If you live in Jax Beach, then you’ve most definitely heard of Angie’s Grom… But have you heard of Angie’s Subs??
Angie, short for Angelo, opened up his first sandwich shop up by the Mayport Naval Station back in the 1970’s. He also owned Angelo’s Pizza & Subs and a few other shops around town over the years, before selling The Grom and Angie’s Subs to the current owner.
And Edward Malin, the current owner of both the infamous Angie’s Grom as well as Angie’s Subs in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, also happens to be currently running for Congress in Florida’s 4th District, on a platform of federal tax reform.
Beyond the potential amendment of the federal income tax being his very passionate and number one campaign platform issue - which would directly affect the paychecks of every working American - Ed also has a vision aimed more locally. Starting right here at Angie’s. And right here at The Beaches.
His aim is to renovate Angie’s Subs into a fairly large and elaborate tourist destination. The plan consists of knocking down the current Sub shop, and rebuilding the property into a three story distillery and barbecue restaurant in its place. And let’s not forget a new parking lot. But Malin promises the original subs will still all be sold, just as they have been for the past thirty years.
And with sub sandwiches on the menu printed with names such as “My Wife Kicked Me Out” and the “Dirty Gringo” I wonder what the menu will look like in the future, residing in a brand new three story building a few years from now... Will the Father Dan still be on the menu? Will out-of-town tourists flock to purchase a Scrippy or El Guapo?
Only time will tell. I do know tourists need to eat while they’re here though. However, all these future changes still have to make their way through the highly bureaucratic city government approval process, and any renovations are not likely to commence for approximately two years.
In the interim, I’m absolutely in love with the rough and casual, aged exterior of Angie’s Subs. I love pulling into an aged and pebbly parking lot, faded striped lines, and no formality. Beautiful moss covered trees overhanging the old cemetery and little park situated next door. Glancing at the building itself, I could finally take in, up close and personal, the large murals I see every day when driving down Beach Boulevard. And walking up to the old strip mall style building that houses Angie’s Subs, I noted an outdoor seating patio situated under the perfect Florida blue sky, and, by the front doors, one is greeted with old, wooden rocking chairs and benches.
Once inside, there are paper copies of the menu to take with you on the go, but the menu is also up at the front counter.
And there are two front counters inside. The counter on the furthest left is where customers place their orders, and once taken, patrons are guided to the next counter, to the right, to pay their check.
After we ordered and paid, we were then free to pick any seat, and our order was brought out to us after it was freshly made. Hot.
And hot they were.
I ordered one of the subs listed as an Old Standby on the menu: the classic roast beef sub on whole wheat bread, for $6.99.
Each sub comes standard with mayo, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion and an oil/vinegar mix. I chose to leave off the mayo and the oil/vinegar sauce - alleviating a lot of calories in the process.
And hubby ordered one of Angie’s newest subs - the Angie’s Philly. The Philly is a cheesesteak sandwich that includes steak, italian sausage, mayo, cheese, sweet peppers, onions, and mushrooms, priced at $7.49.
We also both ordered a bag of their chips, priced at $1.65 per bag, and a drink, priced at $2.50. Our total check was $24.53, plus a tip.
All drink sizes are the same price, so we both ordered a large, since we were paying for it regardless. And because of this single choice, I was then met face-to-face with a literal JUG of free-flowing pink lemonade throughout my meal.
Ummm, I happen to love pink lemonade. So, this is the place for me. Pink lemonade, in a styrofoam jug. A supersized pink lemonade. Enough pink lemonade to feed an army. And free refills. Need I say more? I was in Heaven.
A Sugar-Coated Heaven.
Glad I left that mayo off.
We both loved our subs. I loved my hot, and custom-made, toasty sub so much that I can easily go back to Angie’s Subs any day. And they’re fast too. So I can do this on my lunch break, and with it not very costly eithe. And not having to worry about time.
And you know what else?
The food I bit into reminded me of Chicago!
And that sentence situated above this one is very, very deserving of the exclamation point I placed at the end of it. As well as deserving of its own paragraph.
Bringing high praise for Angie’s Subs from me. For the mere fact that the declaration and the act of comparing the word “food” and “Chicago” is a complete and utter rarity for me in Florida. What I mean more simply is, the Tastes of Chicago are very, very difficult to find here in the South. Very difficult, indeed.
But I was able to taste Chicago in that sub. Within one to two bites into my meal. I said right away to my hubby that I was reminded of Chicago. I could just taste it in the way the sub was carefully created, and made just for me, and just the way I want. With the quality food and detail placed in each sandwich. It tasted like my sub was thoroughly cared for while it was being produced and before it was served to me. It tasted of passion. A passion for food. And that is something, after living thirty-something years in the foodie capital of the world, is very, very challenging for me to find, outside of Illinois. And apparently something practically impossible to replicate outside the casual and relaxed borders of Chicagoland.
From a Chicago-foodie, this is a large compliment to the Chef.
So, while I may never try the Ten Dollar sub - priced appropriately at $7.65 - or the Minorcan, or the Peruvian, I do know I’ll be back for another repeat order of an extra, extra large pink lemonade, plus an Old Standby.
Yes, I thank you, Angie’s Subs in Jax Beach, for the best sub I’ve had in years. For the best sub I’ve had since living in The Sunshine State. And I will be back. Very, very soon.~
Ummmmmm, hey, you, over there - check out some of my other local dining reviews, right here - you know, down below:
9] Sago Coffee: A Cup Of Friendly & Flavorful Florida
*Part of ~ Bean’s Coffee Shop Challenge ~
15] V Pizza ~ The Very Best Pizza In Jax Beach!
*Part of ~ Bean’s Best ~ Award Winner 2019
16] Beach Diner ~ If You Feed them They Will Come
19] Another Broken Egg Cafe ~ A Taste Of NOLA @ The Beach
21] Cinotti’s ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
35] Happiest Of Holidays @ Hawkers Asian Street Fare
40] Visiting The Florida Cracker Kitchen ~ Jacksonville
45] Dessert First, My Friends ~ Cantina Louie
50] Sundays Are For Diners ~ Super Diners
53] Totally Terrific & Tasty Thai @ Blue Orchid Thai Cuisine
Have you been to Angie’s Subs in Jax Beach? What’s your favorite sub sandwich? I’d love to know. Drop me a comment down below:
Blue Orchid Thai Cuisine in Jacksonville, Florida, is as lovely and as beautiful as a blue orchid itself. And since our move to The Sunshine State, this restaurant happens to be the very best Thai we’ve found since being Floridians. I highly recommend a visit there; and once you go, you’ll pretty much want to start planning your return visit, right then and there, before your meal is complete.
Located @ 13475 Atlantic Boulevard, Blue Orchid is the winner of numerous local dining awards, including the 50 Best Restaurants Jacksonville Magazine 2018 Award and the OpenTable Diners Choice 2019 Award.
In fact, being an OpenTable member is the reason I discovered this place originally. I reserve nearly each visit on OpenTable, whether for lunch or dinner - and I earn 100 points in the process. If you’re not yet on OpenTable and you love to dine out and enjoy new culinary experiences, it’s something that I would definitely consider.
OpenTable is a free dining membership program based through an app on your smartphone. Instead of calling the restaurant itself for a reservation, I always reserve digitally through OpenTable. The only requirement being that the restaurant needs to be a member of the dining program. And since my membership began, the list of participating restaurants has only been climbing. Each reservation earns 100 points or more, with some exceptions to that. But the average seems to be 100 points. And once you reach roughly 1000 points (meaning roughly 10 reservations) you can redeem those points for rewards such as an Amazon gift card. But there are many options for reward redemption.
And with the reservation in the OpenTable system, my favorite part is the calendar reminder. Chances are if I call a restaurant, I forgot to write down my time, and thus, forget when my reservation actually is. OpenTable syncs with my iPhone calendar, and sends me reminder texts. It’s nearly impossible to forget that I have a dinner outing upcoming. And I always know the time I need to be there.
So, basically, I always reserve through OpenTable whenever I can. When we arrived for our first lunch outing at Blue Orchid, we were given our requested table - a booth. And that’s another nice feature of OpenTable’s app. If you have a special request… whether it’s a birthday celebration and you would like them to sing to your table, a dietary requirement or allergy, whether you are vegan or vegetarian, whether you would like a table or a booth… all of that can be inserted into your OpenTable profile, and restaurants are extremely good at honoring and taking note of these special requests and modifications for OpenTable members.
