Exploring Jacksonville Florida Restaurants

the bearded pig bbq restaurant in jacksonville fl

Here comes my big Florida exploration trip.  Being a West Coast guy, I really find the south intriguing because its so different from the west.  The whole thing about travel is to explore for me.  So, I’d like to explore in the USA more than foreign countries.  I have little desire to go back to Asia. No desire to go to the Middle East or Africa.  And only little desire to go to Europe.  I love the Caribbean and I would like to explore more in Central and South America.  But, I really look forward to exploring Florida.

It’s not my first time in Florida but every other trip there had limited me to specific areas like Miami and Orlando.  For this trip, we’re starting in Miami and exploring the Keys.  Then we intend to go up the west coast of Florida and heading over to Jacksonville, FL.  From there, we’ll take the east coast back down to Miami again.

I’m intrigued by Jacksonville and really look forward to experiencing it first hand.  One thing that I always start looking at when planning a trip is the dining options.  Jacksonville doesn’t seem to have as many fine dining restaurants but I still think that we’ll find a few to try.  I’m also looking for more of the standard fare dining in Jacksonville.  You know, the kind of food that you’d hear about through Guy Fireri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives television show.  I expect to find some very southern and eclectic food in Jacksonville.

I started to make a list of some Jacksonville restaurants that I look forward to trying.  I also contacted my buddy Michael who owns a Jacksonville hood cleaning company.  Mike is great at giving insight to restaurants and is super opinionated on food and commercial kitchen cleaning.  Since its his bread and butter, he’s truly in the know on all the restaurants in Jacksonville. I like local knowledge in making dining decisions so restaurants on his ‘must dine’ list are definitely something I will pay attention to.

First on my list is The Bearded Pig BBQ.  Yep.  This is one that I would fly all the way to Florida and then drive the length of the state to try.  If there’s a better bbq restaurant in Jacksonville, FL, someone needs to tell me now.  I am so ready for this!  The menu is intriguing and they have great online reviews.  Seriously.  They have 623 reviews with a 4.6 average rating.  And everyone talks about their baby back ribs as though nobody else in Florida or anywhere in the USA can do better.  Yeah, I’m hitting that!  They’re located in an odd spot at 1224 Kings Ave, Jacksonville, FL.  But that works for me.

I also have to try Southern Charm in downtown Jacksonville.  I don’t think that I’ve ever had true southern soulful food – so this is a total experiment for me.  But the menu sounds delicious and again, it’s another place with excellent reviews and a strong locals following.  The menu is a crackup.  Nothing over $17 and simple explanations like: turkey dinner $10.99 and the one I’m looking forward to: Redneck Surf & Turf $17.00.  I just wish they’d beef up their website.  It’s a little weak for such a cool joint.

Now, you have to wonder about fine dining in Jacksonville.  Just seems like Jacksonville is an eclectic southern town but you know, they have to have a few hot spots for high end dining.  It looks to me that my choice is going to be to go to Salt in the Jacksonville Ritz Carlton.  They have an amazing menu and the reviews are pretty strong.  The site of the restaurant looks cool too.  Maybe a walk on the dunes after dinner?  Anyway – it’s definitely a restaurant that we’ll be trying.

Beautiful little Jalapeno

Several years ago my husband and I got the opportunity to go to the Caribbean and charter a sailing boat.  It was one of the best times we have ever had.  Here is an article https://sesyachting.com/ about some friends of ours who have a beautiful sailing boat that people can charter.

Review of Three Great Italian Restaurants in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville Tennessee Restaurant

Nashville TN Restaurant PizzaNicky’s Coal Fired, located at 5016 Centennial Boulevard, is the only pizza restaurant that uses coal fire technology for cooking their delicious pizza.  The restaurant opened in Nashville in 2013 by Tony and Caroline Galzin.

Tony has a long history as a pastry chef.  His humble beginnings started in Chicago, Illinois.  He worked with several award-nominated chefs through the years before meeting his business partner and wife Caroline.

Caroline has always been in the hospitality industry.  Her first job was a hostess when she was still in high school.  She has had many positions from bartender to manager to group sales director for restaurants and bars in Alabama.  She studied culinary arts at Kendal College in Chicago which gave her the desire to open her own restaurant.

