Dining Out in Jacksonville Beach
Of all the great Jacksonville restaurants, dining out in Jacksonville Beach is a favorite pastime of both islanders and townies. Restaurants of all types line A1A and Beach Blvd. stretching from the Intracoastal all the way to First Street. Down in South Beach near Butler Blvd. are most of the well known chains. You can get a steak at the Outback, visit Applebee's, Chili's or Ruby Tuesday's, or scarf up some wings and check out the local talent at the Jax Beach Hooters. But where we really shine is in the local privately owned seafood restaurants. Being in close proximity to Mayport, fresh seafood is delivered daily, prepared by world class chefs, and enjoyed in oceanfront, bistro, and dockside settings.
Buckets Baha Oyster Bar
After closing for the winter to remodel, Buckets opened back up just in time for the Blues Festival. Located on the Boardwalk right next to the Pavilion stage, Buckets Baha is our version of the typical open air beach front oyster bar, serving burgers and wings, fish sandwiches and conch fritters, and of course, raw or steamed oysters and clams, shucked in front of you as fast as you can suck’em down. The atmosphere is beach casual, frequented by tired and thirsty sun burnt beach goers; the place has always been, well, a dump.
The remodeling project (aimed at making buckets more “family friendly”) pushed the bar back to the middle of the room, and added a lonely “oyster bar” even further back. The outside fenced in seating area on the boardwalk is a great place to people watch, and there’s usually a lone entertainer on the weekends. The open kitchen area is still front and center, behind the old half brick wall that used to be the oyster bar, providing a great view of the boardwalk for the cooks.
While the restaurant certainly looks cleaner, with lots of new tables and booths, the menu hasn’t changed a bit (not that it needed to). Being one of the last oceanfront restaurants, they can pretty much charge what they want, and it seems pretty difficult to find anything on the strip for under $8.00 anyway.
Still, Buckets is a great place to party. With pool tables, games and live entertainment, the place has been known to rock. The oysters come delivered to your table pre shucked, but you can visit the shuckers back at the oyster bar if you’re really into that.
As one of the few restaurants whose décor incorporates sliding garage
doors as windows, Buckets has maintained its charm and old
world beach ambience through the remodeling procedure.
The Dolphin Depot
Just across the street from First Street Grill is another one of the award winning Jacksonville restaurants, the Dolphin Depot. Another fine dining establishment whose days are numbered, Dolphin Depot's menu changes daily and consists of some very upscale renderings of seafood and steaks. Very limited seating, this restaurant is actually an old two story house that someone turned into a restaurant. Update: The Dolphin Depot is Closed!
Joe's Crab Shack
Arriving at Beach Blvd. and First St., you can't help but notice the colorful Joe's Crab Shack, on the ocean across from the lifeguard station. A large elevated all wood building with an intricate deck structure and a playground for the kiddies, Joe's is basically a fry house that specializes in a variety of crabs. A rustic, casual party atmosphere where you can enjoy a soft-shell crab and your favorite beverage on the front deck overlooking the beach. One thing's for sure, Joe knows crabs!
Just behind Joe's on Second Street is Poncho Ria's, a newly
built Mexican restaurant and bar that looks like the Alamo with palm trees.
Poncho Ria also has an outside deck and a wing of hotel rooms just off to the
south. The specialty here is, uh, Mexican.
Update: Poncho Ria is now a vacant lot awaiting the erection of some office condos. Nope, they changed their minds. Now its supposed to be a hotel. Still no action 8/09.
Sneakers Sports Bar and Grill
Cross Beach Blvd. on Second Street and you'll be at Sneakers Sports Grill, a humongous sports bar originally owned partially by the famed right guard of the Jaguars, Tony Boselli. One of the largest sports themed Jacksonville restaurants, there's plenty of sports memorabilia, monster televisions, a large horseshoe bar in the middle, and another "open air" bar on First St. The menu here is beer and, well, sports food. One local TV station broadcasts their Jaguars show from here during the season. Sneakers, no doubt, will be a major Super Bowl Destination for those of us without tickets!
First Street Grill
Probably the most popular watering hole for the locals is the First Street Grill, on the corner of First St. and 7th Ave. in North Jax Beach. First Street offers a variety of seafood and steaks and has a formal dining room inside, a lounge area inside, and a covered deck area, patio, dance floor, and Tiki Bar outside behind the dunes. Not just great food, but a place to hang out, First Street often hosts live music (mostly of the oldies variety) and dancing. Ocean front dining and partying at its best, First Street Grill closed January 1st, 06, to make room for some much needed oceanfront condominiums.
The Lighthouse Grill
Heading towards town on Beach Blvd, just before you cross the ditch, turn right into Beach Marine and follow the service road under the bridge. Here you'll find a hidden jewel, the Lighthouse Grill. A waterfront restaurant offering free boat dockage to patrons, the Lighthouse Grill serves the gamut, from fresh Florida seafood to baby back ribs, to great steaks and prime rib. A great place to dine on the water, watching the sun set on the marshlands of the Intracoastal Waterway. Another one of Jacksonville restaurants to bite the dust, Lighthouse Grille closed in February, to be replaced by a multifamily housing development.