Gold-leaf writing inscribed across the towering red portico at the entrance to The Shannon Rose Irish Pub announces what one might expect to find inside: “Premium Stouts,” “Irish Whiskies,” and other culinary staples of the Emerald Isles. Behind this imposing entryway lies a series of dining rooms that have a markedly different effect; chandeliers create a sense of intimacy as they illuminate Gaelic artwork and aged hardcovers resting on lofty bookshelves.
When the Jacksonville Zoo first opened in 1914, it had only one attraction––a red fawn. Today, nearly a century later, it’s home to more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 plant species, and welcomes an ever-changing lineup of visiting exhibits. Guests stroll along the boardwalk in a large, open environment called the Plains of East Africa, where cheetah, antelope, and warthogs roam in environs that simulate their native habitat. The African loop also includes Elephant Plaza, where elephants stir up tidal waves playing marco polo in a 275,000-gallon pool. Visitors can also pet and feed stingrays, stand eye-to-eye with a giraffe, and head to the award-winning Range of the Jaguar exhibit to roam a replica of an abandoned Mayan temple. During summer months, kids get wet at the Play Park and Splash Ground, where they can climb into a treehouse or peer through an underwater window to see penguins swimming overhead.
After guests explore the wildlife, rest and relaxation await within botanical gardens such as the Asian Bamboo garden, where patrons cross a traditional moon gate to see a tranquil waterfall, komodo dragons, and an interactive bamboo mist forest. The zoo also features a carousel, train rides, and several restaurants where humans can tap into their own wild instincts by hunting their natural prey—the sandwich.
By subtly tweaking flavors and adding unorthodox seasonal and local ingredients, Chef Albert Scazafave puts his signature stamp on pub food at Twisted Elm. Sriracha BBQ sauce is used to spice up the smoked St. Louis-style ribs, there's a hint of cognac in the french onion soup, and brie and cheddar fondue get mixed in with pieces of lobster in the grilled cheese. His innovations continue at brunch, which features almond-crusted french toast and hand-tossed pizza with housemade sausage and scrambled eggs.
Twisted Elm's American and imported craft beers complement Chef Albert's artfully plated dishes; naturally made wines are also available. Every Tuesday night, the gastropub hosts live acoustic music and the popular opening act "Musicians Stringing Their Instruments: Live!"
((Boom)) Burger's staff angle to put their restaurant on the map in a variety of ways. First, they put a twist on the classic burger, infusing Angus beef patties with cheesy fillings that burst open with each bite. Next, their bartenders make like mad scientists and mix beakers full of brightly colored, fruit-flavored drinks known as Boomerangs that come in giant servings of up to 38 ounces. Between all of the barstools and tabletops the eatery can host up to 300 people all set aglow by 40 high-definition televisions. This means that even at maximum capacity, there’s one screen for every seven and a half people, so you can always catch your game of choice, be it baseball, soccer, or commercial judging.
Oak Ale House is an eatery divided in half—one side is a sports bar, and the other is an old-fashioned Italian restaurant. Paintings of Italy hang in the latter section, where families crowd long tables piled high with plates of pasta, pizza, and burgers. The menu unfolds to reveal a mélange of American-Italian staples such as penne in a creamy vodka sauce, and rib-eye steaks that sizzle out the national anthem as they’re cooked. Back in the kitchen, ovens bake thick and thin pizzas to a bubbly golden brown, and grills heat up eight types of hamburgers to sate hamburgervores.
Beyond the guarded border dividing the two establishments lies a sports bar, where frothy brews pour from kegs and live music beckons toes to start tapping. The bar also houses seven flat-screen TVs, billiards, darts, and karaoke on select nights.
Three Wise Monks first threw open the doors of its welcoming, renovated saloon in spring of 2012, unveiling gleaming pint glasses and the malty scent of freshly crafted brews. Barkeeps rotate more than 14 craft beers through the tap lines, supplementing suds with bottles from breweries such as Founders, Flying Dog, Rogue, and Smuttynose. Three Wise Monks updates visitors online on the daily contents of its hop rocket, a Randallizer that infuses beer with basic hops or flavors such as coffee beans, fruit, and Clydesdales' tears.