You are here — just barely propped up against a brick wall in some low-lit setting, carelessly whispering thoughts out loud while your stomach makes stomach noises at a frequency that can only be described as increasingly detrimental to your reputation as a properly fed human being. Despite the minimal effort it would’ve taken you to not be here … here you are. You pick your head up and scan the bar in an attempt to see if any other starving soul is suffering from the same fate. No one else is, because unlike you, they all obey normal dietary guidelines and f***ing ate before they came out to drink themselves into the ground. You had one job, and now you are here.
You begin plotting your next move. Do you make the rest of your party aware of your untimely predicament, or do you exit stage left and get a jumpstart on your quest for circa-2 a.m. nourishment? Is there time for a swift *sesh* before food? The answer is to leave immediately, unannounced and with grand purpose. You need food — not a drunkenly aimless conversation about obtaining things to eat with people who have already done so and cannot understand your level of starvation and its pertinence to your ability to continuing partying. You are/may be better than that. Let’s make moves.
Depending on time, blood alcohol content, redness of your eyes (along with being able to speak to another human) and your ability to operate a vehicle, you have a few options. I’ve assembled the most easily obtainable into a list below. The majority of these you might already know (if not have grown tired of) depending on how often you find yourself shambling around the Beach bars. You may even have better, lesser-known spots than these. If so, please shoot them over to firstname.lastname@example.org, where we will review them and try our absolute best to get back to you before 2020. Bon appétit.
Iannotti’s at the Ritz
Our very first destination is none other than Jacksonville Beach’s leading facilitator of post-midnight yakking and marquee hotdog vendor, Iannotti’s at the Ritz. A more-or-less certain indicator that the night has peaked is when the line for Ritz Dogs becomes longer than the line for the actual Ritz bar. Sometimes, when everyone’s drunk enough, you can be in line for both and not even know it. Then a fight will break out. Seize that opportunity to jump the Ritz Dogs line and get up to the front. I suggest ordering the traditional Ritz Dog, but hold the mustard and relish. They also sell frozen Snickers and Butterfingers if you’re really trying to get shit in your teeth before you hit Lynch’s.
Our second stop of the night is Pita Pit. This is one of the few places on this list that I have never had or even thought about eating sober. That in mind, the Buffalo Chicken pita is a 3 a.m. blessing that we’ve done nothing to deserve. It should also be noted that if you have a flask or some mini-coolers on you, the Pit has one of those semi-new age soda fountains with more drink-mixer options than your entire friend group’s weight in pounds. A statistic I wouldn’t mind seeing in 2016 is more people drinking in Pita Pit.
Can’t make this list without including Mellow Mushroom, which is a consistently enjoyable, well-kept, after-hours alternative. One thing you might not know about eating late night at Mellow is that you can pay $46 to walk into the back of the kitchen and make your own calzone. For an additional $12, they’ll let you make someone else’s calzone. I’m f*cking with you — that would be called paying to work instead of getting paid to work. My legitimate and more-trustworthy recommendation for Mellow is two to three extra cheese slices and a side bucket of beer cheese for maximizing returns on dip and dunkage.
Not going to give this one much attention because the drive-thru line is packed enough as it is, but it is one of the Beaches’ most reliable options. If the line is unbearably long, walk next door into Ginger’s and ask if they will order you a pizza. They will probably say no and then you can walk across the street to Krystal’s where it is sometimes acceptable to be served on bike or foot in their drive-thru.
Our final stop in the shadowy realm of cuisine is somewhat of a sleeper. Depending on which side of Beach Boulevard you live on, this may already be your jam. The Express is probably the most authentic line item on this list. It’s nearly impossible to go wrong with anything they cook up in that beautifully painted miracle of a food truck, but if it’s your first time, have a go with their carnitas tacos. The journey to the Express will take you 10 blocks north of the Beach Bars ($2 Uber, $19 if you’re in the surge). I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this, but I #highly recommend dining there stoned every time if possible.