The couples eating Valentine's Day dinner at Buddha Thai Bistro would have been flooded with rose pedals, if not for the gauzy tapestries that hung from the ceiling and held them aloft. The eatery's ceiling is a canvas that changes with the seasons, sporting hundreds of folded paper sculptures for the Thai New Year or colorful streamers for other celebrations. Though the decor fluctuates, Buddha Thai Bistro's commitment to flavorful cuisine remains constant. In the kitchen, seven varieties of curry simmer with meat and vegetables, fried rice sizzles alongside eggs and glass noodles, and extra spices lend a sobering kick to drunk-man noodles, served for lunch or dinner. A new vegan menu offers dishes such as soy shrimp and papaya salad and tofu egg rolls, and a robust wine menu helps diners pair reds, whites, and sakes with their meals.
Directly below Beachside Seafood Restaurant's dining room, you will find the restaurant's in-house market. Here, chefs browse through the stock of locally caught seafood, picking out premium fillets of fish and shellfish and kindly directing lost scuba divers back to their hotels. After carrying their fresh purchases back up to the kitchen, chefs fire up stoves to fry baskets of their renowned mayport shrimp, steam lobster tails, and stack sandwiches with grilled mahi.
Once assembled, the staff carries dishes to the alfresco dining area, where playful nautical decor hangs out on the walls. On the covered upstairs deck, sunlight streams onto wooden floors that support rows of picnic tables. This scene backdrops guests sipping from frosty mugs of beer with the aroma of fried seafood wafting through the air, reminding diners of childhood vacations spent in Atlantis.
Inside Giuliano's Italian Restaurant, George Gjergj and Leonard Gjergji's family recipes guide them as they stuff shells with ricotta cheese, sauté shrimp in homemade marinara sauce, and drizzle merlot reduction onto char-grilled filet mignon. Specialty pizzas marry ingredients such as grilled chicken and pesto or sliced steak and sautéed onions. A bottomless lunch buffet brims with slices of pizza like the description of a third grader’s dream job, and calzones slice open to reveal ricotta and ham.
Having grown up in Baltimore, Chef Kahn Vongdara showcases a cooking style infused with the flavors and ingredients of Chesapeake Bay. At Crab Cake Factory, he has compiled a menu featuring Maryland-style crab cakes and dishes such as trout and crayfish brushed with roasted-pecan sauce. Chef Kahn's hefty 16-ounce new york strip steak with crispy potato strings is served in a dining room—full of plush booths and wooden tables—where musicians pluck strings and sensually massage their saxophones. To complement the surf 'n' turf lineup and Jacksonville Jaguars games in the lounge, the eatery's mixologists offer more than 10 martinis, including the Cupid's Potion, crafted with Three Olives vanilla vodka and strawberry liqueur.
Enthralled with the art of pizza-making, a trio of college students opened the first Mellow Mushroom 40 years ago in a former liquor establishment. Popularity bred new locations, doling out stone-baked pizzas sprinkled with unusual ingredients such as broccoli, pineapple, pesto chicken, caramelized onions, provolone cheese, and banana peppers. Chefs express their subconscious hoarding problems by stuffing a host of ingredients inside of calzones and hoagies, whose hearty compositions may be offset by crisp salads. Mellow Mushroom remains open late for night owls and offers catering services to help keep company meetings stress-free.
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 serves up pots of leafy brews and assorted nibbles during afternoon tea services, suitable for patrons of all ages and hat sizes. Dana also curates a thoughtful collection of gifts that include candles, jewelry, and attire.