After we were seated in a booth, and enjoyed an amazing lunch on that first visit a few years back, another lovely experience at Blue Orchid was that we met the husband of the husband-wife team restaurant owners of Blue Orchid. Their passion really shows in the authenticity of the surroundings and the dishes on the menu itself. And it was a lovely experience to hear more about their history and how they are so passionate about serving Thai food to the local community in Jacksonville.
We shared with the owner that no matter what town we are visiting, traveling through, or have lived in, we are always searching for the best Thai restaurants to try. And Blue Orchid is at the top of the list. I was blown away enough by that first meal, that we have gone back consistently throughout these last few years of living in Jax.
So on our most recent visit, I really felt compelled to finally share with y’all my love of Thai food, as well as the beautiful presentation, and taste of Thailand, right here at home.
We both chose the lunch special, which is offered regularly Monday thru Friday from 11am-3pm. The special comes with a cup of soup, an entree with choice of protein, and a side of white or brown rice.
On this visit I ordered a delicious cup of their Thai chicken noodle soup to start, and hubby ordered a cup of the tom yum soup. I noted a generous portion of both soups. Sometimes, I tend to get a tiny little saucer cup of soup which consists mostly of broth when served a lunch special at a restaurant. But at Blue Orchid, the soup portion was much larger, and there was a lot more than just broth in the soup. The carrots in my soup were still so fresh I tasted the crunchy texture, but they were not overcooked and not overcooked, but I could tell the veggies were new and recently chopped.
For our entrees, I ordered the mixed vegetables, priced at $12.00, with beef as the protein option. I selected the side of brown rice - which is a healthier alternative over white rice - and at a $1.00 up-charge, a very common fee that I am used to paying for. Also, I loved the cute little heart-shaped carrot resting atop my rice.
And hubby ordered the garlic and pepper stir fry as his entree. Also priced at $12.00, with a side of the white rice, at no extra charge. The presentation of both dishes was perfection. And we both absolutely loved our entrees. Loaded with savory flavorings from the top of the bowl through to all the delicious juices at the bottom.
And yeah, I did go home with a box in hand. My leftovers made a fabulous dinner another night. But, it’s a darn good thing indeed that Blue Orchid is close by, and we can come back whenever we’re looking for a Taste of Thailand.
For some of the best Thai food within the very large and vast Duval County, I’d highly recommend a visit, whether you happen to be in the area, or, go ahead and take a drive on over and enjoy a relaxing outing, with all the wonderful flavors of tasty Thailand surrounding you. ~
Hey there! Go ahead and check out these other dining reviews and Floridian adventures below, all are pulled straight from my Floridian Dreams:
4] The Boathouse @ Disney Springs ~ Disney Dining At Its Best
5] The Reef On SR A1A: Worth Pulling Over For
11] Eleven South Bistro & Bar ~~ Supper Club Of The South
15] V Pizza ~ The Very Best Pizza In Jax Beach!
*Part of ~ Bean’s Best ~ Award Winner 2019
16] Beach Diner ~ If You Feed Them They Will Come
19] Another Broken Egg Cafe ~ A Taste Of NOLA @ The Beach
29] Dinner & A Show ~The 26th Annual St. Augustine Nights Of Lights
35] Happiest Of Holidays @ Hawkers Asian Street Fare
40] Visiting The Florida Cracker Kitchen ~ Jacksonville
45] Dessert First, My Friends ~ Cantina Louie
50] Sundays Are For Diners ~ Super Diners
What’s your favorite Thai restaurant? I’d love to know! Drop me a comment down below:
Hey there yall!
Happiest of Happy Monday’s to you - each and every one. I hope you had the very best weekend of your life...
I hope your Sunday was: Simply. Swell.
Actually, I hope you ate a delicious ice cream Sundae. On. Sunday.
I hope you got your Sun Daze On. On. Sunday.
But, you know what I really hope???... I really hope and wish that your day was a supercalifragilistic one. On. Sunday.
I hope your Sunday was a full blown expialidocious one. On. Sunday.
And, even if you didn’t happen to devour a delicious sundae - on Sunday - and, even if you didn’t have a long and repetitive song stuck in your head - on Sunday - then I hope you did the very next best thing to that. Sang the very next best song to that. And dined on the very next best thing to that.
I hope you enjoyed a delicious meal. On. Sunday...
On my Sunday, I dined at a diner.
The Metro Diner - to be exact.
Metro Diner has grown significantly in recent years. And on our busy, yet lovely and leisurely Sunday, hubby and I dined at the Ponte Vedra Beach Metro Diner location. However, there are many locations throughout Jacksonville.
And we’ve been to most of them. Metro Diner is a regular part of our “dining out” experience.
The one and only original Metro Diner, located in San Marco, is the perfect and very quintessential diner. And this diner became so popular that others were built around and throughout Jacksonville. And now, very recently, Metro Diner has spread throughout the entire SouthEast and is growing at a fairly rapid pace.
But San Marco is and remains probably my favorite of their locations. Old trees. Historic neighborhood. Directly next to the gateway to Downtown Jax. Yet, this past Sunday, we stayed on the island, not venturing over the bridge, for anything.
So we chose a Beaches location to dine at. Still the same food. Still the same atmosphere, service, and friendliness. Just a different area of town, very and much closer to home.
The Jacksonville area Metro Diners are so popular, that Guy Fieri found himself making a stop to Jax, FL. He featured Metro Diner on the popular cable series Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. And that stop in by Guy has only made Metro Diner even more famous.
And while it started out and is known as the place “where the locals eat” - Metro Diner has grown to be a must-visit stop on the list of business travelers, tourists, and spring-breakers, and families young and old, while they are visiting the greater Jacksonville area.
I know that I am always recommending Metro Diner to lots of out-of-town visitors. And I’ve had many a wonderful meal there myself, whether it is just with the hubby, or with lots of friends and family too.
So while I had a leisurely Sunday yesterday, it was also filled with busy and errand-filled tasks that needed to get done.
But, you know what? Life, every day, isn’t just about “getting stuff done.” Running around: doing tasks, and chores, and a list of never-ending errands…. Even if you have an errand-filled day, there’s always room for good food.
And Metro Diner was a no-brainer choice for us. We were in the Ponte Vedra Beach area, and planned lunch out at the Diner while doing my long check-list of things I knew I wanted to get done that day.
I simply added Metro Diner onto that to-do list. And it became a must-do.
And there we went.
While I love the Jax Beach location; and it’s so close to home. The Ponte Vedra Beach location I might love even more.
The Diner in Ponte Vedra is part of the Sawgrass Village shopping complex. A complex filled with a grocer, a variety of restaurants, lots of clothing shops, a surfboard shop, stationary, treats, and most importantly - a Peterbrooke Chocolatiers. There’s also hotels and other restaurants around back. Including the Sawgrass Marriott Resort. So, while from driving down A1A, Sawgrass looks like it’s just a Publix and a few other things, there’s a lot of other treasures mixed in and behind.
Location, location, location.
And when you pull in the complex, and drive toward the Diner, if that lot is full, just keep rounding the corner, and there’s an entire, larger, hidden parking lot in the back.
The Diner also has a nice, covered, outdoor patio for dining facing the water in Sawgrass.
And at Metro Diner, when you walk inside, they always thank you for coming in, and say goodbye and thank you on the way out.
We were seated in a booth of a crowded restaurant during the lunch rush. Not an open seat or table to be had. Families on outings, couples, very large parties, and very small ones too. Metro Diner is the place to be for everyone on a Sunday morning at the Beach. Very crowded. Expect a potential wait if the timing is just right.
And while we were seated immediately and didn’t wait at all, I also easily and immediately chose the lemonade to order, no decision making time needed. I love their lemonade and I almost always it. And hubby ordered the iced tea.
And, in about two seconds, I chose the French Toast with a side of Bacon.
When my meal was served to me, our lovely server put it down in front of me, and before the plate even hit the table, I already smelled cinnamony goodness. My meal had the scent of a bakery. It was heavenly.
The bacon at Metro Diner is perfect, so I always recommend ordering a side if your meal doesn’t come with it.
All the Diner’s have a large chalkboard inside, clearly listing the daily specials, and maybe special pies, drinks, deals, or holiday-themed goodies. So, while my hubby always seems to order the Eggs Benedict, he chose the Sunday Special this time around - which happened to be spicy fried chicken Benedict. And the meal came with a generous side of hash browns.
As is typical in Florida, but not so much so in the winter, it rained while we were enjoying our meal inside, and by the time we left, the rain had cleared and the ground was drying.
We said goodbye and carried on with the rest of our day on the coast. The misty air and salty breeze all-consuming and heavenly, indeed. Over and over I told my husband how much I love a Florida winter day.
And my tummy was full of Sunday goodness.
