The Top of the Reef plunges diners into dual menus of water-borne dinners and afternoon repasts. Dinner starters, such as the freshly shucked oysters ($7.95–$9.95) or the deep-fried calamari ($5.95), prepare diners to delve further into undersea fare from the dinner menu. The grilled or blackened salmon fillet ($15.95) and deviled crab crakes ($12.95) provide a protein alternative to eating land-dwelling fish, while the broiled twin lobster tails (market price) impress guests by finishing each other's sentences. Lunch options include Cajun fried shrimp ($6.95), fingerling catfish ($6.75), and fried clam strips ($6.25).
Clark’s Fish Camp has been a mainstay seafood restaurant on the Southside of Jacksonville for decades. At the foot of Hood Landing Road, this prior bait and tackle shop decided to open up as a restaurant and has been serving locals a variety of fresh seafood since. Though the space itself holds perhaps one of the largest private taxidermy collections in the country, Clark’s biggest focus is on their food. Brinda’s Seafood Bake: fresh crabs, shrimp, scallops and fish baked in a cream wine sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese is a local favorite; there’s a variety of topped oysters and the favorite fried gator tail. Clark’s Fish camp is an iconic beacon of seafood and fun that locales and non-locals flock to year-round.
Carrabas Italian Grill is a chain Italian eatery offering an exhibition kitchen, wood fired grill and neighborhood bar in the Baymeadows section of Jacksonville. Italian-styled entrées often come with an Americanized twist, including a lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, shrimp and scallop linguine al vodka and sirloin marsala. The blackberry sangria and pomegranate martini are popular cocktails, while the décor, crafted after an old world Italian trattoria, offers diners a rush of beige-colored walls, red and gold accents, wine bottles, plus a gleaming wood bar space. There’s also plenty of cozy booths, large family tables and high-top tables in the bar area. Don’t forget to try dessert, like the panna cotta or mini cannoli.
From its majestic outpost, with views of the Intracoastal Waterway, marsh and marina, Jacksonville Beach’s Marker 32 sports a bay of glass windows, white table linens and light teak colored dining tables. The truly elegant eatery has two stories, with the second serving as a perfect place to take in a sunset dinner. Fresh local ingredients, prepared daily from scratch, make up the majority of the menu, including a cast iron-seared beef tenderloin, shrimp and Andouille fettuccine and pan roasted duck breast. This is upscale Florida dining at its best, with rich desserts and the sort of understated but elegant décor that makes Marker 32 perfect for date night.
J.L. Trent’s Seafood on the Westside is a casual seafood restaurant offering reasonable prices and tasty seafood dishes. With entrées such as crab cake, fried shrimp, flounder fillet and mahi-mahi dinners, all served with down-home sides like black eye peas, green beans, collards, grits and coleslaw. This is a Southern spin on Florida seafood, coming through loud and clear. In operation since 1997, J.L. Trent’s Seafood has cozy booths, nautical wall art, ceiling fans and lots of windows, making it a family-friendly outpost run by competent folks who always seem to make sure everything turns out the way it should. The slate grey weathered exterior is reminiscent of a Northeastern seafood shack somewhere in New England, and locals flock here for every kind of seafood imaginable.