The red and black ship cuts through the waters of Matanzas Bay, its sails waving in the wind. On deck, members of a pirate crew call one another by names such as Oly Mackarel, Jaybird, Anastasia, Clipper, and Dirty James as they cavort between bow and stern, dazzling their audiences. Their ship, the Black Raven, was designed as a floating live performance theater—and accommodates more than 120 passengers as a crew of performers in full buccaneer dress produce interactive and dynamic plays in the spotlight. The actors work the crowd with a variety of rehearsed but unscripted skits, geared toward audiences of all ages, and may change their performance to engage specific audience members.
Fresh seafood, juicy steaks, wine and craft beers from around the world. It's all just part of the experience of dining at 386, which is located within a shady oak forest in a building reminiscent of Old Florida. Chefs draw on a variety of American culinary traditions to make their menu. Shrimp and grits reference the South; aged steaks mirror those prepared in West; scallops are cooked in the northeastern style; bowls of chicken scaloppini over pasta refer to the state's Noodle Territories. Every dish is painstakingly arranged to be as attractive to eyes as it is to taste buds, with drizzles of sauce and expertly balanced bites forming edible art pieces.
Mojo's owner and proprietor, Todd Lineberry, grew up in North Carolina, right in the epicenter of one of the most thriving barbecue regions in the country. Todd grew to appreciate the distinctive tastes and flavors of different barbecue traditions, which is why he fuses flavors from the major barbecue regions—North Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City, Texas, and the tour bus for the Charlie Daniels Band—into the dishes served at Mojo. Using authentic cooking techniques and housemade sauces, chefs stuff the menu with dishes such as pulled-pork shoulder, pit-smoked chicken, and chopped-brisket sandwiches. To complement these regional barbecued delicacies, they also prepare housemade Southern sides such as collard greens and creamy coleslaw.
Each Mojo Jacksonville-area location has an identity as distinct as the dishes it serves. Live blues music permeates the airwaves and nearby ocean waves at Mojo Kitchen, BBQ Pit, and Blues Bar, while Mojo no. 4 stocks more than 175 whiskies such as Jameson, The Macallan, Wild Turkey, and Jack Daniels. Each location also caters for parties and events of all types.
In Green Room Brewing’s tap room, servers pour out eight beers from other Florida breweries but it’s the microbrewery’s own pints that make it truly special. Visitors to the tap room can admire the steel fermenters, wooden barrels, and other brewing equipment as they sip one of several rotating specialty brews, such as a barrel-aged beer or a belgian. Two options stay on the menu year-round: an American-style High Head IPA with a citrus aroma and plenty of hops and the light crisp Diamond Belgian Wit, a traditional Belgian ale brewed with coriander.
But the brewery isn’t just about filling pints and growlers. Local artwork adorns the tap room’s sky-blue walls, and the brewery hosts live music performances, visits from other microbreweries, and regular Jenga competitions that help create a lively spirit of community, like the mandatory team-building exercises supervised by leprechauns each St. Patrick’s Day.
Though the chefs at Urban Flats spend every day baking gourmet flatbreads in their stone hearth, the task rarely bores them. They keep life interesting by crowning the whole-wheat bases with locally sourced and seasonally rotating ingredients such as curried chicken, breaded eggplant, and diced red peppers. Thankfully, the culinary variation isn’t limited to the flatbreads. Urban Flats also offers a full slate of wines that range from fragrant whites to spicy reds.
It?s 2 a.m. and the thump of dubstep still pours out onto Blue Water Island Grill?s second-story balcony, drowning out the din of laughter and clinking cocktails. Although this casual eatery caters to late-night revelers, it doesn?t shirk cuisine: chefs marinate fish in creative sauces, such as soy and tomato-basil concasse, and serve dishes with tropical flourishes such as mango coleslaw and Chiquita-banana-signed napkins.