And my heart was full of gratefulness too.
And my head was full of song.
Yes, inside it a little tune…
And I'm really not quite sure what song was in there???
And I’m not sure where it came from?
Or what the words were?
I just think I recognized it as a little hummm, and a little garbled… and I think it went a little something like this:
Check out these other delicious and diner-filled stories below, why don’t ya?
16) Beach Diner ~ If You Feed Them They Will Come
19) Another Broken Egg Cafe ~ A Taste Of NOLA @ The Beach
22) Saturday On San Pablo Island
Y’all may also enjoy:
9) Sago Coffee: A Cup Of Friendly & Flavorful Florida
*Part of ~ Bean’s Coffee Shop Challenge ~
11) Eleven South Bistro & Bar ~~ Supper Club Of The South
39) The Very Official & Quite Serious Donut Debate Of 2020
40) Visiting The Florida Cracker Kitchen ~ Jacksonville
48) Love & Donuts In The Air @ Beaches For Australia
Have you been to Jacksonville’s Metro Diner? What’s your favorite Metro Diner location? I’d love to know! Let me know with a comment down below.
How can you walk into a place decked out like this and not have a good time?
Folks, you’ve got to get yourselves on down to Cantina Louie. Located on Atlantic Boulevard in the small coastal town of Atlantic Beach, Florida, Cantina Louie is consistently one of my favorite and quick go-to restaurants around, any time. But whenever we have a taste for Mexican, we usually end up here.
The food is always good, and the atmosphere is always fun. Really, I personally enjoy all the murals on the wall and the fun lighting and decor flowing throughout. But then again, I do like the food just as much as the art within.
So if you’re looking for a friendly and casual place to dine while in The Beaches area of Jacksonville, this is the place.
Besides, any day is a good day for Mexican food… says anyone and everyone who is put face to face with a platter of tortilla chips and salsa - right? And this place is generous with their chips and salsa. My goodness… it’s the best around, always fresh, and the salsa is absolutely nothing other than addicting. And did I mention that it’s endless? All I can say is - Arrive. Hungry.
And then, after you’ve munched away on the best chips and salsa in town, you’ll need to look down at your stomach, and give it a fair warning.
Says you to your tummy.
Because here comes your entree!
I hope your tummy heard you.
For $9.99 I was presented with all of this darn good food!
I almost always order the combo platter, hardly ever deviating from that selection. With a choice of chicken or ground beef, the platter comes with two tacos and a side of rice and beans.
And this is where the tummy really needs that fair warning. Have you ever seen a ‘side’ of retried beans and rice like this? It’s enormous. It’s huge. It’s beans and rice.
Any time you’re sitting at home and quietly contemplating where you should go out to dinner that weekend… just ask your stomach. He or she will remind you of Cantina Louie and my guess is you’ll be back for another go round.
Hubby got the chicken fajitas with a steak taco. He usually also orders a regular margarita with salt while we’re there. And I always go for the pink lemonade.
So yeah, um… Who else here is a pink lemonade fan? I can’t be the only one, right? Cantina Louie is one of the only places around I can find pink lemonade. Metro Diner has it, and I always order it there, but the list of places is short - very short. So any time I am at Cantina Louie the pink lemonade is a must for me. Such a treat.
And speaking of treats, the answer here is no. I have never had dessert here for the very simple reason that we are always just too full after our meal, every single time. So the meal is the treat. The chips and salsa are the treat... It’s goes sorta like this:
As a wise woman once said,
“Dessert first - my friends.”
Spoken by that wise woman.
If it was up to me where you decide to go to dinner I’d say go wherever you darn well please, but if you ask my tummy for its recommendation, I’d say, get yourself on down to Cantina Louie. Sit outside and play bags on the outdoor patio. Or sit inside under the blowing air conditioning when it’s 105 degrees and you want to cool off with a margarita and some freshly made crunchy chips. Just come; and sit. And have a pink lemonade for me while you’re there, if merely to help keep the supply and demand going for the next time I visit.~
Check out some of my visits to other Jax Beaches area restaurants here!
5] The Reef On SR A1A: Worth Pulling Over For
11] Eleven South Bistro & Bar ~~ Supper Club Of The South
15] V Pizza ~ The Very Best Pizza In Jax Beach!
*Part of ~ Bean’s Best ~ Award Winner 2019
35] Happiest Of Holidays @ Hawkers Asian Street Fare
40] Visiting The Florida Cracker Kitchen ~ Jacksonville
Have you been to Cantina Louie in Atlantic Beach? Do you love pink lemonade as much as I do? What other restaurants serve pink lemonade that I need to know of? Let me know in the comments down below:
Are you looking for some real, Southern, down-home cookin’?
Well, then look no further than the Florida Cracker Kitchen.
I had an absolutely Fabulous outing there, and I Must tell you about it!
I’ve driven past the Florida Cracker Kitchen many a time these past few years. Probably hundreds of times in fact. And always wanting to stop in, and always on my way somewhere else. Well, finally, that somewhere else turned into my somewhere to be.
As we finally made our way to this lovely little destination, we pulled into the Cracker Kitchen lot and curved right on past the cow statue which stands guard out front of the building. I’ve glanced at this cow many times as we passed on by traveling Beach Boulevard. And he always looks back at me and waves hello.
Stepping out of the car there was someone playing the guitar on the front porch. I was immediately reminiscent toward the Cracker Barrel, of which I am a fan. With their rocking chairs out front, and gift shop in the entryway, this place made me think of many meals out on the road.
The Florida Cracker Kitchen has a bags game outside for those who want to play while waiting for their table. They also have an outdoor bar where patrons are served their drinks out of an old truck. And yet another neat sight was an antique fire truck sitting out back. They even have their own Little Free Library, next to a lounging horse statue. It seems the cow was on his shift, while the horse was on his break.
An absolutely gorgeous and calm Florida winter day presented itself to me, as it tends to do most every day in the winter here. So there was no need to worry about sitting Inside v. Outside because Outside it was.
We were seated at a nice, pet-friendly screened-in outdoor patio, overlooking Beach Boulevard. And while we were walk-in during the prime lunch rush, with no reservation, there was no wait and we were seated immediately. And the porch was packed. Not a table beside ours to be had.
Mason jars of icy lemonades and sweet teas, and ceramic mugs filled with coffee etched with the upside-down boot shape of the state of Florida adorned all the wooden table-tops.
We were starved, and placed our order straight away. As our meals were cooking, I smelled many things. And all of those things were good things.
Breathing in through my nose, I was immediately transported to my childhood. To the house I grew up in when very young. As I napped in the afternoons, I remember my Mother cooking the best home-cooked meals… I remember waking from a nap and smelling the aroma of good food. And that is exactly what this patio smelled like. Meals from Mom’s Kitchen.
I smelled meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I smelled swiss steak and fried potatoes. I smelled casseroles and I smelled stews. I smelled ribs. Now, mind you, I had no idea if these were things even on the menu, but I smelled it all. I smelled every meal my Mom ever made me. And it all smelled swell.
Do you think we might have been hungry when we arrived?
Our plates were served to us as my daydream came to an abrupt end.
Stepping back into the immediate present, I was face to face with the best breakfast platter I’ve had in ages.
I was presented with a plate loaded with protein and carbs, and all quite delicious. I ordered the two egg breakfast which comes with two scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon, a homemade biscuit, and a large serving of fried potatoes. All for $7.49.
The potatoes reminded me of my grandfather’s fried potatoes, with tiny sprinkle of seasoned salt mixed within. I can picture him cooking them in their small kitchen on a skillet; these had onions slighting caramelizing a bit inside as well.
And all of those doughy breads are made daily in house. That’s all their white breads, french toast, biscuits, and especially their cinnamon rolls.
If you are wondering how I am maintaining massive weight loss being served such a tasty platter of this size and full of all temptation, the answer is quite simple. I merely ate half of what I was served. I took the other half home with me, and ate it for dinner that evening. If you want to start halving your portions for weight loss while dining out, I highly recommend giving it a go.
When you start the habit you may be quite discouraged, as the meal sitting in front of you will be very tempting. And once you eat half you will think you are still hungry. Your brain will tell you to give it all up and just eat the whole darn platter already why don’t ya. But never fear, it gets much easier over time to tell your brain to just shut the heck up! Believe it or not, you know better than your brain does. And repetition of this practice will lead you to be an expert plate-halver just like myself. So all you have to do is practice.
Easy, right - so just keep on keepin’ on, and keep going out to eat. The more you halve your plate, the easier it will be on you. You will resist temptation and cravings and you will be able to tell your brain exactly what Kevin McCallister tells his basement furnace, just like a pro in no time flat. I promise.