When Tony and Caroline moved to Nashville, they opened their first restaurant, Fifty First Kitchen & Bar.  There they earned the title of best new restaurant in the Nashville Scene and chef of the year by Eater Nashville.  After they sold the restaurant, they moved on to open Nicky’s Coal Fired.

They have almost three hundred reviews online giving them a four-plus-star rating.  Their pizzas and pastas are seasonal and amazing.

Coco’s Italian Market & Restaurant has roots going back four generations.  Their grandfather was a Barber in New York who opened a pizza place next to his shop that was run by their Aunt and Grandmother.Nashville TN Restaurant Media

Through the years the family opened restaurants and pizza places that are still popular even they were sold years ago.  The mission of this family was to create the best Italian food possible.

One can find a Coco’s Italian Market & Restaurant in just about every nook of Tennessee.  Their family atmosphere and commitment to true Italian food has made them very popular with residents and visitors alike.  They have over thirteen hundred positive internet posts giving them over a four-point-five-star rating.

Moto Cucina + Enoteca is only one of the many successful restaurants owned by a group known as M Street.  Several of the restaurants are on McGavock Street in the Gulch.

The restaurants vary from Asian fusion to Mexican and they introduced Moto Cucina + Enoteca in 2014.  This restaurant serves rustic-Italian cuisine and is known for their comfortable atmosphere and amazing service.

If one looks them up on the world wide web, they will see they get a strong four and one-half star rating.  The reviews rave about their food and service.

Nashville TN Restaurant PhotoThe M Street group was the idea of Chris Hyndman who is the President, Founder and CEO of this group of investing partners.  Their forward thinking has made this area of Nashville popular beyond believe.  They put in an amazing bar and lounge in their Kanye Prime restaurant and a place that can accommodate groups from ten to seventy guests.

Three Great Breakfast Restaurants in San Antonio, TX

San Antonio Restaurant

The whole state of Texas is rich in history.  Each town was founded very differently.  San Antonio was established as a city in 1937.  Prior to that it was a camp for the Payaya Indians who were discovered there by Spanish explorers.  Mexico originally established the Mission San Antonio de Valero which later was call the Alamo.

Today San Antonio has a population of over one point five million people according to the last census taken in 2017.  That makes the population of San Antonio larger than Dallas!

With its rich history and booming population, it is no wonder that San Antonio has some of the finest breakfast places in the state.

Founded by two brothers, Jose and David Caceres in 2010, La Panaderia specializes in fresh homemade bread and pan dulce.  Raised in Mexico City, the two brothers spent their days selling their mothers homemade bread in the street.  Once they were adults, they took over their mother’s small business and built it to a larger scale.  This enabled them to eventually move to San Antonio where their place stands today.

Their artisan baked goods undergo a forty-eight-hour fermentation process.  They not only draw their inspiration from their Mexican heritage, but they have tapped into influences form American, Italian and French bread making techniques.

La Panaderia has been featured in the San Antonio Magazine,  Fox News 29 and The Food Network.  They now have two locations, Downtown San Antonio and Alamo Heights.

Don’t just think of them as a breakfast place, they serve lunch and dinner as well.  No wonder there are over seven hundred online reviews ranting about their food and giving them a four and one-half star rating.

The Magnolia Pancake House serves the “World’s Best Buttermilk Pancakes”.  Or so they say.  They cook everything from scratch so you are sure to get the freshest meal possible.

A longtime dream of owners Robert and Sheila Flemings, The Magnolia Pancake House became a reality in 2000.  Using the philosophy of consistency and quality, their reputation grew among the locals creating long lines out the door.  Their expansion came in 2006 when they renovated an old roller rink across the street to accommodate their new restaurant and their growing clientele.

They were featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2001.  This caused another wave of growth as people from all over had to come out to see what all the buzz was about.

They opened a second location in 2016 called Magnolia Halle.  The seating capacity is three hundred, so they have expanded to events and catering.  They even have merchandise from Gift Cards to coffee mugs to apparel.

So let’s talk about their breakfast.  They serve only homemade syrups to use on their French toast, waffles and pancakes.  They service the finest Applewood bacon, Canadian bacon and ham.  Their custom-blended pork sausage has no artificial ingredients or fillers.  And their coffee is a must for washing down your amazing breakfast.

