Chew RestaurantJessica | December 20, 2011
I thought it wise to finally get around to writing this post before Chew Restaurant closes its [downtown] doors permanently. Following their New Year’s Eve celebration, the Urban Core fixture will be moving a few miles southwest over to Five Points.
I first visited Chew during Jacksonville’s Downtown Restaurant Week with some co-workers. On that visit, I thought that conceptually everything was good–fresh, local ingredients in creative dishes–but that it just didn’t all pan out (for example: tough, dried-out pork belly chicharrones). I chalked this up to it being restaurant week, during which time the place was churning out the same dishes over & over and maybe not paying as much attention to detail. Since I was still convinced that those details could make something good, Mario and I gave it another try more recently. This visit made for much more exciting dining.
We happened to be famished the evening we stopped in, so I decided an appetizer was in order. Plus, I really wanted to try poutine, a dish I’ve heard much about but never tried. What a great introduction:
The thick potato wedges were topped with tender, savory chunks of short rib and creamy pieces of cheddar. My eyes often end up being bigger than my stomach, so after the hearty app I decided on a half order of the potato gnocchi (mayport shrimp, sugar snap peas, kalamata olives, lemon cream sauce) as an entree. Mario went for the seared chicken breast (house-made tasso ham, sauce soubise, roasted chicken jus) and subbed the included potatoes for Chew’s mac & cheese gratin:
I loved the pillowy gnocchi and was surprisingly pleased by the lemon/olive flavor combination. Mario devoured his chicken breast (which was really nearly half a chicken) and somehow even got through nearly all of that mac & cheese. Maybe we should get him into a treatment program?
After that dinner, I was itching to try some of Chew’s lunch menu, but it’s a bit far for a regular workday trip. So before we left town for Christmas, we decided it would be a perfect lunch before hitting the road. I went for the duck bahn mi (pickled vegetables, jalapenos, cilantro, spicy mayonnaise), while Mario had the grilled chicken sandwich (smoked bacon, tomato, butter lettuce, house made pimento cheese on ciabatta). And we got a bowl of Chew’s housemade chips as a complimentary starter:
This was a pretty good bahn mi interpretation. The duck meatballs played well with the spicy mayo, and the pickled veggies (+ lots of cilantro–FYI for you cilantro haters) added a nice crunch and all the right flavor notes. Mario liked his chicken sandwich as well, but thought the cheese flavor was too light (more pimento!).
I’m hoping that Chew’s new location comes with a liquor license, because a hip mixologist is all it needs to become a great Atlanta-like (yep, still doing that) spot. But I’m finding there are more than a few restaurants with excellent chefs using local ingredients in Jax. More to come!