Hubby ordered the Cracker Omelette priced at $9.99. This consisted of eggs, sausage, bacon, onion, bell peppers, and both jack and cheddar cheese; and comes with a side of the fried potatoes and a biscuit.
And the very best part of the meal was what we ordered to take home with us for our dessert that evening.
Before our visit to the restaurant, I had signed up online to become a Grits Club Member. This entitled me to one of MeMa’s Giant Cinnamon Rolls for free during our meal. I would highly recommend signing up, if merely to get an amazing free roll. It’s valued at $3.99, and when the server places the order it will come up as a $1.00 charge on your receipt. When you pay at the front counter (inside the gift shop on the way out), you can then show the cashier your email coupon again on your phone and the $1.00 charge is taken off your total bill.
We took our cinnamon roll from MeMa on home with us to split as a treat that evening. I heated it in the microwave for thirty seconds and then spread all the frosting on top. It was one of the best nightly treats I’ve had in ages. And yes, even though I lost weight, I am sure to allot myself calories for a treat each and every evening, no exceptions to that. Because I’m not living if dessert isn’t allowed in my life.
On the way out of the restaurant, we of course, browsed the gift shop in the adjacent room. It houses lots of restaurant-branded merchandise including tees, ball caps, baby bibs, and lots of decals for the car. There were countless items branded with their famous logo of which is that upside down state of Florida represented as a cowboy boot. I was in immediate love with their boot logo and purchased the cutest pink beaded necklace at $32.00 plus tax when we paid our tab.
Overall, I’d say to get your cute little behinds on down to the Florida Cracker Kitchen forthwith. You will not be sorry you went. And if you’re watching your calories, just plan for your other two meals that day to be lighter and you’ll be fine. And if you’re not watching your calories, you’ll enjoy it just the same or more so.
The meal was very inexpensive, and it ended up being significantly less than our meal of the same type at Another Broken Egg Cafe - of which I like and am a repeat customer. But just saying so that you know it’s not pricey at all.
Definitely give the Florida Cracker Kitchen a go, and get a nice and hot, real southern meal. When we got in the car to leave, I said, “I haven’t had so much fun, since the last time we had so much fun.” And that’s the gosh darn truth. ~
For more of my Floridian Fun - feel free to check these links out why don’t ya:
7) My ‘Before & After’ ~~ How A Single Act Of Kindness, Lime Bubly, And MyFitnessPal Helped Me Lose 77 Pounds In One Year
16) Beach Diner ~ If You Feed Them They Will Come
17) Fall Flavors ~ Six Simple Steps I’m Taking This Fall To Maintain My Massive Weight Loss
19) Another Broken Egg Cafe ~ A Taste Of NOLA @ The Beach
39) The Very Official & Quite Serious Donut Debate of 2020
Two words to sum up this total and complete gem of a place: Go. There.
I personally have zero bad things to say about this place - ever. It’s fabulous. End of story.
Well, not end of story. But it can be that simple. Hawkers is - simply - amazing.
Hawkers was born in Florida. In 2011 their first restaurant opened in Orlando. And since its early successes, this sit-down, yet casual, eatery has now spread to a variety of other locations throughout the state. Plus a few openings in other locales within the country as well, such as North Carolina and Georgia, with both a Tennessee and Maryland location opening very soon.
And while any night of the week is a good night indeed to visit Hawkers, I had the pleasure of dining there most recently on the same evening my husband and I browsed all around Beaches Town Center to take in all the holiday goodness out on display. Walking around town, seeing the gingerbread house at One Ocean Resort, visiting the Holiday Palms where Atlantic Boulevard meets the ocean, all of it, after a delicious meal at Hawkers.
Walking inside Hawkers, I always immediately take notice of the Edison style lighting throughout the large dining room and bar area. I absolutely adore any Edison lighting whatsoever, and I desperately dream of it placed throughout every room in my entire apartment. To me, the lighting gives off a warm and very inviting and homey atmosphere. Not too bright, and perfect for an evening dining establishment.
And while the restaurant is a sit-down eatery, and a great place for a leisurely and peaceful meal, it never feels too formal either.
The menu at Hawkers is set up similar to tapas style. Smaller sized dishes that are meant for sharing around the table. And this works exceptionally well the larger the party one has with them. While it’s usually just my husband and I dining out, we had the opportunity to dine at Hawkers with my in-laws well over a year and a half ago now. And at that meal having a party of eight, we were able to try and share amongst us a large variety of dishes from the menu. Much more choice than our usual table for two can reasonable order.
While sometimes hubby and I do tapas and share a few things, this time I simply ordered my own entree and so did he. And I had no problem devouring my entire bowl.
To drink I had club soda with lime, which they kindly kept refilling for me. And hubby had the ‘Margari-Thai’ to start. The drinks were swell. Not watered down at all, and made just right.
We split the pork skewers as an appetizer, which comes as a set of three skewers. They were delicious. Flavorful, and yet not too over-seasoned. And the perfect amount for sharing amongst two people. Just. Perfect.
For my entree, I ordered the same dish the I ALWAYS order. The Beef Haw Fun. A noodle dish. It’s a fabulous dish for anyone who is currently counting calories or trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. At 687 calories, it’s the perfect size entree for me. Anything else would have been simply too many calories, or needing a box for leftovers.
Hubby ordered from the rice bowl section of the menu - choosing the Kimchi Fried Rice. Served with steak, eggs, and onions. Both our dishes were excellent.
The atmosphere at Hawkers is very casual. Which is another reason I love it so much. It’s loud, but it’s not too loud by any means - it’s good loud. It’s family friendly, birthday-dinner-outing-loud, and kid-friendly loud. And the large indoor dining room and combined bar area are set up very open and easy-flowing, with lots of large windows letting in all that fabulous natural sunlight during the day. And with views out to Atlantic Boulevard into both Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach during the evenings, it’s a lovely location for dinner out right on the coast. Plus, when the weather is right the windows and doors are open so that you feel you are eating outside, even if you’re dining inside.
And if you do want to eat directly outside, you can do just that as well. Hawkers offers two different areas of outdoor seating. There’s an absolutely beautiful little courtyard area, tucked away from all the hustle and bustle of Atlantic Boulevard, and nestled between the Surf Shop next door. The other outdoor seating is set directly in front of the restaurant on the sidewalk area, and is a great vantage point for lots of people-watching as you dine. This time of year they also have heat lamps out on the patios, so it’s almost never really too cold to dine outside at Hawkers.
The other great thing I love about Hawkers is the menu selection. Besides tapas style dishes, they also have a variety of dishes for both vegans and vegetarians. When I try to eat vegan, this place makes it super easy for me. I order the Edamame, and/or the Spring Rolls.
And I’ve saved the best for last… even though it’s traditionally served first. The Roti Canai... I can’t even express to you how good the Roti Canai really is. The Roti Canai is on the appetizer portion of the menu - it’s a Malaysian flatbread, and is a savory break-apart-piece of heaven, a type of hot bread. Calling all dough lovers. This is the dough for you. What a treat.
And it is just that, a treat. Which is why we didn’t get it on this particular visit... But I can’t talk about Hawkers without talking about the Roti Canai. It’s a must-do, a must-try. Especially on your first visit. One bite, and you’ll be in love with Hawkers and want to come back whenever you can. On our first visit, when we were very unfamiliar with Hawkers and the menu offerings, our server recommended this dish. I’m so glad she did, because we’ve been ordering it ever since and every time it is pure perfection on a plate.
The reason we don’t order the Roti Canai all the time though is that I know for a fact this dish is a calorie-counting nightmare. Well, maybe not a nightmare, I just know it has too many calories for my tummy to process all at once. With one small piece clocking in at roughly 318 calories, that’s about half a dinner for me. All in a single slice of bread. And I’d personally rather spend my calories on protein - and anything that will keep me fuller, longer. And thus I treat this bread as the deserving treat that it is. It’s just such a TREAT that we don’t need to get it every time. So even though it’s my very favorite item on the entire menu, I resist all temptation and I don't order it every visit. But every time we do get it, it's absolutely divine.
I do highly recommend trying the Roti Canai. If you are looking for something a little bit different, a little bit out of the norm when eating the standard American diet every day. This is THE dish to try. The curry dips that are served alongside it gives one a sampling of some flavors that I personally don’t have all the time. And I love trying different things. So get the bread. You won’t be sorry.
