I’m always surprised at the lack of waterfront dining in Jacksonville. After a day at the beach, your options are mainly limited to mediocre bar food as eats go. While not on the beach (just a short ride away on a marina on the Intracoastal), Nipper’s Beach Grille provides the waterfront atmosphere along with great island-inspired food. I especially wanted to visit after discovering that the executive chef was former Top Chef contestant Kenny Gilbert. He has since moved on to South Beach, but left his influences!
Mario and I visited for dinner a few months back and enjoyed the food, and recently I was invited out for a “Flip Flop Sunday” where I was treated some new drinks and menu items. I’ll start with the latter visit since the pictures are nicer
The Flip Flop Sunday event revolved around “The Bad Habit” (with rum floater), Nippers’ signature drink:
I wouldn’t call myself a lightweight by any means, but that “2 drink limit” they jokingly print on the menu is actually a good idea. The Bad Habit is potent! The ingredients are a secret too, so who knows how much of what liquor is mixed up in that little cup. Word on the street is they may be bottling it soon, so all limits are off in the comfort and safety of your own home
Some of my favorites from the day:
So let’s begin at the beginning. Firstly, I wouldn’t hesitate to reorder any of these items because they were all fantastic. Possible exception: the conch chowder. Not because it wasn’t tasty, but because I’m not much of a chunky soup person.
- The plantains were excellent. I loved how the salty feta complimented their sweetness. Great appetizer.
- Baked oysters….OMG. I have professed my love for oysters in all forms many times on this blog, and these were no exception. Juicy oysters topped with Boursin cream, andouille sausage, spinach gratin…what’s not to love?? I may or may not have gone back for seconds…and thirds…
- The mac & cheese at Nippers is the stuff of legend. The portion you see pictured is just a sample size we tried. The actual plate (which I tried on my first visit, and subsequently ate from for the next 2 days) is pictured here:
There’s not much else to say besides: if you like mac & cheese, you will love theirs. There are 5 varieties, and I’m working on trying them all!
- By the time we hit the pulled pork slider, I was feeling quite full (and tipsy…) but wasn’t too full to notice the excellent flavor on the pork. Nipper’s tops their pulled pork with jalapeno jack cheese, which purists might not enjoy, but which brings a little spicy creaminess to the party.
We also got a taste of the mocha brownie sundae (whipped cream, warm caramel, marshmallow, vanilla ice cream, candied spiced pecans), which plays with a lot of different textures to create a satisfying dessert.
On that first visit, in addition to the jerk chicken mac & cheese, I tried that night’s special (and possibly a regular menu item now) pork belly taco and Mario got the Fried Fisherman’s Platter (fried shrimp, fish, cracked conch strips, seasoned fries, coleslaw, Nippers Remoulade):
There is an large portion of pork belly under that sauce (Nippers aioli I believe, which they could have gone lighter on) and my only complaint was that the seasoning wasn’t evenly distributed–some chunks of meat were heavily seasoned and some not at all. Otherwise, the flavors were good.
I mentioned the waterfront atmosphere at Nipper’s, which can range from the also aforementioned Flip Flop Sunday on the deck to a nicer evening in the back room overlooking the yachts on the marina. You can catch live music Thursday-Sunday and the TVs in the lounge make it a nice spot to catch a game or fight too. Overall, Nipper’s provides nice, unpretentious beach food and atmosphere.