Picasso’s

Tucked away in a strip mall off San Jose Boulevard in Mandarin lies one of the best-kept secrets among Jacksonville’s culinary landscape. Those who know of it eagerly make multiple visits a week, and the line out the door is a testament to the magic that happens within its close-knit confines.

Picasso’s is the epitome of a chef-owned, made from scratch restaurant, where quality of product is second-to-none. Chef Evans’ meticulous attention to detail and passion for an innovative culinary experience is demonstrated from start to finish.

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Their menu is extensive, featuring local seafood and produce, handmade pasta, sausage made fresh daily in house and the best specialty pizzas I’ve ever had. Their “Gourmet” pizza comes with pancetta bacon, brie, caramelized onion and truffle oil?! Absurd. Picasso’s also has dinner specials that change from day-to-day, including everything from authentic Japanese-style ramen noodles with roasted pork belly, to risotto topped with pan-seared local snapper and veggies, and Wagyu beef ribeye topped with mushroom fondue. The menu also has a range of apps, salads, sandwiches, seafood and pasta. The options are truly endless.    

Along with dishes that would bring a tear to Bobby Flay’s eye, Picasso’s has an eclectic wine list featuring a range of varietals from across the globe. All of the wines are prominently displayed in the entrance of the restaurant on chalk boards that, in true Picasso’s form, are perpetually rotating through new arrivals. Coupled with an impressive craft beer list, Picasso’s literally has something to please even the pickiest of palates.   

While I wouldn’t recommend Picasso’s to those looking for a light salad (though the spinach salad with bacon, goat cheese, onion, strawberries and green apples is insane), it’s a great family friendly spot to visit when in need of a truly amazing meal, at an incredibly reasonable price.

The Press

There seems to be a pattern in North Florida of amazing restaurants popping up in rather unsuspecting places, particularly in strip malls that you would otherwise drive right past had you not been in the know. That is exactly the case with The Press, one of the newest additions to St. Augustine’s blossoming foodie-friendly repertoire.

Located just outside of St. Auggie’s historic district, The Press is rapidly making a name for itself — and for good reason. Their menu features a variety of options, with staples like the El Cubano (a Cuban sandwich served on house-made bread which is baked daily) to more unique creations such as the Gingered Calamari, which is tossed in ginger and cilantro vinaigrette and served over grilled pineapple. Chef and owner Kevin Boose, his wife Simeone and their streamlined staff of five, strive to keep it interesting by offering daily specials that feature fresh local seafood, steaks and inventive pasta creations.

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Every delicious dish goes hand-in-hand with the proper beverage, and The Press has that covered as well. For a place their size, they boast a craft beer and wine selection that would suit a venue many times larger. I love to see restaurants taking advantage of the versatility that a chalkboard allows (for both food and beverages), in an effort to cater to a constantly changing diversity of products. It’s great to come to your favorite eatery and know that there will likely be something fresh featured. This is the case at The Press, where you’re greeted by a large handwritten list of adult beverages as soon as you enter.

Considering the diversity on the menu, the fantastic daily specials and the enticing drink selections, The Press is guaranteed to please. Just arrive with an empty stomach and an elastic waistband, because this place is designed for gluttony!