And one more quick piece of good news at Hawkers - they have a new menu item that I am VERY excited to try on my next visit. On that next visit I can then plan the needed and many allotted calories into my day so that I can try this dish with zero guilt. It’s a dessert…. And yes, it’s DONUTS! Yummm. They sound fantastic. And fried. The Jo-He Bag of Donuts. Next Time, My Friends, Next Time.
I’m fairly certain there will be a photo of fried donuts showing up on my Instagram sometime in the near future.
Overall, Hawkers is super. Simple as that. If you have a Hawkers by you, definitely give it a try. And if you don’t have a Hawkers by you, maybe, and hopefully, one will be on its way to you soon. ~
This December marks my third holiday season living in the South. And while I’ve already enjoyed seemingly countless new, exciting, and very different holiday traditions each winter here, there’s always something else I want to try, or add to my must-do list. Many of these events and outings are completely unique to Florida, Florida’s history, and, unlike Chicago - with the fact that bodies of water are not frozen solid, or on their way to be, down here in December - it means a whole lot of those holiday traditions involve the water in some way or manner.
St. Augustine’s 26th Annual Nights of Lights is one such event that I’ve incorporated into my holiday traditions here on the First Coast. And this year I planned my outing to be centered entirely around the coastal and inlet waters of Vilano Beach, Matanzas River, Anastasia Island, and the very historic city of St. Augustine itself.
I’ve seen the St. Augustine Lights each year here thus far. But mostly I’ve gazed at the lights just quickly touring or driving through, so this year I wanted to do things a little bit different.
Red Boat Water Tours - docked at the Vilano Beach Pier - hosts a nightly boat tour of the coastal waters which reflect the lights surrounding all the beauty in the city.
We booked our boat ride months in advance. The tour is so very popular it sells out way ahead of time for each evening they take on customers during the entire holiday season.
We had been on this exact boat tour during the day time with my family when they were in town for a visit about a year and a half ago now. We witnessed lots of dolphins swimming about during that ride, as we listened to the captain tell us many stories about the great history of St. Augustine. So I was pretty excited about gaining a different perspective of the city this year, at night, once the waters were completely dark, and with the lighthouse acting as a true beacon surrounding our entire ride, and all the magnificence of the lights display bordering the entire shore line.
Tours start at $40.00 per person, plus fees, and our original total came to over $90.00. However, since we had been customers in the past, they had offered us a repeat rider discount specifically for the Nights of Lights Tour, with fairly significant savings - it nearly halved our total cost. This repeat customer deal was better than any other sales/codes/online deals offered.
Honestly, the large discount is the only reason I booked the tour. I personally think we would never have paid this much to go back on the same boat we had already been on - as I tend to try different things each year, especially those that cost significant money. While tending to keep the traditions that cost next to nothing or are completely free. Sugar cookies, anyone?
I also planned for us to have dinner at Beaches at Vilano in advance of the tour. It makes sense to me to try a restaurant we’ve never been especially when we’re right there in the vicinity.
Our ride started at 7:15pm going through 8:30. Red Boat asks in the fine print for us to arrive about 15-20 minutes ahead of time. The restaurant is just opposite the pier and basically shares the same parking. So I planned our dinner for 5:30. That gave us enough time to work a full day, drive down, eat a leisurely meal, including time for a quick dessert, then head on over to our awaiting horse-drawn open sleigh upon the warm waters.
Dinner was just fine. I say that meaning there was absolutely nothing wrong with it, while at the same time it wasn’t the best meal of my life. It ended up being roughly half the cost as our anniversary meal at The Reef, which is located just down the street a bit… so the lesser cost was fabulous. And despite it not being the absolute best, I do recommend stopping in Beaches if you get a chance.
The atmosphere and the views are worth it alone. You will be transported instantly into vacation mode there - whether you’re on vacation, or not. And there are no complaints here about vacation mode.
At 5:30pm on a Tuesday, in December, they were quite busy. They had some very large parties already seated, mostly corporate and holiday parties going on, but each table was filled. They were busy enough that we were lucky to get seated right away, have our meal, with just enough time remaining for getting out to our boat tour immediately after. We had tried for reservations - but they do not accept. Make sure to allot for enough time if you are planning the same holiday outing.
I ordered a plain iced tea, skipped the soup, salads and appetizers, and had the flat iron steak with a side of broccoli - extra broccoli - skip the plantains, for my main course.
This is how I stay healthy or even somewhat healthy while dining out. I researched the menu in advance online. I logged into MyFitnessPal in the morning to plot out my calories for the day. And I knew exactly what I was ordering for dinner. After massive weight loss, I’m not about to go back to where I was. While I receive lots of questions asking me how I maintain the loss...it's a daily plan just like it was during the loss. Even more so afterward, I’d say, than during, sometimes.
Healthy decisions have to be part of the new and changed lifestyle. Wherever I am. Whatever options are available to me. And most especially when coming face to face with the almighty and highly coveted FRENCH FRY.
No, I never met a potato I didn’t like.
Don’t get me wrong, I still eat burgers and fries, just infrequently. The meal I selected for this outing is loaded with nutrients from the broccoli and is heavy on the protein from the steak. And nothing fried.
The protein helps the tummy feel full, and takes longer to digest, upping the metabolism. The harder the body has to work to process the food, the more calories it burns in the process. That’s why protein is a major perk to weight loss. And, the broccoli’s many and countless benefits will basically go without saying for right now and the purposes of this post, as the perks of eating it should be self-explanatory for most. Hence, the large plate of broccoli.
My only critique of this dish, at this restaurant, is that I would recommend the steak and broccoli be served on separate plates. The juices/sauces/butters/etc. from both dishes were already mixed together by the time my plate was served to me, and it didn’t take long for the entire dish to taste all the same. And when everything tastes the same, it’s becomes increasingly less appealing. Leading to less enjoyment from me, leading to my hubby’s meal becoming more and more appealing and quite tempting to me by the second.
Here is the hubby’s meal.
He ordered the burger with fries, and a side of grilled shrimp. He loved the shrimp, and everything else was exceptional. His margarita was just right.
We ordered the volcano cake with vanilla ice cream, berries, and topped with a berry sauce to split for dessert. This allowed us to still have a treat for the night, a special treat since we were out, but splitting saved on calories immensely as well as cost.
We received our volcano cake - minus the volcano. Sad face.
My husband didn’t know what a volcano cake was, so I was excited to split it open to show how the chocolate should pour out like lava, but, sadly, that did not happen. It was very, very dry. But while the cake was not as it should have been - it was still edible - it was C H O C O L A T E…. after all. No problem there - not a drop of it left by the end of the meal - we had the plate clean for them and ready to pop in the dishwasher, no pre-rinse needed.
After our dinner at Beaches was complete, we walked right on out to the very lonely looking pier.
It was dark. And desolate.
I instantly thought we had the wrong day.
I was just about to check my phone for information. But alas, we kept walking down toward the dock, and I could see red lights.Our Rudolph.
Our boat was there. Our Red Boat. It was just near empty and no one else was around - within an area that us usually fairly populated - any time of day.
Apparently, right before our arrival there was a miscommunication between tour boat companies and all the riders standing out on the dock waiting to board their respective boats.
Another tour company out of the same dock had some problems with their boat, sent everyone away, and when those people left, nearly all of the customers for our Red Boat left as well. So we were riding on a sold-out boat ride, and had most of the boat to ourselves. If you book this outing, don’t be afraid to call to verify if something’s up upon your arrival. And know there are many boating companies out in the area touring customers around. If one sends people away, confirm it’s your ride before leaving.
It was a lovely ride. A chilly ride. A dark ride.
With the sun long ago set, we were riding past all the low and tidal areas in the dark, with the lighthouse as a breathtaking backdrop in the black skies. Our boat captain told us some stories along the way. We learned of the ancient history surrounding Nights of Lights - something I had never heard before.
I knew there were many reasons floating around online of how the Lights came to be an annual tradition within the town 26 years ago. And that the story of the light in the window tradition had potentially dated back to ancient times. But I knew no real specifics.
Our boat captain told us his version… He said it all started with Jesus.
Jesus. As a refugee baby. No room at the Inn. In need of safe passage. Safe housing for the night. When the Spanish settled here on the historic First Coast hundreds of years ago, they put lights in their windows at night during the holiday season. To act as a beacon.
A beacon for weary travelers.
A light to welcome Jesus.
Jesus has room at their Inns.
A beacon of hope to the world.
Of all the stories I heard about the Lights, and why they exist, and why people still put candles in their windows to this day, I like the Jesus version. Baby Jesus… sleeping in the hay.
I’ll choose Jesus.
But regardless of why lights are put in the window displays, and which version and which stories are true, and which are legend in town… as the town itself has countless legends - the lights themselves are absolutely fabulous. You can choose which story you like. Which fits your reason as to why you light your way and what you choose to light your way with.
