Springfield is one of Jacksonville’s most storied historic districts, and its culture and food offerings are worth exploring. You can easily spend a day experiencing all of the sights and tastes it has to offer. Much of the neighborhood’s historic character has been preserved, and a few select streets are like taking a step back in time. The area experienced its greatest flood of growth after the Great Fire of 1901, which gutted Downtown and scattered its affluent residents throughout the nearby suburbs. Aside from walking the boulevards and simply admiring the architecture, here are some suggestions for an ideal trip in historic Springfield.
Southern Brunch to Begin
Start off your date with a late brunch at Uptown Market. This establishment has become a fixture of the Springfield food scene with its hearty dishes and reasonable prices. Uptown Market opened just a few years ago as a breakfast, lunch and brunch spot, and recently expanded their service to include dinner. The interior is amazingly well lit, flooded by windows and featuring polished concrete floors and high exposed ceilings. The walls that don’t sport windows are covered with fascinating artwork, including a colorful take on the Jacksonville skyline and a mesmerizing painting of a woman that dominates one wall. The brunch options are tasty updates on classics, including a variety of different kinds of crepes and one delicacy dubbed the Green Eggs and Bacon Wrap.
Try their take on the old Southern standard, biscuits and sausage gravy. The biscuits are baked just right for being smothered in savory gravy, with enough buttery density not to fall to pieces when soaked up while still being light enough to cut with a spoon. These aren’t dainty biscuits that are made for a spoonful of jam and an extended pinky finger; these are biscuits that demand meat and gravy. The gravy itself was perhaps the best part, with a smooth meaty consistency that was both rich and delicious.
The corned beef hash Benedict is another great dish. It brings several layers of mouthwatering protein together on an English muffin and is covered in Hollandaise sauce. While the traditional recipe for Eggs Benedict calls for ham or bacon sandwiched between the egg and English muffin, Uptown Market’s version changes the whole character of the dish. The corned beef hash crumbles quickly and creates a flavor combination that will keep you coming back for more. After a few dabs of Louisiana Hot Sauce you will find yourself in brunch splendor.
Sweets for your Sweetie
After brunch, stop by Sweet Pete’s candy shop and experience one of Northeast Florida’s sweetest stores. The shop itself is a converted two-story home, and lends itself a very childlike air. Giant candy and lollipops guard the doorways, warding off any trespassers who might happen to be afraid of such sugary treats. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk through the door is a multi-layered gourmet lollipop stand, each one a unique and all natural flavor. Even the most mature adult will find themselves feeling like a kid again in the converted dining room, where massive jars of gourmet candy cover every shelf and table. Pete of Sweet Pete’s was tired of artificial flavors and colorings in the industry, and endeavored to bring high quality all natural candy to the people. You can easily taste how well he’s accomplished that when you take a bite out of one of his famous sea salt caramel chews.
If you’re tired of traditional favorites like chocolate covered raisins and peanuts, try the curry coconut cashews or chocolate covered pomegranate seeds. His caramel chews also come in a chocolate covered form because someone must have dared him to improve upon perfection. Once you’ve worked your way through the chocolates, there are also plenty of sour and chewy candy along the back wall like peach rings and handmade jellybeans.
While there’s no flowing chocolate river or small men with orange faces running around, Sweet Pete’s is certainly doing something magical.
After you’ve eaten your fill and tasted all the sweets you can stand, plan to attend the Historic Springfield Main Street Cruise and see all of the vintage cars rolling down the heart of historic Springfield along Main Street from First Street to 12th Street. This informal car cruise started as one man’s dream to bring back a vision of the 1950s where big beautiful cars dominated the streets at burger joints and Main Street was like a scene straight out of Grease. Since then more and more people have become involved, from local businesses staying open later or providing free food to vintage car cruisers, to local bands showing up to provide live music. Since its inception, it has drawn plenty of people who don’t own vintage cars and just come down to see the trip down memory lane. You’ll see folding chairs and coolers, and maybe even a grill or two as people settle in for the long haul.
Cars will fill the street soon enough, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the feeling of community that comes with the Cruise. The Cruise is scheduled for the fourth Saturday of every month and runs from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. It has become such a significant part of the area that the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission awarded the Historic Springfield Main Street Cruise with a Preservation Project award in 2013. Want to join in on the fun? We saw a handful of cars for sale on our visit, just waiting to be taken out by their newest owner for a cruise of their own.
Go visit Springfield for the beautiful buildings and preserved architecture. You’ll find yourself staying for all the great people, culture, and food.