Owners John Cakmis and Jill Gustafson offer up an eclectic menu of New Orleans spice and fresh seafood that mixes the best of casual and fine dining. Start off with a spicy Cajun bayou gumbo with fresh shrimp, crawfish tails, and andouille sausage (cup $6, bowl $9, entrée $12), a “martini” of cold lump crab meat severed over greens with avocado, pico de gallo and roasted red pepper remoulade ($14) or a simple, fresh market salad (small $4, large $8). Dine on delicious seafood oxymorons like the lightly battered and fried jumbo Mayport shrimp with fries and slaw ($17) or the sesame seared ahi tuna with mandarin oranges, sliced almonds, and mature baby greens in ginger-soy ponzu, served with wasabi aioli and roasted red potatoes ($23). Terrestrial Cajun entrees include the mojo marinated roast pork with black beans, rice, and fried plantains ($16).
Though Brucci's Pizza owner Bruce Jackson was born in Syracuse, New York, his grandparents hail from Italy, and he grew up feasting on Italian recipes that had been passed down through generations. At his restaurant, the chefs follow the same timeworn recipes as his grandparents when dishing up Italian favorites with a New York–style flair. They whip up lasagna layered with meatballs and italian sausage, grill paninis, and hand-toss housemade dough for pizzas, strombolis, and calzones. Their specialty pies include the Brooklyn—topped with diced tomatoes and fresh basil—and the Syracuse Stuffer—laden with sausage, beef, pepperoni, and ham, as well as green peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
But Brucci's Pizza is more than just an eatery—it's also a gathering place. In addition to weekly specials, the three locations host regular events. The Ponte Vedra and Fruit Cove locations host a Monday kids' night, and the West Beaches location facilitates live music twice a week, played by bands that are not made up of animatronic rodents. The chefs also issue a standing challenge: if any guest can devour a double-thick, 16-inch Fuhgeddaboudit pizza—smothered in seven toppings and gobs of extra cheese—within an hour, it's on the house.
The Augustine Grille supports locally grown food by working with an array of local farmers, regional farmers, and artisans to source the freshest and highest quality of sustainable, seasonal food. The menu of local seafood, naturally raised chicken, and house dry-aged prime steaks satisfies any craving. Start with truffled white-cheddar and lobster mac ‘n’ cheese ($14), or the blue crab with watermelon, cucumber, and cilantro ($14). Specialty seafood dishes include Mayport shrimp with grit cakes, spinach, and tasso gravy ($28) and a whole fish with jasmine rice, baby bok choy, and red thi curry (market price). A dry-aged, prime, natural ribeye with parmesan frites and asparagus is a delectable entree option ($39), or opt for a three-course prix-fixe meal and savor the flavors of course after course of scrumptious dishes ($39).
The Pointe Vedra Beach cantina serves up a fresh menu of tasty Tex-Mex treats served daily for lunch and dinner. Start your dining adventure by splitting an order of green-chili sliders ($7.95) with your brawny bodybuilding companion. Haberdashers and handmaidens savor the bespiced flavor of the mini sirloin burgers smothered in cheese and green-chili sauce, while history profs opt for a 10-inch Mexican pizza ($9.95), loaded with steak or chicken, black beans, fresh chopped veggies, Chihuahua cheese, and red mole sauce. Soups and salads offer light options for foolish diners who spoiled dinner with mid-afternoon Pop-Tart binges, while the more heartily appetited will enjoy feasting on any of the eatery's tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, or house specialties, such as the ancho-seared scallops ($17.95) doused in red-chili pecan sauce and served with yucca fries and poblano grits, or the slow-roasted pork ranchera ($14.95) with black beans, rice, fresh veggies, and poblano peppers.
Palm Valley Fish Camp customizes swimmingly savory fare with fresh ingredients and entices eaters with its gorgeous waterfront vistas. Lunchers can activate their appetites with toasted Melba and smoked- fish spread ($5), before lassoing an order of Baja-style fish tacos sauced with tomato salsa fresca ($9). Steamed mussels and garlic-herb broth introduce guests to dinner ($9), which may then progress to helpings of Mayport shrimp and creamy grits ($16) or a roasted fillet of cod, complete with brown butter, garlic, lemon, and parsley-flecked new potatoes ($15). Dessert options include a sweet and salty chocolate torte ($5) and vanilla ice cream topped with the syrupy donations of the self-sacrificing maple ($3).
With a vibrant décor featuring more colors than a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, Zoёs is an energetic and flavorful stop for good-for-you grub. A healthy recipe breathes new life into the Zoёs original chicken-salad sandwich with white chicken on seven-grain bread, while seameat cravers can feast on the Mediterranean tuna pita, stuffed generously with tuna, capers, red onions, olives, lettuce, and tomato (all sandwiches are $6.95). Toastier tastes include quesadillas ($6.95 with $1 extra for grilled chicken), a warm melt of spinach, scallions, and feta; and chicken kabobs ($8.95) skewered with green peppers, cherry tomatoes, and red onions over a rice pilaf and Greek salad. Zoёs also offers salads, side dishes, and the decadent Yaya's homemade chocolate sheet cake ($2 a slice).