Just always choose the light - over the darkness - and you’ll be good to go.
They offered us heavy wool blankets onboard. They came in handy. We absolutely froze. I wore a turtleneck, the only long pair of pants I own, and one of the only closed-toe shoes I own, my new winter puffy down coat, plus ear muffs, gloves, hood, and brought two blankets of our own, as they served us hot chocolate. It was 53 degrees outside.
We both froze near to death. It had just been in the mid 80’s a second ago, this was an ice age. We laughed at ourselves as if we were delirious. 53 degrees in Chicago in December is a heat wave. Break out the ice cream and sit on the front lawn with it. Open the windows!
Now we were Floridian Fools covered in blankets. Not allowing our fingers and cheeks to feel the air if we can at all help it. I can already picture myself next year..., I’ll have the big Ugg boots to match. I already know it. How else can I get through another Florida winter? Either that, or we are moving to the Equator.
No other sensible or reasonable or sane-minded options exist.
I mentioned the cold makes us delirious now, right?
If you’re a local and booking this ride, dress appropriately. Bring blankets. Pack for summiting Mount Everest.
If you’re a tourist and here on vacation from anywhere up North, never fear, you’ll feel like you’re in the tropical paradise of your dreams as your boat captain plays ‘Pontoon’ from Little Big Town as you race off toward the lights of the night.
Know that if you are looking to obtain quality photos, they will be hard to come by. With all the movement, added into the darkness, even with my hubby’s better camera, we couldn’t really capture the moment digitally with any great detail. Our best photo remains at the top of this post. If the boat had come to a complete stop, plus a tripod, then, maybe, we’re talking. But some things can’t be caught on camera I guess. You know, like Santa Claus. I tend to never capture a great full quality image of him, but I know he’s out there.
If you are in the area, definitely check it out. It’s a holiday tradition and celebration in a beautifully historic town, for all to enjoy, regardless of background, beliefs, and a lovely addition to a family holiday tradition as well. After all, in constant learning about different beliefs and traditions and reasons why others might put candles in the window each December, we are reminded that while we are all different, we are also all the same. Everybody wants Hope. Everyone wants Light.
I’ll choose not to do the ride again as it was costly. But, next year, I plan to view the Lights on foot, in town… off from the water's edge... and on solid ground.
I’ll travel up close and personal.
I want to see the fire lamps.
I want to see the Christmas trees in the window displays. I want to walk the town and see the lights as close as possible. I want to listen for the sound of reindeer hooves on roof tops. And most importantly, I want to look for Santa Claus… I tend to believe he might be hanging around all the dreamy chocolate shops and gift shops and restaurants… blended in amongst the gorgeous and magical Lights of St. Augustine. Yes, those shops seem like a good place to start on my hunt for the big SC. But for now, I’ll enjoy my memory of a coastal Christmas holiday on the water’s edge. ~
Within “The Beaches” area, as it's commonly known to both locals and tourists alike, reside the small towns of Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach - and the town I now call my home - Jacksonville Beach. These three communities, along with a few more small towns, make up the modest coastal barrier island, that is both officially and unofficially, known as San Pablo Island.
San Pablo Island is located just off the eastern coast of Florida, and nestled next to the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The name of the island itself here is not known to most people… they tend to simply call home - The Beaches. And there’s yet even one other mysterious nickname given to our island home appropriately classifying it as ‘No-Name Island’ - very much reminding me of the funky, quirky, and strange and sometimes hilarious, names of some of the famous Key islands to our south.
But San Pablo Island has a rich and dated history going back hundreds of years, and even much, much longer. A vibrant Native American history lives and breathes here, and the Timucuan Indians lived here in the 1500’s, when a French explorer came upon the area. We now have the Timucuan Reserve named after them.
And while there’s a small and extremely old, weathered and worn, and really just a completely dilapidated sign welcoming you as much as you drive through our town - ‘You Are Now At San Pablo Beach’ it reads, (named after the San Pablo River)... I can only imagine how old that sign really is. And as the sign is so very old and worn, it seems to just camouflage itself to the natural grasses surrounding it. Many pass by daily not even seeing it.
We also locally have San Pablo Road, just off the Island and paralleling the intracoastal, and we have Pablo Avenue, right here at the beach.
A lot goes into a name… when you consider branding, logo, tourism, marketing, publicity, hotels and restaurants and newspapers and any press; history, town pride, changing times and culture, refrigerator magnets, tee-shirts, trinkets and treasures for visitors to take home, etc. Some years ago there was a push and really quite a major effort to help rebrand our area to more “officially” be called San Pablo Island. Hotels and the tourism industry in general liked the idea and I believe they still do. A name helps classify a location and familiarize those traversing to or through. A name slightly broad and confusing as “The Beaches” - plural - is not very brand-worthy it seems, except to those who already know the area and/or reside here.
And as those things tend to do, the effort and move to name-change seemed to stall, and fall apart in meetings and such. As many of those such changes and requests for changes tend to die out... Thus, today, we are still known as “The Beaches” to most, and confusion reigns for the tourism industry here.
In comparison, Amelia Island, located just to the north of us, is known as that - ‘Amelia Island.’ They seem to know their history, are ok with picking a name and staying with it, and they honor it well.
Princess Amelia, daughter of George II of Great Britain, is for whom the Island is named. But Amelia Island has a very rich and fascinating history as well, and they seem to be slightly more proud of it and they do a great job in educating the public of that history.
You absolutely cannot visit Amelia Island without learning upon arrival of the history of the eight flags. Signs will tell you as much and show you as much upon entry to the island. With my father being a huge history buff, I remember thinking at the time of learning about the eight flags that he would find it fascinating.
Amelia Island is famously known as “The Isle of Eight Flags” and is the only location in all of the United States with such a unique history. It simply means that the island has had power transferred through eight different flags before finally obtaining its current and official status as part of these United States. The history of the eight flags is known and proud on the island. When I first found that piece of information out I was utterly fascinated. And standing in great contrast is the tiny old and worn sign welcoming you to San Pablo Beach, here on San Pablo Island. It’s a welcome sign that really seems to get no care or concern, but it does its job every day and welcomes you to our island.
Pablo Avenue lies just a few blocks from our worn and ancient welcome sign, and its therein that lies The Beaches Museum. A Museum that celebrates Culture, History, and Community. And while our dated welcome sign doesn’t have much appeal, the Beaches Museum does. The history of this area is not very well-known to most, and this museum does an absolutely fabulous job of educating the public on our heritage and historical facts thereof. This historical marker and living piece of history is also a place most people drive past every day, and may not even know if its existence. In fact, I’ve lived right here in town just alongside it and had never visited it formally. Well, bring an Art Fest into town and I’ll go anywhere.
Hurray! Another Art Fest. And on yet another absolutely gorgeous autumn day in the South. All the variety of arts and celebration thereof here is actually one of the reasons I fell in love with Jax Beach.
This past weekend, The Beaches Museum hosted the 6th Annual Beaches Art Fest. It was a must-do for me. And while I had just recently attended the Jax Beach Vintage Flea Market some weeks ago, I had eagerly awaited this event all year as well.
This fest to me, supersedes any other fest around. The art on display is full of passion and color and depth. Every booth has the artist directly on hand to talk with as well which I especially love. And now, after being to many of these events, I’m recognizing names of artists that continue to come back and sell there each year.
I really enjoy how merely slowing strolling from one covered outdoor exhibit to the next that the eye immediately catches the difference in an artist's passion. One may specialize or have a passion for florals, and one may enjoy painting the many unique sunrise and sunsets of the coastal region. One booth was composed of entirely Japanese floral paintings. An artist may have blown glass, and one of the final tents I arrived at had on display works of art made entirely from origami paper. There were necklaces all beautifully arranged with tiny and intricately folded colored papers, making flowers, squares, any shape you could imagine, all folded out on her display table. Everyone, who once they understood what they were looking at, was completely wowed by it. It was a definite surprise to see, as I had never seen anything like it in my life, and it is for those reasons I relish with joy attending these fests each time they come around.
And I must admit I regret extremely not purchasing one of her paper origami necklaces. I also failed to obtain her card, thus, not being able to look up where she will be next. She explained the necklace I had my eyes on was only $29.00 and comes with a beautiful chain as well. A chain of length that I could custom choose. I walked on by, to think about it, and instead purchased a ring that I absolutely adore, from La Soucique Studio, of the aforementioned Amelia Island. It was $35.00 and I was so very pleased with my purchase. I know I can’t buy everything, and I reminded myself that money doesn’t grow on trees, but I do really very much regret not purchasing one of the origami necklaces. I can only hope to see her again at a future arts event and make that my purchase for the day.
