29South’s menu can best be described as extraordinary casual farm-to-table cuisine, where Chef Scott Schwartz paints a playground for the palette using the freshest ingredients sourced from local fisherman, farms, and their own onsite garden. The restaurant just recently celebrated its eleventh year in business, which was a good enough reason for my friend Sherry and me to visit 29 South for a congratulatory dinner!
Our server Bobby started us off with a glass of Langlois Chateau Sancerre, a clear, bright, and tantalizing start to our dinner. We began our meal with Lumpy Blue Crab Cake on Old Bay Butter with pickled watermelon rind. I liked the crisp on the crab cake, which was loaded with delicious jumbo lump, sweet crab.
We also shared A Simple Crust of Bread, the Chef’s daily market-inspired crostini. Their bread comes from Community Loaves in Jacksonville, and that evening’s “crust” was an artisan rosemary bread topped with roasted rainbow carrots from the restaurant’s garden, whipped ricotta, arugula, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. This was a succulent and hearty appetizer, and probably my new favorite menu item at 29 South.
Sherry and I shared a simple “Salad on the Rocks,” made with their just-harvested mixed greens, tomatoes, green beans, and orange segments, tossed in a piquant house vinaigrette. It was paired with Gumption Cider, a slightly sweet hard cider with balanced acidity and lots of bubbles. A nice intermezzo before our hearty entrees, Catch of the Day and Beef Short Ribs.
The “catch” was sheepshead, which is a lovely, mild tasting fish that has a sweetness reminiscent of crabmeat. It was perfectly sautéed and served over a bed of homemade succotash, and topped with roasted red pepper chutney. The succotash was made with corn and lima beans in a savory broth, and the whole dish paired well with a glass of Hess Chardonnay, a crisp, clean, low oak chardonnay.
Chef de Cuisine Jose Salome then brought us his famous Beef Short Ribs, which take three days to prepare. First they are smoked, then cooked again, then chilled, then finished. The ribs were served with horseradish gremolata, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. What an amazing dish! The beef was so tender it melted in our mouths, while the fresh herbs brought a bright, clean essence to the dish. Bobby paired this entree with Incognito, a red wine blend with deep complexity and a great balance of dark fruit and spice.
I tell all my friends, never leave 29 South without having dessert, as theirs are the best on the island, particularly their Coffee and Doughnuts, which is glazed doughnut bread pudding with mocha ice cream and butterscotch drizzle. But wait, there’s a new kid in town: 29 South’s Rice Pie, which is rice pudding in pastry, served with rum raisin ice cream. Oh my! Paired with Dow’s Old Tawny Port, these desserts are the ideal ending to a picture-perfect dinner.
Scotty Schwartz, Executive Chef and owner of 29 South, has won numerous awards and is considered one of Northeast Florida’s pioneers in the region’s farm-to-fork movement. Visit 29 South at 29 South 3rd Street or call (904) 277-7919 for reservations.