Chef Kevin Sbraga's Guide to Jacksonville

Bold Bean Coffee Roasters

© Josh Mauser

By Kevin Sbraga Posted May 27, 2016

Where to eat and drink in Jacksonville, Florida.

Kevin Sbraga, the season seven winner of Top Chef, is the chef at Sbraga and Fat Ham in Philadelphia and the new Sbraga & Company in Jacksonville, Florida.

I’ve always been drawn to the South. The food, culture and people are all intriguing to me. I spent time in Miami for my culinary education, cooked in kitchens in Naples and Atlanta and actually have some family in Jacksonville (or Jax, as locals call it). Opening Sbraga & Company has given me and my team the opportunity to cook in the South and experiment with local ingredients, enhanced by weather with sun shining nine months out of year. When the opportunity to open in Jacksonville came up, it just made sense to become a part of the developing culinary scene down there. The chefs in the community welcomed me with open arms, and I knew it was a place I wanted to be.

Best Barbecue: Jerome Brown BBQ

Food & Wine: Jerome Brown Pizza

© Kevin Sbraga

This barbecue spot is drive-up only, no eating in. We happened to strike up a conversation with our Uber driver and since she clearly knew what she was talking about it when it came to the Jacksonville barbecue scene, she ended up taking some members of my team and myself there. You drive up to one window, order, drive around the building, and pick up at another window. We stocked up on ribs and wings. The BBQ is really, really good, thanks to a great smoke on the meat and a mustard-based sauce. The mustard flavors originally come from South Carolina, which made its way to Jacksonville quite some time ago. Barbecue is a big thing down in Jacksonville, and this is one of the best. 1551 Edgewood Ave W

Killer Croissants: Knead Bakeshop

My favorite bakery, Knead, also makes pastries for my favorite cafe (Bold Bean). Whether you choose a freshly-baked croissant, cookie or danish, the quality is amazing. They use high-quality butter in their baked goods, which truly makes a difference in the light, flakey richness that you can taste. 1173 Edgewood Ave S

Awesome Pizza: V Pizza

Food & Wine: V Pizza

© Kevin Sbraga

V Pizza does dough right—thin crust, with a crispness and a bit of char on the bottom. A beer, salad, and pizza makes for a great dinner. The specials are always changing, but I had a Calabrian Trio pizza that was so delicious, I hope it makes its way to the regular menu quickly. 12601 San Jose Blvd.

Great Local Seafood: Safe Harbor Seafood Market & Restaurant

Food & Wine: Safe Harbor

© Kevin Sbraga

You can get to Safe Harbor Market & Restaurant in Mayport by driving, but we traveled by boat, which was an adventure in itself. You pull up to the dock and walk inside, where you can order the seafood by the pound or by the piece. We kept it simple and ordered baskets of fresh shrimp, oysters, and fish, but they've also got salads, sandwiches, tacos and a variety of sides. Once you order and pay, you take your seafood to the kitchen, where they cook it however you'd like it—fried, steamed, grilled, they'll do it all. Afterwards, they bring it outside for you to enjoy with waterfront views and some ice-cold beers. The seafood is some of the best you'll find in the area, so you'll see tons of customers in the market buying seafood to take home. It was definitely one of the most memorable experiences I've had in Jacksonville so far. 4378 Ocean St #3, Atlantic Beach

Late Night Cocktails and Bar Snacks: Black Sheep

Food & Wine: Black Sheep

© Kevin Sbraga

Late night, I like Black Sheep for a snack and a cocktail on the roof deck. It's a Southern comfort spot. They source their ingredients from local farms, and you can taste the difference in the quality of their ingredients, like their pork, chicken or eggs. It shows in the food in a big way. 1534 Oak St.

Best Coffee: Bold Bean Coffee Roasters

The guys at Bold Bean also make our coffee for Sbraga & Company. They have an exposed brick, industrial chic-meets-rustic vibe. They care about what they're doing when it comes to sourcing beans, and their blends are really good—not too deep, well-balanced with a bit of acidity. Be sure to grab a pastry while you're there, too! 869 Stockton St.

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