While slowly we strolled both up and down San Pablo Street taking in the fest in its entirety, we also walked on through the property and grounds of Beaches Museum. It’s set up as a small historic village, spanning the length of the blocks next to the fest.
And as I had never been previously, I thought it an ideal day to check it out since we were already present literally at its location. Supposedly the museum is open 10am-4pm every Saturday, with free admission. We were somewhat disappointed to find many locked buildings. All we could do was take a quick peek inside most of the historic sites through windows, while the main building remained open and available to use the restroom facilities for fest-goers. We very much enjoyed walking the grounds though, and it was a most perfect autumn day in Florida to witness the natural beauty surrounding the facilities. The museum is home to parties, weddings, art exhibitions, the annual famous Polar Express, and many other such fun events for both adults and children alike. It seems The Beaches Museum has something going on year-round. I just highly recommend calling ahead to verify if you’d like to see the actual inside of some of the buildings.
It was an altogether ideal day in the South for me. And afterward, we ate breakfast, for lunch, at Beach Diner in Atlantic Beach. Every time I’ve been there the owner comes over to say a sweet hello. A much older man, whom you can tell genuinely loves his customers, stopped to talk with us as we ate our delicious meal. As we were paying up at the cash register on the way out I could see him still going round from table to table, smiling with and high-fiving each person he met. A most lovely Saturday on my very own Island… San Pablo Island. It made me smile as we walked to our car. ~
I love bakeries. I love everything created and made by hand inside of bakeries. My favorite bakeries are the small ones - the local ones - the ones that aren’t part of any chain - the ones no one’s ever really heard of, except those who live right there in that same town alongside it.
Sure, I seem to always find time and room for Dunkin and Starbucks, etc. In fact, where else do I run to while on a long road trip but for a Dunkin coffee to keep me awake while I’m driving? But what about all those bakeries scattered across the country that don’t have a drive-thru attached? The bakeries you actually have to get out of your car for, and go inside the building to place your order??? Those bakeries... tend to be the best bakeries.
I like to think that my passionate love of bakeries and their heavenly creations runs in my blood... My grandfather was a baker for well over forty years. And when he wasn’t working, both he and my grandmother were at home. They spent hours upon hours in the kitchen. Always cooking. And always baking. Some of my favorite memories with both of them include time well spent in that small kitchen. My sisters and I helped them cook all kinds of food. But my favorite foods they made were their baked goods, of course.
My Papa taught us how to hand-roll the dough to make kolacky cookies. We always started by pouring flour onto the table-top - that was my favorite part - making a purposeful and deliberate mess. We rolled the dough and we put in the jellied fillings. We watched them bake. My grandparents made hundreds of cookies, each and every Christmas, before their health declined and they could no longer do it. It seemed to me that everyone they knew was given a large and heaping full silver aluminum tray of kolackys to take home and enjoy on the holiday. I’ve yet to be able to replicate those amazing cookies. I am continually determined to try though.
I believe my grandparents teaching us these skills in the kitchen has held influence on my life and transformed my love of food, and really just helped me become the person I am today. Foods are tradition. And when my husband and I bake now, not making nearly as much at a time that my grandparents did in their prime, we are always sure to pass some goodies along to a neighbor, a friend, or to whomever we will be seeing in the coming days.
This holiday season I am looking forward to baking chocolate chip cookies, frosted sugar cookies, and Angeletti cookies with my husband. It is now tradition in my home, and someday I’m going to replicate that kolacky as well… maybe even this year.
When I lived in Illinois, there was an abundance of local bakeries. I could go in any suburb surrounding me, living just outside of Chicago, and find a bakery. There was never a shortage of places to pick up special cookies for Easter, a coffee cake to bring to a party, or a cake for a special occasion. And my hubby’s favorite item served at any bakery are always their frosted sugar cookies. Me - I like the chocolate donuts. Simple, basic, and the best ever.
In my hometown, the Orland Park Bakery is one of God’s best creations. I make it a point to stop there at least once, and most likely always much more than once, every time I go up for a visit.
Some years back, I remember one cold December day, my husband and I decided to make the trek all the way out to Chicago just to visit a local bakery and pick up their special St. Nicholas Day gingerbread cookies. My hubby had them in his youth every year, so we wanted to bring the tradition and memories back, and he really wanted me to try them for the first time.
Well, being a self-proclaimed bakery connoisseur by this point in my life, I should have well known that making the very long trek fighting through Chicago holiday traffic and ridiculously sloppy weather to arrive at a bakery around two in the afternoon... is really not the best time to arrive at a bakery.
Bakeries thrive in the mornings. They are the place to be - in the morning. After almost two hours in the car and arriving mid-afternoon, what in the world was I thinking? We definitely should have gone in the morning for this adventure? But that was a different life I lived, and now I am fully awake by five am daily. Anything later - I tend to consider myself sleeping in.
We parked and walked through the icy cold and the busy and festively decorated street to find the bakery, just about to close. The window displays were empty. And once inside, the shelves were near empty as well. Sold out for the day of all product. I was crushed.
We inquired... And somehow, by some miracle of the bakery Gods up above, they still had a few St. Nicholas Day cookies left… We’ll take them! We were ecstatic. We took all that remained. Thrilled. We also snagged up a pre-arranged box of their sprinkle cookies simply because it was all that reminded for sale, sitting on a counter and patiently waiting to go home with someone. It was only after this outing did I learn that I could actually pre-order special product at bakeries to guarantee them available when I arrive to pick up.
So we were on our way out of the bakery to leave them be as they closed up for the day. It would be many more years before I learned my lesson about “sleeping in” and my enrollment in my own 5am Club membership. To me, at the time, we had simply just ‘lucked out’ that’ they had some cookies left for us to purchase.
We then strolled just a short ways down the street from the bakery and dined at a local Bohemian restaurant. It was an old building, and a place beautifully decorated for the upcoming holiday. It was an altogether lovely outing. An outing entirely revolved around bakery as the destination.
When I moved to Florida, it was my definite perception and really became quite hard to find a good bakery. They weren’t nearly as abundant as they were in Illinois. And when we did find a bakery - it didn’t taste the same as up north! I am extremely biased though...Chicago has the best food, and nothing else even comes close. So it’s very difficult for me to compare the delicious food from the north with the different food in the south.
Today, bakeries are still part of my life. I recently lost a lot of weight and made a complete lifestyle change these past few years. I am much healthier than I was during the earlier part of this decade. I had gained weight during a lot of inactivity, and now I have lost it all, and am quite happy to say that I am very healthy. I lost 83 pounds lost to be exact. I go into great detail on my weight loss journey here if you’d like to check out how I lost 77 of those pounds in one year’s time.
How can I be so healthy now and still eat donuts regularly? The answer is simply moderation. And - Discipline. I can eat ALL THE THINGS. Just not ALL THE TIME. I believe that when one fully grasps and understands that simple and basic concept, it can truly be life-changing.
And I love baked goods so much that I currently plan a once-a-month outing to our local bakery - Cinotti’s, located in Jax Beach, FL. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Declared on the top of each box. I lost 83 freaking pounds, while eating treats and breads and pastas and pizza and ice cream - AND - bakery, lots of Cinotti’s Bakery.
By establishing that roughly once-a-month outing, this allows for me to have the tasty treats that I love and never, ever want to give up, but also allows for discipline and patience in between outings. All that discipline and patience make for a stronger person. I don’t eat donuts every day - I eat them roughly once a month. And as I’m sure you’ve probably read in every magazine out there preaching at you on how to get healthy - don’t restrict. Don’t eliminate… Meaning, don’t erase foods from your life to get healthy. Learn to live WITH the foods you love. Because life is too short not to eat donuts. Just don’t eat them all the time. Simple, right?
These outings are so important to me I classify them by name - and time-and-date stamp them into my iPhone calendar as well. I then share the calendar event with my hubby so he knows when we are going out for donuts. Yay!
We have called these visits many things… Fabulous Friday, Wacky Wednesday, Tasty Tuesday, and Terrific Thursday. Whatever we call it isn’t important though; it's simply putting a name to an event on the calendar that is now tradition. Right now, hubby and I are living through our monthly ‘Totally Terrific and Tasty Tuesdays’ - That means we go to Cinotti’s, once a month, on a Tuesday. And my iPhone tells me as much, once a month. So simple, and sooooo delicious.
