Known locally as MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville boasts a collection of almost 800 works of art in media ranging from paintings and prints to sculpture and photography, spanning the decades from 1960 to the present. Members of MOCA enjoy free admission to the museum as well as previews of temporary exhibitions and special promotions from interest groups, and more than 200 North American museums reciprocate benefits, offering members free admission and teaching them their unique secret handshakes. The curators of the museum harness their artistic expertise to help educate kids on the pros and cons of finger-painting on dogs, and infuse local classrooms with art-education programs with the help of a long list of volunteers and docents.
If you could ask the Zodiac Bar & Grill its star sign, it might say the notoriously enigmatic Gemini. At lunch, the meals are decidedly casual—full of Italian-style paninis or wraps stuffed with gyro meat. As night falls, however, the menu transforms into a more elegant dinner spread. Diners can order from a selection of Mediterranean-style tapas, which includes calamari and wine-splashed shrimp scampi, or commit to a kebab entree. Along with beef and chicken, skewers also come loaded with aquatic meats, such as swordfish or scallops. On Friday nights, the restaurant stays open until 2 a.m. DJs spin beats as loungers smoke hookah while sipping on top-shelf cocktails or one of six house wines.
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.
Music ricochets off the walls as a live band jams out on Burro Bar’s stage. The bar swells with noise as the music from the band mingles with the socializing guests sipping craft beers from breweries such as Bold City Brewery, Intuition Ale Works, and Green Room Brewing. A calendar of events keeps a rotating list of musical guests on the roster, averaging about four shows a week.
Six days a week you can find owner and chef Sam Hassan doing the same thing he’s done since 1976: crafting homemade italian pastas, pizzas, and sandwiches within Casa Dora’s homey kitchen. Sam’s lifelong dedication to edible hospitality shines through during lunch and dinner, filling the dining room’s wooden tables with cheese-stuffed calzones, hand-tossed pizzas, and well-sauced pastas that pair well with refreshing sips of wine or low-calorie gulps of air.
Northstar Substation whets appetites and wets whistles with an ever-changing assortment of more than 30 draft beers partnered alongside a menu of hand-tossed pizzas. Foaming pint glasses sidle up to tables with fermented sippables from local breweries such as Bold City Brewery and macro favorites such as Guinness and Stella Artois. The beer selection is changed regularly to reflect seasonal brews. Beckoned by the sound of grumbling stomachs, oven-fresh pizzas emerge with a choice of a topping from a list that includes sausage, mushrooms, jalapeños, and shredded love poems.