Sweet Mel's combines food and drink in a way not seen since the invention of the banana milkshake, offering a lengthy lineup of burgers, beers, and mixed drinks inside a red and black bar. From their perches on exposed-brick walls, hungry TVs can only dream of sampling what they see—pork chops, deep-fried Oreos, beef patties sandwiched between funnel cakes (The Sweet Mel), and foot-long hoagies packed with slabs of ground beef and bacon (The Boss). To wash down big meals, bartenders pour a steady stream of martinis and specialty cocktails, and fill 100-ounce towers with beer, the only beverage that does not immediately curdle when poured into a tower. A wide array of events puts the corner stage to use, with $1 drafts on Mondays, trivia on Tuesday, and Shakespearean-style readings of the menu specials every day.
University of Florida fans tuck into booths, sit along the bar, and lean across a blue-felt pool table while they enjoy the lively atmosphere and sports action at Gator Tales Sports Bar. The kitchen sates patrons with a long list of edibles, and bartenders keep whistles whetted and in tune with cool drafts of Miller Lite and Amber Bock. Ceiling fans manufacture breezes on the outdoor tiki bar, surrounded by key-lime-green walls and twin flat-screen TVs, and a mounted gator head smiles above the bar inside.
Every morning at Gigi's Restaurant, the kitchen gets busy scrambling eggs, frying potatoes, and simmering gravy for its weeklong breakfast buffet. On Sundays at 11 a.m., the Blue Jean Brunch—where people are welcome to wear jeans, not put them in their salads—witness diners grazing on made-to-order omelets, fluffy belgian waffles, fried chicken and waffles, and ice-cream sundaes of their own creation. For those who want to stuff themselves in the evening, the chef emerges from his cave underneath the kitchen on Friday and Saturday nights to carve slices of fresh prime rib, which pair well with steamed crab legs and a vast dessert selection.
Tired of the vulgar material found at most venues, the owners of the Comedy Club of Jacksonville open their stage to comedians without mile-long blue streaks. The club rates each standup on a G–R scale, with most comics falling under PG-13 language or soft-R content. This thoughtfulness even extends to the kitchen, where the proprietors try to avoid fried foods in favor of a char-broiler that fires up tasty kabobs and provides ashes for applying funny fake mustaches.
The show will commence with performances from up-and-coming singer-songwriters Alex Wong and Vienna Tang before Carlile takes the stage of the restored 1920s-era theater. The Washington State–native songstress's melodic acoustic-guitar-based music blends rock and country into soft folk tunes that have been featured in commercials and on TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy, and the experienced show-woman has toured with the likes of Sheryl Crow and Ray LaMontagne. Your Groupon is good for one ticket in the 100, 200, 300, or 400 orchestra-level sections of the intimate, 1,900-seat theater, and seats are issued on a first-come, first-served basis at will-call, so arrive early to get up close.