For our Bold Bites issue we asked Northeast Florida writers, creatives, foodies, and personalities to dish on the boldest bites they’ve taken of late. Dig into Part II of that feature below, and stay tuned for more samplings. You can find Part I here.
Brisket, Flank, and Tendon Pho Noodle Soup
Pho Viet | Mayport
As soon as the bowl hits your table you’re greeted with a heady aroma of beef, garlic, star anise and other aromatic spices. The brisket and flank, along with fish sauce, adds to the umami character found in the broth and tendon. When cooked right, this combination creates a savory, gelatinous textural delight. Top the bowl with purple basil, culantro, cilantro, jalapeño, a squeeze of lime, and a big scoop of the toasted chili oil served alongside and you’re gonna be real happy. Spicy, smoky, savory, bright, and fresh: it’s the one food I could probably eat every day and never tire of.
Managing Partner at Bold Bean Coffee Roasters
1748 Bakehouse | Springfield
Allison and Kurt [D’Aurizio] do an amazing job of using fresh ingredients when making their food. I have found a few guilty pleasures there. Specifically, their brownie is divine. I always get two, one for now and one for later. And it sounds cheesy, but it’s so good because it’s made with love and intention—and you can taste that.
Co-owner, chef, Southern Roots
TimWah | Baymeadows
I tried TimWah recently and Dim Sum has since become my favorite cuisine. The soup dumplings are especially delicious. Everything at TimWah is made by hand and the whole process is so cool. Sit down and when the carts come you pick what you want. Then feast!
Hawkers | 5 Points & Neptune Beach
I’m a big Hawkers fan. I purposely schedule meetings there so I can eat! I love rice, but certain types of rice will make me sluggish and full. Hawker’s Chow Faan gives me a full feeling, but not to the point where I’m dragging. Plus, it’s insanely tasty.
-Mr. Al Pete
Musician, DJ, Podcaster, Writer
El Jefe | Murray Hill
I have a couple of “go-to” establishments that make favorite dishes, but if I have to focus on just one new thing I ate locally this year, it was the enchiladas at El Jefe in Murray Hill. I was so taken by them the first time I tried them; I’ve had a couple varieties since. The meat is cooked just right and all the other ingredients and seasonings are in perfect proportion to make them delicious.
President, The Florida Theatre
The Cheesecake Factory | St. Johns Town Center
Believe it or not, it was the Americana Cheeseburger at the Cheesecake Factory! The flavor was incredible…all the condiments just blended together. Even the flavor of the beef was over the top! I was going to call them the next day and see what kind or brand of beef it was. I was looking to see what ranch or part of the country the meat came from…not kidding, it was that good!
Owner, Mango Mango’s Caribbean Grill & Bar
Empanadas Factory Latin Fusion | Southside
The best thing I’ve eaten recently is a guava torte called Pasta Frola at Empanadas Factory. The waitress told me that the mother of the owner made it, and that they don’t always have it to sell. It was perfectly flaky, crumbly, and flavorful, with a shortcake texture similar to a coarse cornbread. A couple of years ago, my Spanish teacher from Cuba gave me a taste of a similar cake, which was her mother’s recipe. This one was as close to Mrs. Arnais’ recipe as I’m ever going to be able to purchase.
Chef, Blue Bamboo Restaurant and Handcrafted Cocktails
Crème de la Cocoa | St. Augustine
Chef Nils’ tiramisu is a divine gift to one’s taste buds. It’s an adventurous, complex melding of chocolate, hazelnut, Meyer’s Rum, Kahlua, and espresso; Oh, also with mascarpone and white chocolate mousse! I have never had such an amazing blend of flavors in a food item, and I truly could not stop myself from sneaking extra slices from the party that featured this cake. This was by far the best thing I’ve ever eaten in Northeast Florida.
Public Relations, The Amp
Restaurant Orsay | Avondale
The best thing I’ve eaten recently in Northeast Florida is definitely the Beef Wellington at Orsay. It has to be ordered 24 hours in advance so they can put it all together for you. What makes it so good is the lattice of pastry they wrap it in. It’s perfectly buttery and flaky: cooked perfect medium rare on the inside with golden brown pastry crust on the outside. I’m hungry now. I need this in my belly.
Chef and founder of Food Party Pop-up
These entries originally appeared in the feature “The Best Thing I’ve Ever Eaten (Recently) in Void Magazine’s February 2020 issue.