Jacksonville locals love to talk about The French Pantry. There’s the bread, the European feel – and the long lines. This Southside establishment takes their pantry moniker seriously, with a paltry square footage that offers no more than a counter and some wooden communal dining tables, perfect for rubbing elbows with strangers. The cozy hole-in-the-wall bakes fresh bread daily, served with seasonal olive oil, or piled up as a sandwich. Try the rare roast beef and boursin, with fresh greens, tomatoes, and a tomato-mayo spread. Or head for the turkey, pesto and goat cheese, which remains a local favorite. The quaintly decorated but decidedly diminutive storefront is only open for weekday lunches from 11 a.m. to-2 p.m., and is really only recognizable by its faded green awning. Servers will help find you a seat if one is available, but expect a wait regardless.
As one of Jacksonville’s original cupcakeries, Cami Cakes in the Tinseltown shopping area is a sweet delight. The small storefront, complete with pink lettering, houses a couch and several scattered tables for in-house eating, but the real draw is choosing which flavor to enjoy. At any given time, more than a dozen cupcake options peek back from behind the glass counter, while the only thing more beautiful might just be the perfect pink box, wrapped with a bow, that’s used to carry them out. As patrons enter Cami Cakes, their senses are assaulted with a lovely perfume of lemon and sweet icing, while longtime locals make a beeline for popular favorites like red velvet, carrot cake and chocolate raspberry almond. Offered right in the heart of Jacksonville, these sweet treats have been known to rival anything made in New York City or San Francisco.
This Southside sweets shop in St. John’s Town Center shopping plaza is a pastel wonderland. With gleaming, curved glass-topped counters filled with freshly baked colorful sweets, this cupcakery is known for its light, fluffy original cupcakes – and for the lines that often form out front. The crowds exist for a reason; Owner Holly Wilder has won the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars twice, and sells many of her most famous confections on site at Sweet!, including creamsicle, key lime and chocolate peanut butter. The shop, with its red and chrome chairs and white tabletops, brings miniature, classic and original-sized cupcakes to Jacksonville masses, alongside gluten-free versions in store and specially ordered sugar-free renditions.
On & Poppin' East Coast Gourmet Popcorn Co. pops and delivers popcorn in every flavor imaginable, including cheese, fruit, candy, dessert, and soda. Customers can create their own tins?brimming with cotton-candy, tangerine, and garlic-parmesan popcorn?or opt for a whole fistful of root-beer-flavored snacks. If you can't find a favorite among the hundreds of listed choices, On & Poppin' East Coast Gourmet Popcorn Co. can also make custom flavors based off your descriptions with 24 hours' notice.
Heather Jackson helms Aperitif Catering, where she and her staff whip up made-to-order goodies in the form of cupcakes, chicken pot pies, turkey and goat-cheese sandwiches, and gourmet cheese platters. Whether they’re catering small weddings or whisking lunches to corporate meetings inside of boxes—one of the hardest places to hold a corporate meeting—they pride themselves on their professionalism and fresh cuisine.
The Hyppo Cart, which hangs out in the St. John’s Town Shopping Center, is a spinoff of the original Hyppo in Saint Augustine. This gourmet popsicle truck got its start from simple fresh fruit, cane sugar and other freshly-made, interesting ingredients. Fashioned after paletas, which are Latin American ice pops made from fresh fruit and spices, flavors are as diverse as cucumber lemon mint, melon and cracked pepper. Fully-realized iterations like the Elvis combine peanut butter, honey and banana, while a Mexican Hot Chocolate version uses cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne. The Hyppo cart also offers gourmet sandwiches and salads, Bold Bean coffees and espresso, tea, agave sodas and baked goods. From its humble beginnings, the pops have gained a loyal following and bring about arguments of favorite flavors among its fans.