If you are not into breakfast don’t be afraid to ask for one of their deli sandwiches.  A favorite among the locals is their Reuben with a stack of house-cured, shaved beef brisket, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese surrounded by grilled pumpernickel bread.

The Magnolia Pancake House uses only the freshest ground black Angus beef and smokes their turkey in house.  With a variety of salads and soups you are sure to get the full tummy you were hoping for.  Don’t forget to write an online review like the seventeen hundred other raving reviews giving them four-point five stars.

Shilo’s is the oldest restaurant in San Antonio.  Opened in 1900’s it was originally a saloon in Beeville, Texas.  It was moved to San Antonio in 1914 where Mama Schilo began serving her German recipes in 1917.

Thankfully Mama Schilo had built up quite the following as prohibition caused the closure of all saloons.  Instead of serving beer in kegs they now served root beer.

The restaurant was moved once again in 1942 to its now current location.  Serving originally as an exchange bank they Shilo’s turned the old bank vault into their walk-in cooler.

Shilo’s was a family run establishment until 1980 when the Lyons family purchased it.  Their goal was to keep the German tradition going and serve only the finest home cooking around.  They must be doing something right because they have over one thousand three hundred reviews and a four-point four-star rating.

Next time you are in town and want a hearty breakfast, you cannot go wrong with Shilo’s.  Their Homestyle Breakfast includes traditional German Potato Pancakes that are grilled to a crisp and served with applesauce.  Their Pioneer Biscuits and Sausage Gravy says it all, add a couple of eggs and you have a very hearty breakfast.

Even though they are traditionally German, they do serve Breakfast Tacos like a bacon and sausage and egg taco.  But if you are one of those who have a sweet tooth in the morning, you cannot pass up their amazing cinnamon roll.


My Top Three Favorite North Las Vegas Restaurants

las vegas taco restaurant


With so many great restaurants in Las Vegas, I will always have a tough time staying at home and cooking a meal of my own. That might taste decent at best, even if I use really fresh ingredients. My occupation is reviewing the food at restaurants, so that helps me when I’m trying to decide whether or not I should keep coming back to a restaurant in Las Vegas. As such, I thought it would be nice to share all of the information contained within my head on the top three best restaurants in Vegas. If you don’t agree with my thoughts, then remember that you don’t have to eat there.


First and foremost, I want to talk about 808 Hawaii Mixed Plate. It’s not every day that you find a great Hawaiian restaurant, and whenever I think about this kind of food then Hawaiian Time comes to mind. Not a happy thought. One of my family friends is a native Hawaiian, and she makes great food whenever we come over. The only downside is that all of the dishes are extremely high in sodium, especially Pork Kalua.

It is all very good nonetheless, and the food here is no different. 808 Hawaii Mixed Plate is located right across the street from the Craig Ranch Skatepark in Las Vegas. The one thing that I enjoy about the skate park is the absence of shady people. In places like Oregon, you tend to get freaks and hobos nearby. When you are reviewing a restaurant, it will always help you to condense the review into three or four main points.

The most common ones that I use are the food, service, aesthetic, and price. They are all still interchangeable, however. You do not need to use each one. Maybe I should start writing tutorials on how to write food reviews. 808 Hawaii Mixed Plate has a lot of different plates that you can order, with a wide range of cuisine. You’re not just limited to one type of food, like you would be at a pizza place for example.

But if you really dig pork, then you are definitely in for a treat. Even as good as it is, I still prefer to order the Kalbi short ribs. After trying a lot of the items on the menu, I can say without a doubt that this one is my favorite. Have fun ordering everything on the menu and trying to find something that you do not enjoy. The second most important part of a restaurant is the atmosphere. I know a lot of people will say that it’s the service, but if a restaurant has staff that argue with each other or the other customers are being too loud then that is a dealbreaker for me.

I’m a paying customer, I should be getting the best service for my money. If there is one thing that I know about Hawaiian food, it is the amount of grease that goes into it. All that fat has to go somewhere, right? If you have a lot of grease in your kitchen, that can be a potential hazard to both your staff and your customers.


