In the midst of an asphalt desert lies an oasis surrounded by palm trees. Just above them, Puerto Plata Restaurant's terra-cotta-colored roof peeks out, beckoning the hungry to sate themselves with the restaurant's homemade Dominican fare. Traditional dishes, such as arroz con gandules, support plates of pollo guisado, a hearty chicken stew, and chillo frito, fried red snapper.
Dick’s quickly silences grumbling bellies with a menu of tasty grilled edibles and a tongue-tingling variety of spicy twists. Fried pickles ($4.29), buffalo shrimp ($7.49), or wings in 365 available flavors ($8.99/10) engage mouths as guests wait for the main attraction—half-pound burgers, whose meatslabs are hand-pressed and grilled to order over the heat of omnipresent flame decals. Bacon, swiss, and lettuce enrobe the Squealin' Cheeser burger ($7.59), whereas sautéed mushrooms sit proudly atop the Shroomer burger ($7.59) and a trio of cheddar, american, and jack adorn the Three Cheeser ($7.59). All burgers come with a choice of steak fries or waffle fries and can be sharpened with any of Dick’s 365 sauce blends ($0.59 additional). Before strolling over to the nearby beach to squash sandcastles, diners can clog their molars with chunks of deep-fried Oreos ($3.99), a chocolate tribute to the hamburger and a smooth ending to a spicy ride.
Over the last century, many traditional Mexican dishes have found a comfortable home in American kitchens, from nachos covered in savory toppings to enchiladas and many variations of tacos. Luckily, when visiting El Porto Mexican Restaurant, guests don’t have to choose one of their favorite Mexican dishes over another. Instead they mix and match the shop’s combination dinners. Chefs pair tacos filled with carne asada, marinated pork loin, or fish with enchiladas, chalupas, and chili rellenos.
Chefs even create pairings specially designed for vegetarians, subbing in mushrooms, bell peppers, and spinach for the traditional meats of their dishes. The one thing that doesn’t come with these pairings is desserts, and options range from caramel-kissed flan to deep-fried tortillas filled with bananas, honey, strawberries, and whipped cream like the blimp in a great dream.
Hightide Burrito Co.’s menu bathes eyes in wave after savory wave of fresh, delicious recipes from Central Mexicoland. Start with chips and guacamole ($3.40) or bottomless chips and salsa ($4.99), then nibble at cheese quesadillas ($6.50) with pico de gallo and mushrooms. Lupe's famous Baja fish tacos include panko-breaded fish, shredded cabbage, lime, and a tangy white sauce placed expertly into two soft and fresh homemade tortillas ($7.50). The house special is the Hightide burrito, served with your choice of panko-breaded or grilled fish ($7.50). Sweeten your esophagus's attitude with an apple chimichanga: stewed apples stuffed inside a crispy tortilla drizzled with cinnamon, caramel, and whipped cream ($5.99).
Big Pete’s Pizzeria is a brick behemoth in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, offering up New York-style pies in a homey pizza parlor reminiscent of a classic Brooklyn joint. The red walls, vinyl floors and a TV give the pizzeria a decidedly casual vibe. The large ordering counter houses self-serve soft drinks and teas, while simple black chairs and tables fill the space. The menu is a mix of traditional pizzas and specialty pies like the Taco Pizza, Eggplant Parmesan Pizza and Buffalo Chicken Pizza. Diners can also nosh on a host of subs and sandwiches, from pan-fried meatballs to Italian sausage. Pasta dishes, wraps and wings round out Big Pete’s Pizzeria’s selection, where the service is quick and friendly.
Burrito Gallery, hidden away in the center of downtown Jacksonville, is a unique and casual hot spot for Mexican favorites like burritos, tacos and quesadillas. Far from the usual carne asada or ground beef, customers can swing for something much more unique, like ginger teriyaki tofu tacos, which are grilled to perfection inside flour tortillas and topped with slaw. Other dishes, like Paul’s Extreme Nachos, play on the eatery’s fun side – though beer, wine and full liquor bar certainly help. The small restaurant is simplistically styled, with red tiled floors, light oak tables and local art featured across the walls. A Day of the Dead-themed mural shows off colorfully-painted skulls, while music plays loud enough for eaters on the back patio to hear.