For more than 30 years, Farah's on the Avenue has been marrying a Mediterranean mentality with an American palate in a bright atrium bursting with hanging plants and natural light. Barge in on bored taste buds fantasizing about unknown tongues with appetizers that include falafel fried to a crisp, arriving adjacent warm pita bread and tahini ($7.95), or hummus with submergible pita pieces ($6.95). Flatbread pizzas clamor for attention atop toasted pita crusts ($7.95), from the ornately dressed barbecue-chicken variety to the scantily clad margherita pizza in crust-exposing fresh basil, red onions, tomatoes, romano, feta cheese, and marinara sauce. Mediterranean pasta makes an appearance in a multitude of ways, topped with chicken ($13.95), shrimp ($15.95), or tofu ($13.95), and made to mingle with artichokes, garlic, capers, sundried tomatoes, and feta cheese drizzled with a concoction of white wine and olive oil that also happens to be a favorite among those looking for an olive-based wine-spritzer alternative.
Sweet Marlays' Coffee takes its moniker from the middle name that owner Tammy Kozinski shares with her four daughters and granddaughter. Visitors find members of the family hard at work behind the counter, brewing up coffee from hand-selected beans and baking delicious pastries and desserts. Guests sip coffee drinks spiked with Ghirardelli chocolate and butter pecan, or Irish cream and English toffee, pairing cups with homemade pastries, desserts, bagels, turkey-pesto paninis, and flaky-crust spinach pies.
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.
At Back Alley Bistro, breakfast begins in the early morning and doesn't end until well past noon. Skilled chefs bustle about the kitchen, sizzling up housemade corned-beef hash, battering french toast, and topping buttermilk waffles with fresh fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips. But the versatile chefs don't limit themselves to breakfast food—come lunchtime, they add juicy Prime Angus burgers and crispy subs to their repertoire. While they enjoy their repast, diners perch at tabletops in the sunny dining room, sipping old-fashioned Coca-Cola and freshly squeezed lemonade.
Blue Bamboo sits on Jacksonville’s south side, spinning hip Asian flavors with Southern comfort food inside their fresh, inviting space. Considered one of the best restaurants in town, you’ll find dishes like red curry shrimp & grits, honey-seared ahi tuna and peppercorn beef filet on offer at Blue Bamboo, which also holds cooking classes and does the occasional catering gig. Known for their dim sum Sundays and exotic cocktails like Thai-garitas and hand-muddled mojitos, the cream colored walls, white linen tables and red hanging paper lanterns give the place a comfortable feel. Don’t leave without trying the dragon whiskers (fried zucchini).
In the kitchen of Aroy Thai Fusion, chefs prepare basil stir-fry, pad kee mao, and a wide range of Thai-influenced dishes. The Bangkok fusion menu joins flavors from disparate regions to create entrees such as baked lemongrass-lime tilapia or thai barbecue roast pork. In the dining room, guests can settle into booths below hanging lights or slide onto dark wooden chairs at a full bar before sipping beer or house wine.