At Hala Cafe and Bakery, chefs whip up a selection of Turkish and Middle Eastern eats, including falafel plates, kabobs, and a number of hummus-based dishes. The menu features buffet options, as well as house specialties, such as the shawarma plate–sliced and marinated lamb or chicken, served on a bed of fresh parsley and onion and topped with tahini sauce.
Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza, on Jacksonville’s south side, is a quintessential local spot. With its butcher block counter, black bar stools and exhibition brick oven, patrons can even watch the chef make their pie, which might be the Veggie Heaven (tomatoes, arugula, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, shredded carrots, onion, bell pepper, olive oil) one night or The Brumos (pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, bacon, ham) the next. Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza also has a wide variety of salads, appetizers, calzones and hot sandwiches, and offers pizza by the slice for fast-casual lunchers on the go. Plain flooring and black tables lend to a casual pizzeria vibe, while staff is equally laid back.
Secret Garden Café made its national debut in 2011 on the Food Network channel when it appeared on Restaurant: Impossible, where Robert Irvine and his team overhauled the menu and gave the restaurant a spruce-up. Since then, patrons have embraced the eclectic breakfast and lunch offerings by this Southside café. Early morning options include the Hot Mess (three eggs scrambled with bacon, sausage and ham on a bed of café potatoes, with shredded cheese and diced tomatoes) and lunches like the fried bologna sandwich or black bean burger. Inside, simple tile floors, wood tables, chairs and benches provide ample seating, and colorful sea foam green walls, pottery and garden art give off the note of a tucked away orchard. Warm sconce lighting gives Secret Garden Café a warmhearted vibe.