite pickle jar into a wood chipper with a Blue burger ($6.25). Chicken ($6.95) or beef ($5.95) soft tacos position their plates to watch the flat-screen TV before meeting their swallowed destiny.
To create their version of New American cuisine, the father-and-son team of Bassam and Nedal Mardini draw inspiration from virtually everywhere except America. At Maza New American Cuisine, their gorgeously plated dishes spotlight flavors from Mexico, Japan, and myriad countries in between. Consider their diverse treatments of a simple ingredient such as duck, which the duo marinates in pomegranate as an entree and loads into tortillas along with pickled celery and balsamic as an appetizer. The rest of their eclectic menu ranges from open-faced pork belly sandwiches crowned with tahini slaw to vegan- and vegetarian-friendly bites, including roasted eggplant purée. These meals, which the Florida Times-Union described as "fine dining quality", unfold in a cozy dining room adorned with fine-art paintings and photos.