There are lots of great restaurants in Beaches Town Center.
And in the area where Atlantic Boulevard runs through Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach, serving as the dividing line between the two communities, there are a variety of fun eateries.
Ragtime Tavern Seafood & Grill, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, offers creative cuisine in an energetic atmosphere that includes live music and handcrafted beers from the in-house microbrew pub.
Ocean 60 specializes in continental cuisine with French techniques and global flavors.
North Beach Fish Camp offers local seafood dishes with nods to traditional Southern cuisine.
Joseph’s Pizza, a Jacksonville family business since 1956, specializes in pizza, pasta and other Italian dishes that are made from scratch with recipes created by the business’ founder almost 60 years ago.
M Shack is an upscale casual eatery with unique entrees, including a cheeseburger topped with foie gras (duck liver), which you can wash down with a Pecan Pie Milkshake.
And Mezza Restaurant and Bar, which recently changed its name from Mezza Luna, features contemporary American cuisine with international culinary influences.
But as bustling as the area is now, it’s actually been a busy commercial corner since 1910, when Atlantic Boulevard was completed. It was the first road to connect Jacksonville and the Beaches, and The Beaches Museum & History Park archives has a photo of the area taken sometime between 1916 and 1920 that shows Model T automobiles parked in front of what appear to be popular restaurants.
“From 1910, you have a lot of stuff happening there,” says archivist Taryn Rodriguez-Boette. In fact, the area attracted a lot of visitors even before Atlantic Boulevard opened, thanks to the grand Continental Hotel, built by Henry Flagler in 1901, she says. The Continental, located several blocks north of the present day Atlantic Boulevard corner, “was a busy place” because it had its own railway station and golf course.
Atlantic Boulevard was built because some wealthy people in Jacksonville owned cars, and wanted to be able to drive them and race them on the beach, Rodriguez-Boette says. That continued to be popular through the 1950s. The Continental, later named the Atlantic Beach Hotel, burned down in 1919. But the Atlantic Boulevard corner has long been a commercial area, Rodriguez-Boette says. “That hasn’t changed.”
The names and types of restaurants, and other types of businesses, have changed through the years however. The Copper Kettle is long gone, and so is Campbell’s Pharmacy, and Langston’s Drug Store. But plenty of thriving businesses have replaced them, including the restaurants featured here:
Ragtime Tavern Seafood & Grill
Ragtime, at 207 Atlantic Blvd. in Atlantic Beach, features a variety of cuisines, including Cajun, fresh seafood, chicken and pasta – all made with fresh ingredients. Longtime employee Terrie Lacivita, who began working there in 1985, two years after it opened, is an eye witness as to how the popular restaurant evolved, and in doing so, changed the look of its side of the corner of Atlantic and Ocean Boulevards. Since she grew up in the area, she even remembers businesses in the 1960s. “Floyd’s 5 and Dime was here, and Campbell’s Drug Store was at the east side of this building,” she says. Down at the other end was a grocery store, and “Silver’s Drug was where North Beach Fish Camp is now.”
A 1985 painting that hangs in Ragtime shows the restaurant in its early days; Silver’s Drug Store is across the street. Brothers Tom and Bill Morton opened Ragtime in 1983 on the far east end of the building, then expanded it over the years. Lacivita says she remembers when they “hand-shoveled” the sunken seating area known as The Pit. “They didn’t strike water,” she said. “Then they expanded more, knocked another wall down.” In the early 1990s, she says they opened “North Florida’s first brewery” on the premises. The restaurant is now owned by Craftworks.
North Beach Fish Camp
North Beach Fish Camp opened in July 2012 after a major renovation to the building where Caribbee Key Island Grille was previously located. The eatery, at 100 First St., Neptune Beach, is owned by Ben and Liza Groshell, who also own Palm Valley Fish Camp, Julington Creek Fish Camp and Marker 32.
The restaurant’s appearance “is night and day” different since the renovation, says general manager Jeremy Bryant. The second floor is now enclosed, with windows that open, with a more refined look.
Entrees feature local produce, including collard greens from a farmers market in downtown Jacksonville. They are a staple, and so are grits, Bryant says. “Shrimp and Grits are a top 10 menu item, and one of the things that made us famous.”
Ocean 60, at 60 Ocean Blvd., Atlantic Beach is owned by Daniel and Mariela Groshell. Daniel, brother of North Beach Fish Camp owner Ben Groshell, opened it in 2001, several years after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. The restaurant’s cuisine is inspired by Daniel’s travels around the world, with an emphasis on tropical flavors that are influenced by the time he lived in Costa Rica. He opened it on the north side of the building and then expanded in 2003 when he opened the Martini Room, one of the first martini bars in the area.
As chef, Daniel makes everything from scratch, including his own bread, salad dressings and sauces. He features global dinners with the exact replica of food from various countries, including Greece, Morocco, Italy, France, Spain and Cuba. “We go with whatever kick I’m on that week,” he says. “Everything is made fresh daily.”
Mezza Restaurant and Bar
Owner Niall Falloon grew up in Ireland. His wife Nancy grew up in Jacksonville. And their restaurant’s previous long time name, Mezza Luna, is Italian. But Mezza is not an Italian restaurant – it’s one that features dishes inspired by a variety of culinary influences.
The Falloons changed the restaurant’s name in April to reflect the general contemporary cuisine it has featured since they bought it. The original owners, the Recupito family, ran it as an Italian restaurant, and then sold it to Tony Pels, who became business partners with the Falloons in 2006. Pels wanted to expand the menu away from Italian, but became ill and died in 2008, at which point the Falloons became sole owners of the eatery at 110 North First St., Neptune Beach.
“The menu has constantly evolved since our ownership,” Niall Falloon says, “with everything fresh and created from scratch.”
Joseph’s Pizza has been a family owned business since 1956, when the original location opened on Main Street in Jacksonville. The Atlantic Beach store at 30 Ocean Blvd. opened in 2004. Susie Bateh, who owns it with her sister Sandra Hanania and mother Rose Bateh, says the Beaches location is a natural fit because she grew up in Atlantic Beach. Her father Joseph “was an amazing cook,” Bateh says, “and he made up the recipes in his head. We prepare everything the old fashioned way, with no preservatives and sauces from scratch.”
Located at 299 Atlantic Blvd. in Atlantic Beach, M Shack “is upscale casual,” says server Rachel Lindsey. It opened in November 2011 in what was formerly The BookMark, which relocated nearby in Neptune Beach. Owned by brothers Matthew and David Medure, who own other area upscale restaurants, “it was supposed to be a fun side project” for them, Lindsey says. “It did so well, we are opening more stores.
Also on the Corner:
Flying Iguana Taqueria & Tequila Bar
Food, spirits, and live music;
207 Atlantic Blvd., Atlantic Beach
106 First Street, Neptune Beach