Jacksonville, FL 32202
November has been a great month for foodies in Jacksonville. Two top-notch restaurants opened within days of each other and to say we were ready for this is an understatement. Jacksonville can now boast of having two Top Chef heavy hitters with restaurants in the area.
I met a friend for our adventure at Sbraga, arriving first I was able to wander around the space, it is quite comfortable, with soft chairs and couches in the center to sit while you wait for you companions, of just get a craft cocktail from the bar and enjoy watching the activity in the open kitchen. The universe was looking out for me and provided the opportunity that allowed me to met Chef owner Kevin Sbraga, friendly, engaging he took a few minutes from his busy kitchen to chat with me. What was most noticeable he is dedicated to bring the best food possible to the area, and after eating here, it is evident he will walk the talk.
Full bar offering craft cocktails
Once we were seated our server arrived to welcome and introduce us to the menu and family style service. Menu is configured somewhat different than the usual. First up is a bread board, which consists of biscuit, corn bread, spent grain, soft pretzel salted butter, fennel jam. All breads are made in house. Soup and salads, large plates, meant for sharing, crops, are really small plates, mostly veggies, but the portions are very generous, then dessert.
We wanted to taste as much a possible, so we ordered several of the smaller dishes and two large plates. Make note the small plates will be delivered as they complete in the kitchen, so don’t expect a tray of food to arrive all at once, we took no issue with this. The food actually rolls out quite quickly so don’t think you will be sitting waiting for your dishes to arrive. There are many “runners” to whisk the food to you once it hits the pass.
First to arrive, Turnips, cooked and raw small bites of flavorful firm cooked turnips accompanied by shaved circles of the raw. What a delightful dish, the sweetness of the cooked, balanced against the flavor of the raw.
Hog & Hominy crispy pork, cheese grits, baby corn, this was a beautifully conceived dish, the balance of flavors was delightful. Pork tender, crisp the grits smooth with the corn lending crunch to the dish.
Grilled Octopus hot okra, mint, field pea salad. This was the dish I wanted. Earlier in the week I had a disappointing encounter with Octopus so I confirmed this was not going to be a repeat and it was not. Okra was crispy and did indeed have some heat but did not overpower the sweetness of the octopus. If you are an fan of Octopus you will not find any better in town, if you find it at all.
Our last small plate Beef Carpaccio, capers, boiled peanuts, steak tartare dressing. This is always a favorite dish of mine, and was done well. Meat was paper thin, peanuts added depth and the dressing lent just the right amount of zip.
Finally our large plates, yep we are all in. It’s amazing how much two dedicated women can eat.
My friend ordered the Smoked Meat consisting of pork shoulder, beef brisket, and chicken wings. This was indeed a large plate, along with the meat, sliced pickles, slaw and home made roles. I tasted everything but the chicken and will swear under oath the meat was genius.
For my main it had to be the Pasta, Pappardelle, vegetable sugo, jalapeño condiment, goat cheese. I was so happy with this dish, the vegetable broth was mild yet flavorful with just the correct amount of heat from the jalapeno, that did not over power.
Only one thing left, yes dessert. We mulled it over the four options and went with what we thought was the least sinful, as if it mattered at this point. Apple Strusel, olive oil ice cream with candied ginger. I don’t know what olive oil ice cream is but I can tell you it’s amazing and flavorful. My companion did not like the crunch of the candied ginger said it stuck to her teeth. I suggest she stop eating it and I could finish it for her.
So our final thoughts, this spot has gone on the short list of “where do we eat tonight”. In the second week of being open, dishes are well prepared, staff on point for all things Sbraga. There may be some misses, but we did not encounter them at our visit.
There is one note I feel needs sharing, this spot may be a challenge to find, the address is indeed 220 Riverside Ave, and your GPS will bring you there, but what I will not tell you is, the restaurant is actually on the left side of this building. We found it poorly marked, and I had to talk my friend in last night. Don’t let this deter you just be informed.