I am a Florida Girl, born and raised. So I have eaten my fair share of anything that comes out of the ocean or sea or river or pond. I’ve managed to eat a lot of it, even with my hit-or-miss shellfish allergy (I miss you mussels!). Living in Jacksonville, you also get your fair share of seafood restaurants that are more than happy to serve you up the city’s bounty.
One of these establishments is Marker 32 right off of Beach past San Pablo. I will admit that Marker 32 holds a special place for me, as it was the first “fancy” dinner that DJ SnuggleMonster took me to when we first dating. We got all gussied up, made reservations, and ate spectacular food overlooking the water in an all glass room. So a second trip back to Marker 32 almost a year in to dating seemed special too.
The best part of Marker 32 is the ambiance. The restaurant is right on the water by one of the marinas (next to fancy high-end luxury car dealership and yacht dealership), which affords great vistas as you eat. Adding to the location on the water is the dining room’s three walls of windows overlooking the water. No matter where you sit, you practically get a water view. Imagine dining with your sweetie over the water as you watch the sunset fade. Romantical much? I’d say. So that kind of atmosphere doesn’t come without the need for a reservation – keep that in mind before you go.
The curious aspect of Marker 32 is the clientele. The bar has never once been empty when I’ve been in there, and it’s always full of older folks, bar flys, young couples, and your entertaining singles of all ages looking for a fun time. You’ve got the Ponte Vedra Beach/Amelia Island folk mingling with the young urban kids. Makes for fantastic people watching if you ask me.
The service is amazing here. The same waiters have been there every time I have – which is saying something in an industry that has one of the highest turnover rates. And the servers know their stuff. They’ve always been spot on with their recommendations and ensure that I never have an empty glass or need anything. I’ve also never had to look around to wonder where my waiter ran off to because it’s been far too long since I saw them last.
Now how about the food?! Of course the menu centers around seafood of all kinds, so don’t go and get the chicken (although they do have chicken on the menu for the non-pescatarians, and I’m sure that delicious too). Always ask what the specials are, as they are bound to impress. I got the salmon last time, and it wasn’t succulent and tasty, if not a bit on the boring side.
This time, we were sure to get one of their appetizer specials – Lightly Fried Triggerfish served over Creamy Purple Grits and a tangy yellow sauce I’ll call and aioli. I’ve never had triggerfish before, but it definitely reminded me of catfish (especially since a good southern girl eats her fish fried like this). The fish fell apart at the touch of a fork, and was incredibly delicate tasting and clean. The grits were creepy and sticky – just as they should be, and a great compliment to the crunch fish. Don’t ask me what made them purple, let’s just go with it, shall we? Since I’m a saucy lady, I ate up (literally and metaphorically) the tangy bright yellow fatty sauce drizzle over the top. It reminded me on aioli, as it was gloriously fatty and a little tangy. Perfect to cut through the smooth white fish and creamy/heavy grits.
I ordered the tuna (not a special, but has caught my eye every time nonetheless). The frisee pear salad was a delightful combination of textures and flavors. It was both crunchy and warm, while being cool and crisp. The pears added a bit of sweetness while the vinaigrette added some salt in just the right amounts. The tuna was the largest tuna I’ve ever been served at a restaurant – as they usually love to skimp on the good stuff. The house made pancetta was out of this world – I love all pork products, especially pancetta. Since tuna is so smooth and clean, a little bit of crunchy salt added some much needed texture and seasoning. The pureed sweet potatoes underneath the tuna rounded out the textures with a perfectly smooth pillow of sweetness to balance the fattiness. It’s definitely a must order next time you go.
DJSM ALWAYS gets the Shrimp and Sausage Pasta. He refuses to try anything else, as “it never sounds better than the favorite.” I tried a bite of his this time and was deliciously creamy and tender. Everything you want in a hearty pasta dish. I’m not a huge fan of shrimp (as I always fear it will cause the shellfish allergy to rear its ugly head again), but if DJSM loves it, you know its also a good bet. He could barely finish his, so it’s also pretty filling, just FYI.
Dessert is always something I covet at the beginning of the meal and can’t stomach even thinking about towards the end. However, Marker 32 always sends you off with just a bite of sweetness (they get me, and I’m sure a lot of ya’ll’s need for a taste of sweetness to cap a meal) with their pralines. Salty, sweet, and smooth. It’s the perfect bite to make you come back for more.
Take your sweetie, take your parents, take your roommate. If you’re feeling like sitting down to a really really nice meal overlooking the water and stuff your face with some of the best seafood you’ve had while watching some entertaining mating rituals at the bar, Marker 32 is your spot.