Three Layer’s Café in historic Springfield is a coffeehouse and bakery that offers gourmet coffee and the delicious cakes from which it gets its name. There’s a lunch menu too, of course, full of paninis and pasta salads, with a create-your-own salad bar to boot. You can find beer and wine tucked into a separate section of the shop known as the Cellar, but what you’re really here for are the desserts. Triple-layered red velvet and carrot cakes are always in high demand, as are their miniaturized cake ball counterparts – served in threes, of course. There’s a relaxing garden spot for dining out back and the simple red brick, dark wood trim, wood tables and chairs and lots of window lighting make the café a cozy spot. Three Layers also features local folk musicians regularly.
Uptown Market, in the revitalized historic Springfield section of Jacksonville, serves daily breakfast, lunch and takeaway items, freshly prepared with organic and local ingredients from area farmers. Unique offerings like stuffed crêpes, smoked salmon benedict and huevos rancheros make breakfasts here sing. Later in the day, homemade soups, salads and deli sandwiches draw a huge work-lunch crowd, including the Asiago roast beef sandwich and the fried green tomato salad, both of which are local favorites. Assorted cobblers, pies and cookies are made from scratch daily in Uptown Market’s industrial-chic space. The diner-style eatery is simple, casual and a little noisy, with lots of chatter and clattering dishes to go along with the affordable prices.
Café Nola, located inside the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) downtown, is an upscale Southern-infused bistro that accommodates museum goers, downtown employees and a host of professional and personal lunchers. With a focus on the plentiful seafood located in Jacksonville, the menu’s Mediterranean style shines in its shrimp and fish dishes, while artisan breads and cheeses and fresh produce come to hand in a roasted chicken salad. With selections like gnocchi, quiche and a meatloaf po’boy, there’s something for every palate at Café Nola, where the contemporary-retro feel includes white linen table cloths, lime-colored chairs, eclectic art and pendant lighting.
Amid the unique atmosphere which includes lime green walls and stainless steel wine racks, Tres Leches Eatery? owners have created a familial closeness with customers with savory meals and sweet treats inspired by the flavors of Spain. Every Thursday and Friday, tapas plates come alive with imported serrano ham and marinated olives, while aromatic pans of paella bring together five types of seafood in steamy saffron rice. Over candle-lit tables, diners can complement their meals with fruit-marinated sangria and local beer as well as a view that shows off the heart of Riverside.
Chefs warm up bodies and taste buds with fiery seasonings on their collection of traditional Jamaican recipes. Appetizing disks of Jamaican beef and chicken ($2 each) load flavor software via mouth drive to prepare tongues for scorching main courses. A colorful fan of vegetables complements piquant chicken pieces in De Real Ting’s signature jerk chicken dinner ($9), which arrives at tables with an additional bottle of jerk sauce to souse their entree or a rude passerby.
The Donut Shop in the Arlington section of Jacksonville has been a sweet landmark since 1962. With several moves within the neighborhood due to leasing issues, its new location on University Boulevard has continued its loyal following, offering doughnut fiends 2,400 square feet of takeout space that serves up sweet sensations in the pre-dawn hours. With its lime green walls and gleaming glass and white case, patrons come from all over the city with their cash (yes, it’s a cash only shop), and leave with at least a dozen of their favorites regularly. Make room for a chocolate éclair, the curiously-shaped “ugly” or a honey stick. The Donut Shoppe is an unassuming little hole in the wall that prepares donuts of a quality, appearance and taste that other shops lack; just arrive early, because when the doughnuts are gone, the shop closes.