Jacksonville, FL 32225 So I finished up my trifecta of new restaurants this weekend at the much anticipated Empire City Gastropub. The brain child of well know chef and owner of Epic Burger fame Korey Konopasek and his wife Lovice. You can read all about their journey on their web site Empire City Gastropub. My very best bestie and I made our way over for an early dinner; the interior quite inviting, dark wood, soft lighting, comfortable seating booth or tables, perhaps a seat at the bar, plus a private room for large parties. Service is on target especially for a newly opened establishment. Our waiter greeted us with water, menus and a nice bowl of fresh popcorn then gave us ample time to look over our choices. After a glance at the menu starter list a few items jumped out at us, Scotch Egg, Jacksonville Poutine, Giant Scallop Ceviche, Piggy’s in a Blanket, Beet Tart for the veggie lover plus a few more, we settled on the Jacksonville Poutine and the Giant Scallop Ceviche. For me the Ceviche was the winner, a stunning presentation of thinly sliced giant scallop, sprinkled with small pieces of diced watermelon and topped off with a zesty lime sorbet that is made in house. Sorbet tart, water melon sweet together with the nicely sliced scallop explodes in the mouth in a most pleasant way. This is not to be confused with other crevice you may have tasted.
The Poutine, a flavorful gravy, house made American cheese as well as house made hot sauce. My friend spoke positive comments about the dish, I am not a fan of poutine anywhere I have tasted it. The portion size would accommodate two or three nicely, he ate almost half.We struggled over the entrée selections, there were only two of us and we saw at least four or five we wanted to sample. We settled on three, since we were sharing; Duo of Beef with Vanilla Mashed, Drunken Mac N Chees, and Chicken and Dumplings. First up the Duo of Beef, angus beef tenderloin medallions cooked rare via sous vide, braised wagyu with blackberry demi glaze, vanilla bean mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables. The meal was beyond anything we had expected, the tenderloin melt in the mouth perfect, rare rich and well flavored. The wagyu known as American style Kobe beef is much loved due to the intense marbling and flavor and ours had all of the hallmarks. If you have never sampled this meat, Empire City Gastropub should be the place for your maiden voyage. Now the vanilla bean mashed, we have tried garlic mashed, wasabi mashed and just plain mashed, but have you tried vanilla mashed? Please do, they are wonderful, paired with the meat plusc omplement each other in a most delightful way, with the potatoes balancing out the richness of the meat but alone the vanilla laced potatoes felt more like dessert than starch.Our second entrée Chicken and Czech Stuffed Dumplings, I had a picture in my mind of what the dish was going to look line and I was so far off base. Half a roasted chicken, with plum stuffed dumplings, dressed with mustard gravy, and roasted vegetables. The dumplings were the star, of the dish plus a welcomed change from the flour dough dumplings I have grown up with and served in many restaurants. I was so happy with this dish, and my dinner companion was as delighted with the dumplings as I was. Small uneven balls of hand rolled potatoes, held a delightful amount of sweet/ tart plum meat that teased the buds with each bite. The half chicken plump, sweet, well-seasoned meat, the mustard gravy gave just a hint of tart, the carrots and diced celery firm for the crunch.For our last entrée the Drunken Mac N Cheese this can be ordered with wagyu beef for an up charge we ordered without. Cavatappi pasta with a beer cheese sauce, cheddar cheese baked with bread crumb topping. Again we were wowed, firm pasta, tangy rich sauce with a decided good crunch from the bread crumbs.
During the course of the meal our server stopped to check in on us, refill our drinks as needed, we were well impressed with the service also a plus Korey stopped by to chat with us, we are fans from Epic Burger, and we know how important good food and good service means to him.
The take away here, this is a must go to spot, food is legit, with many items, not to be found around town, service is top notch after only a few days of being open, and perhaps number one it is locally owned and operated, a plus for the community, there will be Trivia night, live entertainment and other events during the week. Gather up the besties, try out some of the craft cocktails, or craft beer, eat at the bar or sit at a table and if you can get enough besties, take over the small room. This is not an establishment that will disappoint.