Next up, one of my favorite Mexican restaurant in any city. Contrary to popular belief, Asada does not just serve carne asada. Theirs is still very good, however. Again, you will find yourself eating in North Las Vegas. Don’t mistake Asada for just another Mexican restaurant, though. There are plenty of those in Nevada, especially Vegas. The one dish that I order from Asada the most is their wet burrito, which I get with chicken.

Something about that red sauce just makes my mouth water at the thought of it. Food is not the only great thing at Asada, however. I appreciate the kindness of the staff, and it is one of the driving factors behind my repeat visits. I have been disappointed with too many Mexican restaurants in Las Vegas, as they were content with providing below par service. When a restaurant’s staff begins to recognize you and knows ahead of time what you will order, that one is a keeper.

I like to take some leftovers home for my wife as well, because she works the night shift and comes home without eating anything. Great portions with great food. I like to think that’s why Asada has so many great reviews, but then again they might just all be from me. I can’t get enough of their chicken. Overall I have found that this is a very respectable and reliable establishment in North Las Vegas.


Finally, if you are still unimpressed with the other restaurants, then you can always eat at Chicago Style Taco Shop. What can I say about this restaurant that has not already been said? When I read the first two words, this is not where I thought they were heading. I was thinking a hot dog shop or something.

Chicago Style Taco Shop also happens to be found in North Las Vegas, and you will find a recurring trend with these restaurants. I live in South Vegas, so it isn’t convenient for me to drive across town or anything. Chicago Style Taco Shop has more than your typical taco, and that’s why I like it so much.

My favorite dish to order is one of the many salads, and I will never get tired of eating them. Something about the ingredients just feels really fresh and unique. I read about the salads in the positive online reviews for Chicago Style Taco Shop before eating here, and I have been a regular ever since.

Finally Found Myself A Reliable Tulsa Optometrist

tulsa eye doctor


The need for eye care in Tulsa is definitely not nonexistent. I was looking at statistics online yesterday, and most people will need to see an optometrist at some point in your life. Even over the course of a decade, that’s still plenty of time to see one. The Tulsa optometrist that I used to visit has packed up and left, because he was at the age of retirement. I am sure that optometry is a profitable business, too.

After searching for a while, I realized that I could always just ask my friends. After all, they all wear glasses so they must have been to a Tulsa eye clinic somewhere in the city. When doing research by myself, it was always the same thing no matter where I looked. You could either choose quality or affordability and there was no in between. Even as cynical as I am, there was no way I could believe no reliable Tulsa eye doctors were left out there.

So I asked around in my friend group, and surprisingly they all suggested the same place: Dr Zoellner & Associates. I decided to research them, because even my closest friends can still be a little unreliable at times (when it comes to certain things). There was no way I was wasting my time with more bad Tulsa optometry, either. I was either going to find a good Tulsa eye clinic here or just go blind.

Fortunately for me, Dr Zoellner & Associates has a lot of great online reviews to sift through. I learned everything that I needed to know, and then determined that these were some great Tulsa eye doctors. Dr Zoellner & Associates has this deal that people kept bringing up in the reviews, and it was what piqued my interest the most. You can get an eye exam and a pair of glasses for $99.


With all of the great things I was hearing about this place in the reviews, this deal was a steal. Normally if you find Tulsa optometry that is this affordable, it’s because you either can’t book an appointment or the doctor is extremely new to their practice and doesn’t offer quality service. So they’re still learning to price their services, as well. The deals do not just end there, though. If you are interested, you can pick up an additional pair of glasses (on top of the first one and an eye exam) for just $30 more.

This deal is the one that I found was mentioned most in their positive online reviews. Reading reviews is all just speculation, however. If I wanted to get to the bottom of my Tulsa eye clinic problem, I was going to have to make myself an appointment to get my eyes checked. As soon as their friendly receptionist picked up the phone, I could tell that she was very warm and hospitable.

There were no problems with making an appointment, even though it was a busier time for them. In addition, she had no problem understanding what I was saying. One of the Tulsa optometrists that I called in the past seemed to have a receptionist who couldn’t understand English. Needless to say, everything that I was looking for in Tulsa optometry, I found. I got a sweet new pair of glasses as well.

