Jacksonville Beach, Florida, has transitioned a few times over the last 100 plus years and is about to emerge into another one, a food lovers destination. Jax Beach, once known as Ruby Beach, then Pablo Beach and now Jacksonville Beach, has gone through its share of renaissances over the last century. Once a popular seaside amusement attraction, a la Atlantic City, a popular stop for mobsters such as Al Capone on his way to Miami, it then became home to nearby military bases and operations during WWII. Jacksonville Beach was once even known as The Gut, military slang for an off-limits part of town.
Today, however, your “gut” will be happy with the incredible array of interesting and innovative (and family-friendly) dining in Jax Beach. Being right on the beach, with plenty of dining and activities close by, Jacksonville Beach is another in a long list of family-friendly locations to add to your Florida Bucket List.
Through it all stood the Casa Marina Hotel, celebrating their 93rd year this year. If you’re looking for a beachfront hotel, in the center of it all, Casa Marina can’t be beat.
My Jacksonville Beach visit was sponsored by Leigh Cort Publicity and Casa Marina Hotel. However, all opinions are my own.
Located on top of the Casa Marina Hotel, The Penthouse is the only roof-top bar along Jax Beach. Plus, you don’t have to stay at the hotel in order to access this fantastic location. Now, why would I recommend a bar as a family-friendly dining? The views for one. The price for another. Happy Hour specials are a great way to start your evening, with drinks for mom and dad and $2-$4 small bite plates for the kiddos. Prices on the dinner menu are also reasonable. The Penthouse has a comfortable lounge area, but the pinnacle is the outdoor seating. I mean, how can you get better than this view?
Gilbert’s Hot Chicken, Fish + Shrimp
My favorite on this is list is Gilbert’s Hot Chick, Fish + Shrimp. Home to the Hot or Not, you can get your food with the signature spiced hot sauce, or not, all southern fried to perfection. Chef Kenny Gilbert, of Top Chef fame, serves up southern soul food at it’s best. The BLT Biscuit is the must option on the menu. Kid-friendly choices without hot sauce are available. Seriously, try the mac n cheese! I was so impressed with the flavor of the hot sauce, I bought some to take home. Yum!
Ocean 60 is one of those seaside restaurants that combines upscale dining and beach casual with a mix of relaxing decor and well-prepared food presentation. While they don’t have a “kids menu,” the chef’s will accommodate as needed. That being said, I think there’s enough on the menu to adjust for the pickiest of eaters. Pricing is standard for most family restaurants, and every dish I tried was delicious and flavorful. Ocean 60 is steps from the beach, offers live music several nights of the week. Bonus, all the seafood is locally caught.
Alhambra Theatre & Dining
Dinner theatre seems to be a thing of the past. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into the past when you step into the Alhambra Theatre. This theatre, the longest running dinner theatre in the country, has offered a full season of Broadway shows for over 50 years. And you get to eat in the theatre before the show? Call that a win in my book. Dining options change to match the theme of the show, but is always three courses, dessert included. Dinner is included in the price of your ticket and varies between $38-59 per person. Family friendly shop options this season include Little Shop of Horrors (my personal favorite,) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Elf the Musical.
Maple Street Biscuit Company
When you have maple and biscuits in your name, how can you go wrong? Well, this place certainly doesn’t. It is Oh. My. Heavens. delicious. Originating in Jacksonville, Maple Street Biscuit Company now has 21 locations in the Southeast. Their signature is biscuits, but in many different variations: drizzled with cream, with eggs, fried chicken, club sandwich of course, with gravy. An added bonus here, the coffee was incredible. Maple Street Biscuit Company is open for breakfast and lunch. The Jacksonville Beach location is an easy walk from the Casa Marina Hotel.
Do you have a favorite foodie find in Jacksonville Beach? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below.