And for our November visit to the bakery, our furry baby Madeline was officially included in this little tradition of ours…. When I happened to glance down while we were paying, and underneath the cash register area toward all the little holiday trinkets for sale inside the shop... dog bones! Better yet - BAKERY dog bones! I was thrilled once again. How absolutely and utterly adorable. Made with flour and peanut butter and really just a few simple ingredients safe for a doggie’s tummy, and with a label calling them Canine Cookies… I HAD to purchase them! When we got home Madeline had the single best treat she ever had in her life. I know this not because she told me in English, but because she literally cried out loud for more after she was done with her very special bone. Even dogs love bakery.
And now that I know there is life out there at five am, and that is also roughly when bakeries are usually turning on their lights for the day, we would never now show up at the bakery at such a late hour as two in the afternoon. When that time of the month arrives, and my iPhone vibrates and jingles to tell me it’s our Totally Terrific and Tasty Tuesday, we go outside and exercise before the sun rises, and then head right on over to Cinotti’s. We arrive there fairly early in the morning, when they are fully stocked and selection is overflowing. Parents are bringing in their school-aged children up to the counter so they can pick up a special treat on their way to dropping them off at school. I think of my Papa and all his years upon years of hard work in the bakery. I walk outside carrying my taped, cardboard box of goodness, and I miss him terribly. This box of bakery is a special way of remembering him. Yes, life is too short not to eat donuts. And we bring home our box along with some peanut butter baked dog bones to our very happy, little, eight year old puppy. ~
*Winner: Bean’s Best Award*
[The 2019 Annual Bean’s Best Pizza in Jax Beach Award]
If you want to sit only mere steps from the oceanfront, and engage in some good quality people watching, lots of dogs included, when in Jax Beach - all you have to do is grab a slice and sit in the window at V Pizza. I’ve never seen so many people, skateboarding with their dogs leading them rolling down the street, than I can see during even just one meal alone, while sitting at the wooden bar-top tables in the large picture windows at V Pizza’s counter service.
I've been coming to V Pizza since I moved to Jax Beach. I’ve ordered to-go, I’ve ordered on the quick service side, and I’ve had dinner in the full-service dining area with the bar and televisions. I’ve brought my family here who live out of state up in the Chicago area. Plus, V Pizza is the regular dining establishment of choice by my husband and I whenever we simply need a quick and easy, guaranteed delicious meal. We’ve tried many of the surrounding other local pizza joints. And I firmly believe V Pizza is the best in town.
And here’s why:
I grew up in the Chicago area - THE FOOD CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.
I was surrounded by good food… ALL. THE. TIME. And I mean some really, darn, good food. Nothing - at all - compares, on the face of this planet, to food in Chicago. And specifically… Chicago pizza.
My whole life I heard people talk about food in Chicago, as if it were special? I always wondered, why does everyone talk about how special the food is? The implication and emphasis not about the type of food being served, the meal, the location, the neighborhood, what kind of restaurant...but just simply that it was “Chicago” food. That’s all that mattered. If it was from Chicago, it was some real good food.
But Chicago’s food was all I ever knew. So when something is so perfect, consistently, all the time, over and over, that’s what one gets used to. Taste buds acclimate to what is familiar to them. And since it was all I knew, I literally thought that all food, everywhere, was just that good. I expected all food to be great. That’s just what food tastes like right?
Well, it took me moving out of state, and eating hundreds upon hundreds of meals outside of Chicago to fully appreciate in all honesty and sincerity how good Chicago food really is. And my life has basically become just as the saying goes…
“You don’t know what you got till it’s gone…” Right?
And gosh, I really didn't know until I left.
When you part ways with Chicago, you part ways with a foodie life that will never again be the same.
As soon as we moved away from that delicious food capital of the world, suddenly, good food was harder to come by. Much harder. Most everywhere we went food was just OK. And after leaving literal perfect food behind - PERFECTION and OK - are really far apart from one another. And very noticeable… immediately noticeable. And that’s not just me talking... it’s my taste buds. They just can’t help it. They been acclimated. All my taste buds ever knew was perfect food. So anything but perfect was now…
Everyone asks me what do I miss about leaving home… my answer is the Chicago food… the pizza.
THE. PIZZA. PERIOD.
Whenever I come back to Illinois for a visit, whether it’s a few days, a week, or a two week visit or longer, every day I need pizza. I can’t get enough of it. And I’ll try as many places as I can. And my mom asks me if I’m sure that I want pizza? She asks - Again???
Yes… of course.
I can go through my entire visit in Illinois and only eat pizza, and I will never tire of it. Because, I know, but most importantly my taste buds know that I will not have that food again for potentially a year. A YEAR? That’s literally like going through food withdrawal; I have to prepare myself for the reality that awaits me. My body, mind, and soul. Yes...I’ll eat again, but it will never be quite the same… as Chicago pizza.
And thus, with every meal in life I now eat, to this day - food is different. Food is not what it once was. I didn’t know what I had until it was gone. And as soon as it went missing, I noticed, fast, and I’ve been mourning my loss ever since.
When we left Illinois, we left the food capital of the world behind, we said goodbye to amazing Chicago pizza; only I didn’t know we were saying goodbye, so I never kissed it on my way out the door. I didn’t know to say goodbye.
A simple head’s up would have been nice. Some forewarning, from anyone, anywhere??? How come no one told me? Are you sure you want to move to Florida and leave all this perfect food? They didn’t tell me because I wouldn’t have believed them. I needed to experience it for myself to believe it, and I would have just laughed.
And I’m still laughing at myself now.
Each pizza restaurant in Chicago has its own ‘specialty’ - what they are known for. You can go to any pizza place in Chicago and the surrounding area suburbs, have the best pizza of your life, and each pizza establishment will taste completely different from one another. Palermo’s has heavenly red sauce, and the best dough you will ever eat, anywhere. Rosati’s has great sausage. Gino’s East has phenomenal deep dish. Lou Malnati’s has the best deep dish buttered crust, worth the wait for the crust alone. And Pizza Lia has the best fresh-frozen pizza on Earth (the handmade dough cannot be replicated by anyone but the owner, my uncle).
Those are only a tiny fraction of pizza establishments in the Chicago area. And most importantly, NOT ONE of them is the same as the other in any way. They are all distinctly different from one another. And that’s what makes each one special.
Chicago pizza is at the top of the pyramid, placed high on a pedestal, deserving of the crown of crowns. When something is rated that high, how can anything match up. It sort of doesn’t. You just can’t beat Chicago pizza. No matter where you go. In my travels and adventures I have learned that much. But if you can’t beat em, join em.
And, I’ll be clear here, it’s not that the food elsewhere is bad… it’s literally just that Chicago has the best food.
Yes, I like the other local surrounding pizza place here. And to be fair, I have not tried every place in town - I don’t believe anyway - but I have tried many, and many much more than once. I love Milano’s, I love Biggie’s, I love D&LP, Al’s, etc.etc.etc. But I REALLY love V Pizza. And, naturally, I have a theory as to why.
V Pizza doesn’t pretend to be something they are not. Their pizza knows exactly who it is and is not ashamed of itself. Their pizza is a proud and unique and distinctly different individual. That individuality and uniqueness is what makes it special. And as a bonus, they offer a variety of other specialty and Italian menu items as well.
V Pizza is consistently fabulous, tasty, and unique - in my Chicago foodie’s opinion. The dough at V Pizza is so tasty, freshly rolled and made in house. The sauce is unique unto itself. And the sausage and meats are high quality, and perfectly seasoned. The cheese is fresh. There is not one part of their pizza that lacks in any way. They don’t overdue it on the cheese, they don’t underdue it on the cheese. And the same goes for the sauce. Each ingredient is the perfect consistency.
And in my experience and many tastings, I firmly believe V Pizza comes the closest I’ve tried thus far, to not replicate any others pizza, but to make their pizza all their very own, and have their own distinct taste and texture and flavor and seasoning, and basically the dough and the entire recipe altogether. And to be proud of it - own it! They own their pizza; they are proud of their pizza. They are not trying to be something they are not. The are being themselves. And THAT is why they win this award.
So, to V Pizza, I hereby declare you the winner of the first ever Bean’s Best Award. Deserving due to your serving of the very best, highest quality, and most unique pizza in the town of Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
And to the rest of y’all… Get out there and grab a slice, or a whole pie, sit down at the counter, and watch all the countless happy doggies, dragging their humans on their skateboards, roll on by… ~
*So, why would anyone leave Chicago if the food is that good? And come down to Florida? Because the sun never sleeps, Endless Summer reigns supreme, and waking up in the morning looks like this...
Yeah, it needed to be this good, to go. And say goodbye to the best pizza on the planet, and hello to the sun. ~~~
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