Mine were getting pretty old. Great service, and a great atmosphere. Everyone had a smile on their face, which I appreciated. It’s always nice when staff go out of their way to make their customers enjoy the experience, no matter how sideways their day is going. It feels as if a giant weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

The Old Yuba River Days

Writing can be fun but I think story telling is even more fun.  I want to write stories specifically about my past and things that happened to or because of me.  I hope that some of these stories are amusing to someone other than me.  I have a guy doing carpet cleaning here in my home, cleaning all my carpets before I move out.  So I am sitting here, either watching him or starting to work on my memoir pieces.

So, this little story is about some interesting times when I was a teen.  My Yuba River adventures started in 1978 after graduating high school.  One of my best friends from school, Randy, was looking to go off and make his fortune in gold panning.  His idea was amazing and a bit grandiose.  But I have to give him credit for the plan.  He did all the background education he could.  He spent time in the library, talked to miners that made a living at it.  He saved money like a fiend.

Then, in 1979, he bought the gear that he’d need and he took off for California Gold Country.  At the time, I had gotten a small apartment in Carson City Nevada and did not see much of Randy anymore.  I had been working in my uncles hardware store in South Lake Tahoe up until he closed it due to a bigger competitor moving in down the street.  So, this hardware store owner from the largest hardware store in Carson City had contacted me and asked me to interview for a Vice President position in his company.

I was nineteen and had a hell of a lot of experience in retail and hardware – but this was a dream come true.  So I accepted his offer and moved to Carson City.  I took a little time to move. And while moving, I ventured into the store often to pick up odds and ends.  It also gave me a chance to meet the employees.

Pretty soon, I met the VP of fishing tackle.  I met the VP of paint & wall coverings.  I met the VP of nuts and bolts.  And I found out that I was going to be the VP of plumbing and PVC pipes.  Fuck I was disappointed.  So I went to the owner and told him that I had another offer to work elsewhere and would not take a position with him.

I started job hunting.  I took a position with Culligan as a water filtration system salesman.  I did really well at it – but I was never really comfortable with the cold calling and the high pressure needed to close the sales.

One evening, I was sitting at home and there was a knock at the door.  I opened it to find Randy’s mom.  She said, “Ron, I have something to show you”.  She led me to the back of her truck.  She opened the pickup shell and there sat Randy with a big grin on his face and casts on both legs.

It would have been too much for him to come inside, so I sat on the tailgate of the truck to hear the story of how he’d come to lend up in this condition.

Randy’s First Attempt at Gold Panning

This story starts just a few days prior to Randy and his mother arriving at my doorstep.

Randy had gathered all the gear he needed to start his gold dredging operation.  I use the word dredging, because that is a step up from panning.  In a dredging operation, you use an engine driven vacuum to suck up material in the bottom of the river, pump it up to a processing box called a sluice. In the sluice, the water flow carries off the lighter materials and the gold settles into the matting.  Later, you simply clean the matting to collect your new found gold.

My buddy Randy had made several adventures into gold country to meet people, top off his education, and eventually he met someone that would lease him a gold claim (section of the river).

Next was to head up and setup camp.  That’s what he was doing when he had his accident.  It was a rainy night and he was driving to an area on the north fork of the Yuba River called ‘Indian Valley’.  His claim was close to there and he had a spot picked out.

He was practically there.  He’d driven over 100 miles from his parents home in South Lake Tahoe and now he just had 4 or 5 miles left on the journey.  Then several deer walked onto the highway in front of him.  He slid out of control and  crashed into the steep uphill embankment on the right side of the road.

Damage was pretty bad to both his body and his truck.  He had a broken leg and a compound fracture (broken leg with the bone sticking out).  He was very fortunate that someone came along quickly and got him to the hospital in Grass Valley.

As far as the truck, all the contents were ruined.  His travel trailer which he was towing survived fairly well.  Locals stored it for him until he was healing and I could help him go get it.

At that time, I was looking to leave my job at Culligan and move back up to the lake.  So, I did a short stint back at my parents house, renting a room until I could save up money to get another place on my own.

Randy was doing the same.  Once we had enough money, we rented a little condo on our own and set out to save enough money to go back to the river to open up the dredging operation.

The carpet guy is finished.  I will continue this story in a new post.