Having grown up in Baltimore, Chef Kahn Vongdara showcases a cooking style infused with the flavors and ingredients of Chesapeake Bay. At Crab Cake Factory, he has compiled a menu featuring Maryland-style crab cakes and dishes such as trout and crayfish brushed with roasted-pecan sauce. Chef Kahn's hefty 16-ounce new york strip steak with crispy potato strings is served in a dining room—full of plush booths and wooden tables—where musicians pluck strings and sensually massage their saxophones. To complement the surf 'n' turf lineup and Jacksonville Jaguars games in the lounge, the eatery's mixologists offer more than 10 martinis, including the Cupid's Potion, crafted with Three Olives vanilla vodka and strawberry liqueur.
North Beach Bistro is more than a restaurant—it's a legacy. The upscale eatery was the vision of renowned chef Tony Pels, who trained with culinary giants such as Wolfgang Puck and Michel Richard, and chef David Seavey, whom Pels mentored for 15 years at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa. Pels passed away only two months before the restaurant's opening in June of 2008, leaving executive chef Seavey to carry on his tradition of culinary creativity and generosity.
Spurred on by this responsibility, Seavey combines the freshest ingredients with a genuine love for his fellow Floridians. The Jacksonville native crafts hearty and flavorful surf 'n' turf entrees such as the bistro bouillabaisse with Mayport shrimp, sea scallops, mussels, calamari, and fresh fish or chargrilled Black Angus filet mignon with sauteed mushrooms and port wine sauce. Reddish-gold fixtures in the bar emanate light that's as warm and welcoming as the chef himself. DJs and live music keep the space vibrant, and the dining room's wood floors and spot-lit art give it an air of sophistication. Weekly trivia nights arm guests with knowledge that makes an ideal conversation starter or helps pass the time while stuck in an elevator with Ken Jennings.
Ocean Grille isn’t your typical seafood shack. An iridescent blue bar takes up prime real estate in the middle of the restaurant, bathing the dining room in an indigo glow that emanates from the wrap-around lighting. A slew of HDTVs tilt from the ceiling toward diners. It’s not surprising, that the seaside spot doubles as a nightclub after dining hours. DJs play club music as bartenders pour cocktails for revelers and mermaid bachelorette parties. There’s even complimentary valet parking every night. Diners interested in breathing in some fresh air while ogling land-based panoramas can grab a seat on the outdoor patio, which overlooks grass-covered dunes.
But Ocean Grille isn’t all atmosphere. The menu delights diners with unorthodox eats, such as gator bites, conch fritters, and chargrilled oysters served with white wine, garlic, and butter. The restaurants also pays homage to the classics with grouper sandwiches and grilled tenderloin.
The hefty cheesesteaks at Bongiorno’s Philly Steak Shop smack of authenticity since they rest inside Amoroso’s rolls shipped straight from Philadelphia and come packed with meats from South Jersey. Housemade soups prepared fresh each day pairs with the eatery’s six types of steak sandwich, as well as its hoagies, hot dogs, wraps, and quesadillas.
Hurricane Grill & Wings showcases its library of more than 30 sauces in dishes that blend American, Mexican, and tropical influences. Their sauces' level of spiciness mimics hurricane intensity ratings, from the honey or mango barbecue options occupying Category 1 to the Ridiculously Hot Hurricane sauce in Category 5. In between sit flavors of ancho chili and lime, Jamaican jerk, chipotle raspberry, and spicy sweet chili. Baskets of jumbo or boneless wings come tossed in guests’ sauces of choice, as do grilled chicken or mahi-mahi sandwiches.
Elsewhere on the menu are tropically themed selections such as firecracker shrimp tacos, Southwest-style churrasco steak, and Monterey jack–filled quesadillas. The to-go menu can accommodate large gatherings, such as sports-watching parties or jury-duty reunions. Meanwhile, the full bar features island cocktails and bottle and tap beers from a variety of microbreweries to help subdue roaring mouth fires.
Grinders American Diner on Atlantic Blvd in Arlington serves up hearty-sized breakfasts and lunches, including classics like meatloaf smothered in brown gravy and country fried steak. The unassuming little diner offers plenty of counter seating and simple wood grain tables, complete with black leather chairs. A chalkboard above the counter clues patrons in to the soup of the day, daily specials and a rotating sandwich option. Drop by often enough and you’ll start to hone in on favorites like the tuna melt, fried green tomatoes or build-your-own omelets. And while you’re there, be on the lookout for old timers squatting over a coffee and the morning paper, fast talking businessmen grabbing a bite before work and a sizeable lunch crowd that runs the gamut from regulars to hurried first-timers.