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First Coast

The Jaxson: Gilbert's Jax Beach Is A 'Small Introduction' To National Food Hall Trend

table spread with hot sauce
Kristen Penoyer for Gilbert's
Gilbert's offers four concepts under one roof at 831 First St. N. in Jacksonville Beach.

The number of food halls in the U.S. is expected to triple within the next five years.

As The Jaxson Editor in Chief Ennis Davis said, the First Coast is just beginning to get a taste of this dining trend, with a “mini” food hall at Jacksonville Beach: Gilbert’s.

First, let’s distinguish a food hall from a food court.

“When you think food hall, think food culture,” Davis said.

Food halls are known for their authenticity and reflection of local cuisine, while food courts are known for their predictability thanks to national chains, he said.

What they have in common, though, is offering many different dining experiences under a single roof.

One of the OG food halls is Eataly, a 60,000-plus-square-foot temple to Italian nosh. (Eataly itself adopted more of a food court model of replicating itself across the world after opening in Torino in 2007, but its roots are an authentic reflection of its surroundings.)

“Food halls are one of the hottest things out on the American dining scene right now,” Davis said.

He said Florida already has several—in places like Orlando, Winter Garden and Tampa—with more in development, including one called Central Fare inside the Brightline train terminal in downtown Miami.

Northeast Florida is just dipping its toe into the waters.

Gilbert’s at Jacksonville Beach has four concepts under a single roof: the 80-seat Southern Kitchen and Bar; 60-seat Chicken, Fish and Shrimp; Seachaser’s Lounge, a night spot with live music; and a “pop-up” restaurant called Beach BBQ, serving tacos and beer through Labor Day.

“Gilbert’s is only a small introduction to something that could revolutionize Jacksonville’s local dining and entertainment scene,” Davis said.  

Click here for a gallery of some of the  must-visit food halls in the South, according to Modern Cities.