By Cristin Wilson
Whether it's scratch cornbread or fresh collard greens, Jacksonville's soul food has some of the best soul food restaurants around. With their tradition of slow-cooked, well-seasoned food, these two restaurants stand out for their ability to make your palette proud. Nowhere else can you find food so rich in taste, history, and culture.
The Soul Food Bistro
Chef Celestia Mobley has an arsenal of recipes, many of which she honed during her days in culinary school. But when it came to putting a menu together for The Soul Food Bistro, she went no further than her childhood.
She reflected on the many Sunday dinners at her grandmother’s -- meals that included such fare as cornbread dressing, collard greens and fried chicken. It’s those dinners that inspired her when she was choosing what items the bistro would serve.
“I often say I graduated from culinary school, but I learned more from my grandmother than anything,” said Mobley.
It was her grandmother who said tasting is key. Her grandmother passed down many recipes but they often included instructions for pinches of this and dashes of that instead of actual measurements, so for Mobley it always comes back to tasting.
The food she grew up eating is a part of her African American culture, Mobley said, and is rooted in times when slaves worked hard but loved getting together to break bread. Often they were left with the scraps their owners didn’t want, such as pig ears and intestines, known as chitterlings.
Chitterlings often are a staple at many tables for African American families during celebrations, even though cleaning them properly and preparing them is a smelly, labor-intensive process. That’s why the Bistro serves them for only one week of the year.
But Mobley promises many other favorites are there year-round, including ox tails, fried chicken gizzards, smothered pork chops, fried cabbage with bacon and peach cobbler.
On Sundays, the restaurant serves Mobley’s favorite dish, cornbread dressing. It’s similar to what her mom made every holiday for years, but just a tad sweeter. Mobley said she believes her mom would approve.
If you go…
The Soul Food Bistro
West Side location
5310 Lenox Avenue suite 1
Jacksonville, FL 32205
South Side Location
11876 Atlantic Blvd.
Jacksonville, FL 32225
The Brinkk RestaurantThe Brinkk has all of the usual favorites you’d find at a soul food restaurant, but also features some new classics on the menu, such as chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits.
Brinkk’s manager David Smith said the idea of chicken and waffles sounded odd to him at first but, “It’s extremely good, one of our top sellers.”
If you have an open mind, he said, two things that don’t seem to go together will prove to be a tasty match.
“You have the savory chicken and the sweetness of the syrup,” said Smith.
While shrimp and grits may exactly fall into the category of soul food in Jacksonville Florida, it makes sense for the location, Smith said. You have grits, which are a staple of any southern breakfast, and shrimp, which is abundant from Jacksonville’s coast.
Don’t overlook Brinkk’s meatloaf, though. Or the sausage, chicken and shrimp gumbo.
If you go…
45 Kernan Blvd. N., Jacksonville, 32225
Photos by Daron Dean for VISIT FLORIDA
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