Latin House Grill has a Caribbean feel, from its food—goat stew, plantains, and shrimp soup—to the beach scene and palm trees painted on the restaurant's walls. For those who want to substitute the Caribbean for Jacksonville's west side, the eatery offers open-air seating on a breezy porch. Here, diners savor tropical lunches and dinners, rounded out by pours from the full bar.
The Gourmet Grouper was born out of a fruitful business partnership between veteran seafood-market owners John Shuler and Jason Arteaga, along with Christina Monas. The three set out to create a curated supermarket utterly unlike mega-groceries—one that could provide shoppers with a tailored selection of high-quality meats, seafood, and drinks from both distant climes and local markets. "We wanted to build a grocery store that we would like to shop at," John told the Beaches Leader. Along with his childhood friend and business partner, Jason, he procures gourmet goods from his network of local and worldwide farmers, fishers, and food artisans. The result is a smorgasbord of upscale groceries that tempt shoppers with fine cheeses, dry-aged Montana beef, Gulf stone crabs, and Louisiana crawfish. The goods are ideal for planning an elegant dinner party. Seasonal potatoes and vegetables can accompany lobster tails or Chilean sea-bass filets alongside craft beers and fine wines. The market even has artisanal snacking covered with gourmet pickles crafted by local picklesmith Tim Baker, who locks the fresh veggies' flavor into delicious stasis with careful brining and mild witchcraft.
Plush leather and fabric seating permeates Fletcher’s Cigar Bar & Social, where beers and varietals from around the globe flow from glass to palate. The company has a fully stocked humidor filled with high-end cigars from brands such as Cohiba, Cusano, Havana, and Partagás, as well as the exploding cigars popularized by Wile E. Coyote. Though the knowledgeable staffers do not sell Cuban cigars, they outfit tobacco enthusiasts with Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican cigars, as well as accessories such as cutters and lighters. The team at Fletcher's accommodates clients from varying backgrounds, making aficionados and more casual cigar smokers feel at home.
Ambient jazz-piano melodies wind through the air while customers chat and smoke in an environment whose ventilation and air-purification system gives patrons peace of mind and visual access to each other's faces. In the event that conversation lulls, independently controlled 47-inch flat-screen televisions can entrance eyes.
Although the 12-ounce Delmonico steak is the house specialty at The Blue Grotto, the baked stuffed flounder is the owner's favorite dish on the menu. Guests have their choice of sitting in the azure dining room, where the decor is inspired by the Blue Grotto sea cave on the island of Capri, or the dog-friendly outdoor deck that overlooks the marina. The venue turns into a nightclub in the late-night hours, with DJs, dancing, and free drinks for manatees.
Located on Jacksonville’s south side, The Comedy Zone has been hosting some of the nation’s finest standup comedians for decades. Tucked away inside the Ramada Conference Center and Hotel, the Comedy Zone is a quaint, dim, charming nightclub venue filled with cozy tables and chairs. The thick carpet underfoot cushions the space further and keeps noisy shoes and squeaky chairs to a minimum. The small, gleaming wood stage is back-dropped by a large brick wall, reminiscent of so many other famous comedy clubs. Over the years, the stage has played host to a variety of national touring comedians and lots of local Florida talent. A full bar and a variety of burgers, sandwiches and appetizers are available to order, and can count toward the room’s industry-standard one drink or item minimum. Of course, that means comedy fans must be at least 21 years of age to enter the Zone.
The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1949, and currently plays at the 1,800 seat Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall in the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts downtown. Over the years, the orchestra has hosted renowned artists such as Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Luciano Pavarotti. It’s currently led by Music Director and Principal Conductor Fabio Mechetti, who has been in the position since 1999. He will be stepping down in May, but not until helming productions of The Marriage of Figaro and Verdi’s Requiem in the spring. The Jacksonville Symphony also partners with Duval County and three other public school systems to provide some 84,000 children the opportunity to both listen to and participate in youth-oriented symphony events. The orchestra’s charitable works, world-class facility and enduring star power have helped keep Jacksonville culture on the map for decades.