If you do any dining out at all in Jacksonville, you have undoubtedly heard the buzz around Chef Tom Gray’s new restaurant, Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails. And if you haven’t, you have undoubtedly been living under a rock. Gray, formerly of Bistro Aix, built his new Town Center restaurant from the ground up, literally. Construction started earlier this year, and the modern two-story building features lots of glass, steel, and reclaimed wood, plus outdoor dining areas on both levels.
I was invited in for their soft opening just before Thanksgiving, and have since returned on my own for a quick dinner. There are some things that I really like about Moxie, and some that I really don’t. The first positive aspect: the cocktail menu.
The cocktail menu is small but well-done. However, I do think both the wine list and the overall spirits selection could use some expansion.
Another positive: the menu. It is creative, and there is something to fit everyone’s tastes, from the basic to the adventurous. I was impressed with its breadth. We tried the cheese curds and deviled eggs four ways for appetizers:
Because I love both cheese and deviled eggs, I had no complaints about either of these. I liked being able to try 4 different deviled egg preparations, but they were all fairly simple (I recently had a lobster deviled egg at Orsay and, wow). Our entrees were the chicken and waffle, and scallops with cheese grits:
The seared scallops and cheese grits in a lobster sauce were pretty standard as scallop entrees go, but very tasty. The chicken and waffle was a little strange. The “waffle” is actually a waffle “pudding” in the shape of a waffle. I think ours may have been cooked on a too-hot waffle iron, as the top was overdone but the center seemed underdone. We did like the fried chicken and pepper jelly, and the marshmallowy maple mousse.
On my return visit, I tried the Moxie burger, which has a special blend of beef cuts and can be dressed up with a fried egg, bacon, or your choice of cheese. Since the burger uses a double stack of thinner patties (as opposed to one thick one), cooking temp can’t be specified (…or I wasn’t asked). I found my burger dry but I really liked Moxie’s fries.
Now for the bad: the menu. Yes, I know I mentioned this already, but in a different vein, it is so poorly designed. I get upset just looking at it. So many fonts, sizes, borders, plus an non-intuitive layout. It is bad. Please, fix this.
Another negative: the prices. It drove me nuts when people complained about Black Sheep’s pricing after it opened, because for the quality and quantity of food they put out, the prices are pretty stellar. I say this to prove that I’m not usually sensitive about price when it’s warranted. Though I don’t take issue with the food quality, I don’t think Moxie provides the quantity of food to justify the entree prices. However, considering the neighborhood (Capital Grille, J. Alexander’s, Mitchell’s…), maybe I’m being too critical.
Service has been good on both my visits, and I like the atmosphere and decor, though all that glass and steel can make for a loud meal. It is still early in Moxie’s run, so I haven’t totally written them off, but I do see room for improvement before it can make its way onto my list of favorites.