A guide to First Coast diner digs

Katie Gile

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By: Katie Gile, Staff Reporter

There’s nothing quite like the crackle of applewood bacon on a searing griddle, watching melted butter sliding slowly down a lofty stack of fluffy pancakes or the earthy, charging aroma of a fresh pot of java.

And it’s even better when you didn’t have to cook it, you won’t have to clean it, and your bill won’t induce a fit of hysteria post-meal.

While the beckoning yellow of a Denny’s sign can be a glorious sight to a collegian the morning after one too many margaritas, many chain diners lack the sass and local flavor of their hometown counterparts.

Throughout Jacksonville, from Riverside to the beaches, are diners with affordable fare, some with decades of history to their name.

(Photo by Keri Weiland)

The Fox Restaurant
Founded in the ‘80s and located minutes from the Historic Five Points District, eating at the Fox is like having breakfast in your cool aunt’s kitchen. Known for its artsy-ironic decor and a flair for all things offbeat, the Fox is the place to grab big portions for affordable prices and express yourself at will. It offers college students a place to grab good food for fair prices, including a wide array of vegetarian choices. When you’re chowing down a giant breakfast — give the Super Fox a try. Take a gander at the quirky art papering the walls, including a literal interpretation of a ghost ship, and embrace the funkitude of the Fox.

(Photo by Keri Weiland)

University Diner
Located on the side of town dominated by some frisky Dolphins, the University Diner boasts quality home cooking at rock-bottom prices. Though this diner plays favorites to Jacksonville University with free drinks for JU students, it boasts quick service to cater to hurried, hungry scholars. Manager Niki Shelton said this diner assures their college clientele a quick bite; all they need to do is call in your order ahead of time.

“You can order your food, come in and be out the door in 10 minutes,” Shelton said.

At 11 years old, the University Diner is still working out its vibe but promises rib-sticking meals every time. It receives equal shares of JU and UNF students, all of whom are given the special treatment every customer deserves, she said.

(Photo by Keri Weiland)

The Metro Diner
Whether it’s breakfast or lunch you’re after, the original Metro Diner in San Marco has an unusual twist on classic diner fare to offer you. Built in 1938 and recreated as the Metro in ‘92, this little brick building attracts hoards of patrons everyday.

Having made a splash on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” the Metro stands out from its diner competition with lunch options like a serving of chicken and waffles big enough for two, complete with a custom-made strawberry butter and a crazily delicious concoction of hot sauce and syrup to dip chicken. Manager Brittany Shank said customer service is very important to the Metro. With many UNF students employed and countless more coming in for a Saturday breakfast, it’s a great place to try something different every time, she said.

(Photo by Keri Weiland))

The Beach Diner
Located in Atlantic Beach and founded a mere 15 years ago, the Beach Diner also keeps it simple with a family-friendly atmosphere and easy-going diner classics. With the airy colors found on a white-sand beach and plenty of windows to let the Florida sunshine through, students can feel the ocean breeze from a few blocks away and enjoy the fresh fish and salads. Cashier Anne Satterwhite said student surfers frequent the “cozy little diner” and drop in for a quick breakfast before hitting the water.

“Often it takes longer to get seated than it takes to get your food,” Satterwhite said. “They can make it in and out before a wave has time to crash.”

(Photo by Keri Weiland)

The Sun Dog Diner
Just on the other side of the dividing line between Neptune and Atlantic Beach, the Sun Dog draws in its customers like a moth to a funkily artsy flame. Built in 1947 and recreated in ‘87 as the Sun Dog, its interior buzzes with neon lights and the glimmer of shiny blue tiles. The Sun Dog offers live music, hearty portions and a vibe that feels like home-gone-hip. The diner crawls with locals and regulars, said manager Kim Winter.

“We like to say that there’s never a stranger when you come to the Sun Dog,” Winter said.
With 90 percent of its menu made from scratch daily and a soon-to-be reward program for frequent customers, the Sun Dog continues to pull in flocks of customers.