As someone who’s always heard “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”, I often find myself wanting to try as much of the menu as possible, but don’t quite have the bandwidth to conquer everything without taking home a bag full of to-go boxes. Although I’m an advocate of leftovers, I’d much rather share some smaller portions with friends and get a chance
to sample the lot. Due to this constant and very real struggle, I love restaurants with small plates and tapas. Luckily, Jacksonville has plenty of spots that boast a wide array of small plates, for which I (and my stomach) are eternally grateful.
While there are so many great places I could go on and on about, I want to highlight four of my top Small Plate/Tapa hot spots here in Jacksonville that I frequent. If you’re like me and deal with overestimating your stomach capacity or with indecisiveness/large-menu- phobia, these should be on your must-try list!
Riverside Liquors & The Restaurant in Riverside
Unless you’re a restaurant regular, you may not notice Riverside Liquors as you drive down King Street in Riverside. Referred to as RSL by the “locals”, the building exterior might not be much to look at, but it’s definitely one of the hidden gems in the area. The front of the store appears to be your standard liquor/package store, but if you wander towards the back of the building, you’ll find a variety of tables scattered about (high tops and tables made from wine barrels), as well as a dark and cozy bar area. As a wine enthusiast, one of the things I love about RSL is that you can pick any wine off the shelf in their retail store and bring it back to the bar to drink. Although they have some fantastic craft cocktails and a large variety of draft and bottled craft beers, wine will always have my heart, so picking out bottles of wine in the store is always exciting for me.
RSL has a fantastic selection of small plates and tapas. The Chorizo Stuffed Dates, Bacon Sea Scallops,and their Beer Cheese & Pretzel Rounds are always crowd pleasers, but one of my absolute favorite items on the menu is their Deviled Egg Flight. It comes with 4 half-slices of deviled eggs that include a traditional deviled egg, a Cobb style, a Hummus variation, and last but certainly not least, the Tequila picked deviled egg. Don’t let the bright pink color put you off….it’s soooo good!
Fridays happen to be my favorite day to visit RSL for three simple words: Complimentary. Wine. Tasting. Each week, RSL hosts a free wine tasting in their retail store area between 5-8 PM with an offering of 5 to 6 different red and white varietals from various regions around the world. They also run a promotion where they’ll waive the corkage fee for any wine you purchase and drink that night from the wines offered during the wine tasting.
The Rundown: Great small plates and beverage options. The restaurant/bar doesn’t open until 4 PM each day.
Wednesdays = no-corkage on all wine. Fridays = free wine. Closed Sundays.
Let us help plan your next party. Full service catering available.
"Matching Wine with People " Since 1966!
COLD BEER HERE!
Our wines are hand selected by Francisco, he knows what he's doing!
You will find many rare and unique spirits here. High-end whiskey to barrel aged gins, yeah we've got that too!
Alcohol Servingamerican asianBakery barbecue Beer (Breweries and Restaurants) breakfastBreakfast/Brunch burgersCasual DeliveryDessert Desserts/Ice Cream Dinner farm-to-table Food Truckfree wi-fi Full BarGluten-Free Friendly happy hour InternationalItalian Restaurants kid friendly late nightLatin American Live Musiclunch Mediterraneanmexican outdoor seating Pizza Placesprivate parties romanticsandwichesSandwiches/Subsseafood Serves Alcohol SoupSouthern/Soul Take Out Takeout Available Takes Reservations tapasvegan friendlyVegetarian Friendly
Our full-service bar offers creative cocktails and many classics.
Our chef uses the fresh and locally sourced ingredients for every dish.
Riverside Liquors Has A Hidden Restaurant And It’s A Gem
I am a sucker for restaurants that offer small plates; not only does it help with my indecisiveness, but it also gives me a better feel for the place when I get to try a wide variety of their dishes. The restaurant hidden in the very back of Riverside Liquors on King Street had a menu that intrigued me, so we decided to give it a shot.
I heard about Riverside Liquors from friends before and have walked past it hundreds of times while visiting other local businesses in the area. It took me 3 years to go inside and try it, but I am glad we finally did. I had an assumption that it would be dive bar-ish but was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere. There was a casual, classy vibe and I really liked that there weren’t any TVs. Although I tend to stick to beer, because we were in a liquor store, I felt compelled to order a cocktail. All of the cocktails on their drink list sounded appealing. As a sucker for tequila, I ordered a “sidekick” ($8) and my husband ordered a “new fashioned” ($8). Both were great.
Riverside Liquors – Sidekick
Absolutely everything on the menu sounded delicious, so we really had to reign in the number of small plates we ordered. After staring at the menu for 10 minutes, checking out the specials on the board, we exercised self-control and narrowed it down to 4 items to start with (because hey, you can always order more). The dishes we chose were the fig & olive tapenade ($8), chorizo stuffed dates ($7), beet salad ($7), and the stuffed poblano ($11).
The tapenade was a stack of cream cheese, olives, and figs, drizzled with honey and served with warm house-made bread. The brininess of the olives, the sweetness of the figs/honey, and the creamy cheese all worked together in perfect harmony. As a carboholic, I could have used more bread.
Riverside Liquors – Fig & Olive Tapenade
Dates are one of my favorite small plate menu items and theirs were great. The spice of chorizo inside the sugary date and the saltiness of the bacon wrapping the date made for a delicious sweet and savory bite.
I try to incorporate a salad in most meals and I was impressed with the flavor packed in Riverside Liquors’ beet salad. I was surprised that the salad didn’t have any lettuce, but once I took the first bite I didn’t miss it at all. There were so many textures- tender beets, crunchy walnuts, creamy goat cheese, and crisp green onions. I wish they sold the bacon vinaigrette in bottles!
Riverside Liquors – Beet Salad
The stuffed poblano had great Mexican flavors. It was a surprisingly light dish and not greasy at all. The taste of the pepper was there without the heat. There was a good cheesy stretch to each bite of meat and rice. The lime crema added freshness as well.
As we were getting ready to cash out, we were chatting with the bartender (Dan was awesome) about my love of tequila and he asked if we wanted to try another cocktail- a spin on the ”last word” ($12), using Mezcal instead of gin. It was a beautiful cocktail and great way to finish our meal.
Riverside Liquors – Last Word
I think Riverside Liquors is a great stop when in the area, good for a date night, family dinner, pit stop with friends, or even a celebration (there was actually a birthday party going on in the main room during our visit). I’m looking forward to going back and trying more of their menu.
1251 King St
Jacksonville, FL 32204