By Emily Simpson | Contributor
Our wonderful city of Jacksonville is the largest city land-wise in the continental United States. With that being said, it is no surprise that we have so many subcultures represented. We could talk for hours about the numerous neighborhoods we have in Jacksonville, but if we really want to focus on the places that are making moves in our city, we will narrow our scope to the Beaches and the Urban Core. These two areas are where we find the up-and-comers, the young entrepreneurs, and older and wiser folks who have seen Jacksonville grow to be the hub that it is.
The dichotomy between the Beaches and the Urban Core is quite interesting. There is a very apparent feud between the two social spheres: one that is rooted in the younger generations, and encouraged by the locals. Growing up at the Beaches, I remember telling people to, “Stay on their side of the ditch.” The city dwellers inherited the nickname “townies.” In the Beach mindset, there is no real reason to ever cross the Intracoastal Waterway.
Later, moving to downtown proved that people have the same attitude toward the Beach inhabitants. The downtown dwellers see Riverside, Avondale, Springfield, Murray Hill and San Marco as the only options in terms of where to live.
This neighborhood pride has created an unspoken conflict between the two poles of Jacksonville. We all just want our people to be our people. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with loving a specific area of Jacksonville, but I think that we are all more similar than we would like to admit.
It is easy to see similarities in the poles of Jacksonville in terms of business. With more small businesses popping up across Northeast Florida, it seems that the two hottest places to plant a restaurant or boutique are the Beaches and the Urban Core. Entrepreneurs know this and are placing their businesses in these two scenes. Some of Jacksonville’s restaurants that have both an Urban Core and Beach location include Mojo’s Barbeque, The Blind Rabbit and Maple Street Biscuit Company. And let’s all talk about how excited we are that The Happy Grilled Cheese is going brick and mortar in Five Points, and on 1st Street in Jacksonville Beach. Beach bum or townie, we all like keeping it local with our dining.
A conversation on local dining and business would be incomplete without mentioning the coffee culture that is growing in Jacksonville. The core of our city has seen a shift in what it means to drink coffee over the last few years.
When Bold Bean Coffee Roasters started educating our coffee lovers on what it means to drink good coffee, many young entrepreneurs got in on that local coffee shop grind. This led to the opening of BREW Five Points, the launch of Vagabond Coffee, and a more spacious roastery for Bold Bean in Murray Hill.
However, the Urban Core isn’t the only place you can find a local coffee shop. The Beaches are home to none other than the second Bold Bean location, Lillie’s Coffee Bar and Breezy coffee shop. So, it seems like we can all agree that there is nothing more relaxing than sipping on a feathery little macchiato, whether it be in the modern industrial feel that you will find in the Bold Bean on Stockton, and BREW in the heart of Five Points, or near the waves in the bright and airy Bold Bean on A1A.
You want to know what people like doing even more than drinking coffee? Drinking beer.
There is nothing more exciting than the 904 becoming a name in the craft beer world. There are around 11 different breweries located in Jacksonville. All except three are situated either in the Core of our city, or on the coast. The two big names east of the Intracoastal are Green Room Brewing and Engine 15. Count Shakula, a chocolate oatmeal stout that can be found at Green Room, is reason enough to make any townie want to cross the ditch. Our three favorite Urban Core breweries are Intuition Ale Works, Aardwolf and Bold City. They are conveniently relatively close to each other, which makes a Friday night brewery crawl very enticing. A nice cold I-10 IPA from Intuition is the only suitable start to the weekend. Heck, take an Uber and check out Green Room and Intuition all in one night. Beach dwellers and the Riverside folks can cheers to that.
If you are starting your night at one of the breweries at either the Beaches or downtown, you have many options of what to do after. Get a few drinks in anyone and Birdies in Five Points always sounds like a good time. The nightlife of Jacksonville is really divided into two places: Riverside/Downtown and the Beach Bars.
Another reason townies and Beach residents are similar? We all like to dance after a couple drinks. Riverside is known for its eclectic crowd and free spirit, so you know that the dance floor at Birdies on a Saturday night is exactly where you want to find yourself if you want to sweat a little. Then you have King Street, where you can visit four different bars in 100 yards. I have had many Beach friends want to drive out to Riverside just to hang out on this road of adventure.
The Beaches are similar in the bar mentality. There is a little something for everyone, because we all like to party. The Beaches are home to Ritz, Brix and Ocean 60 and many more. Variation is always fun. There is no excuse not to hang out on the opposite side of town, because in all reality, we are all just a group of drinking buddies.
How is it that we like to get around to all of our favorite breweries, coffee shops and bars? Bikes of course! Another common thread between the Urban Core and the Beaches is we love some cycling. Whether it’s a lazy cruise on 1st Street, or an intense ride on the winding A1A, the Beaches love to ride. In Riverside and the other core neighborhoods, biking has become a culture in itself. Bike shops are popping up on every corner, and they are even expanding and opening shops at the Beaches. Some people bike from Downtown to the Beaches just for fun. Fifteen miles isn’t really all that bad!
So as we can all see, the Beach folks, and the Downtown dwellers are really alike in many ways. Yeah, flip flops do not have a good reputation in Riverside, and boots don’t go well with sand, but we can all still be friends. This feud and social tension that our city has between its two poles does not do any good. There are way too many movers and shakers in our City for us to not want to cross the ditch, or head across the bridges for more than just the Jaguars’ games. Let’s all just get together, have a beer, sip on some espresso, and ride our bikes to Mojo’s.