Richard and Marlene told me about Barbara Jean’s. They were sharing some of their favorite Jacksonville secrets over a meal at Chili’s. It was on their list of places I should try.
An Online Dating Dinner Invite
Intrigued by the name and motivated by the recommendation, I decided I would go there one day. I went so far as to include a tagline on my online dating profile that said “Let’s go to Barbara Jean’s!”. Following the posting, I got messages with guys assuming I’d been there and it was on my list of favorites. Every once in a while I’d explain, no, I haven’t been there yet, but I am looking for someone to visit it with.
Eventually one charming guy invited me and we nailed down plans. I was late to the date because the drive there was was beautiful. Magnificent houses lined the river and trees shaded the roads that wound back to this boathouse style restaurant.
Perched on the St. John’s River
I finally came across the place. It was somewhere between a cozy family restaurant, boathouse and country club alcove and a touch of downhome, riverfront comfort. It was welcoming. There is inside seating, a small bar, a few TVs with games playing (it was a Sunday), and a deck beside the water for outside seating. This was one of the 4 cold nights in Florida where sitting outside was a bit much, so we stayed in.
The first thing we tried were the highly recommended crab cakes. This tasty treat was unlike any other crab cakes I’ve ever had. Often crab cakes tastes more like imitation crab, bread crumbs, and filler ingredients – rather than the main event. This had delicious, big bites of fresh crab. They also had lemon and a horseradish sauce, but neither were really necessary with the rich flavor of the appetizer.
There was a menu with some exciting alcoholic drinks, but we stuck to basics and didn’t explore these options.
Just Like Grandma’s Cooking – Maybe Better (shhhh)
If you are ever missing the comfort of your grandma’s cooking, this is the place for you. They have pot roast, turkey and gravy, fried chicken and all those hot dinners that make home inviting.
Even the bread basket they bring to the table is full of treats. There was moist cornbread with jalepenos, dinner rolls and a sweet bread that my date thought was pumpkin. All three tasted fresh and flavorful, falling apart with each bite.
Because I couldn’t pick just one thing, I got the “veggies” sampler which let you choose a mix of sides. Though they were listed as veggies, many options were much more. I tried squash casserole (it was my least favorite, but definitely interesting), green beans (so tasty!) and broccoli with cheese and rice (devoured this!). I also got a loaded baked potato. I definitely had a full meal leftover for lunch the next day. My date had an enormous caesar salad.
Our server was friendly and on this quiet night, only a few families and couples filled the restaurant. I saw a coworker at what looked like a family birthday celebration. All different generations sat at the table and enjoyed each other’s company.
When I return here I will sit outside by the river and order the pot roast.