A few days ago an article titled “The Soul Food Restaurants of Jacksonville” popped up in my Facebook feed. Number 3 on this list was Gilbert’s Social owned by Chef Kenny Gilbert. I am obsessed with Top Chef and immediately recognized the name. Chef Gilbert was a favorite of mine from the very first episode of Season 7 and I had no clue he had a restaurant here in Jacksonville. I couldn’t contain my excitement and advised Mr. Miller that we would definitely be going sometime soon. Sometime soon ended up being this past Saturday. Mr. Miller and I went, along with our friend Amanda.
I wish I had taken a picture of it, because there are 3 big smokers working away in the parking lot. The intoxicating smells of smoking meat hits you the moment you get out of the car. The smell only gets better when you walk inside! While we were waiting outside all I could think about was how amazing this dinner was going to be. We were not disappointed in any way!
First off, please do not make the mistake I made and believe that it’s possible to just show up and get a table at 6:30 on a Saturday night. This place is on fire. Make a reservation! When we arrived the hostess said it would be about a 30 minute wait. Okay, that’s doable. We ended up waiting an hour and my only complaint was maybe she should have given us a longer wait guesstimate. I really should have known that if the website has a link for reservations that’s probably a sign to make one. The food was so worth the wait though.
The restaurant’s atmosphere is very warm and inviting, definitely living up to its name as a social and friendly gathering place. Our server was amazing, super knowledgeable, and explained the menu thoroughly.
We started with the Pimento Cheese appetizer ($9) and it came with assorted fresh veggies, saltine, and Ritz crackers. As a kid I loved the pimento cheese in the plastic tub containers from the grocery store. This pimento cheese was like one of my best childhood memories kicked up a thousand notches. Delicious and spicy with what I’m guessing was cayenne pepper.
Amanda ordered a dish called The New Dirty South ($17) and oh my God it was delicious. It is Smoked Southern Fried Boneless Chicken Thighs, Pimento Cheese, Turnip & Mustard Greens, Cheddar Waffles, and Spiced Bourbon Syrup. I’ve never been able to get behind the concept of chicken and waffles and I don’t particularly like chicken thighs or greens of any kind, but this dish converted me (we all shared bites of our food….hey, Gilbert’s Social is all about sharing!). Amanda raved about this dish and she said that the waffles stayed crispy on the outside even after being drowned in that delicious bourbon syrup.
Amanda also ordered a sangria called Anna’s Kitchen Sink ($6/11) – Pineapple Juice + Lemon Juice + Passionfruit Juices| Simple Syrup and All of their Wine Based Spirits. This is one of those drinks that tastes so good you’ll be tipsy before you even realize it.
I had a pretty good idea of what Mr. Miller was going to order before he even said the words. His logic is that he was going to “stick with what he knows.” And that’s beef brisket. The Smoked Beef Brisket Platter – ($17) is served as a platter or as a sandwich on two pieces of Grilled Texas Toast with House Dill Pickles and choice of two sides. My guy loves cornbread stuffing so much he got it as both of his sides. I could have eaten a big bowl of it and been quite happy. It really is that good. Let’s get back to that beef brisket though. Anytime I’ve ever ordered sliced brisket it’s always been served in super thing slices. Not here. Chef Gilbert’s beef brisket’s slices are served super thick, moist, tender, and piled on the plate. The perfect amount of seasoning and smoke.
I had been daydreaming about this Smoked Beef Brisket Stroganoff ($19) ever since I saw it on the online menu Thursday. This was the best food I have ever put in my mouth. When I took the first bite I knew I was going to suffer withdrawals when it was all gone. Along with the beef brisket, there’s Roasted Garlic, Mushrooms, Sour Cream, Smoked Turkey Broth, Savory Herbs, and Egg Noodles. It is so rich and my taste buds have never been privy to such an amazing combination of flavors. I had a feeling it was going to be delicious, but my expectations were exceeded a million times over. I do, however, have a little confession to make. I’m not a fan of whole roasted garlic cloves (nothing against Chef Gilbert at all) so I passed them along to Amanda and she happily took them off my hands!
We were all so full and while we contemplated dessert to share, it will have to wait until next time. Also, someone (*cough*, Amanda) doesn’t like ginger snaps which were in 2 of the 3 desserts on the menu. Who doesn’t like Ginger Snaps?! She had high hopes that bread pudding would be on the menu and that would have been pretty awesome and our server said it’s been on the menu before, so who knows? Maybe when Chef Gilbert changes up menu it might make another appearance. The next time we visit, I’m definitely having the Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie.
I’m not a professional food critic which means that I lack the number of descriptive words necessary for a good review and I use the words amazing and delicious a lot. I don’t have a sophisticated palate either. But I do know what I like to eat and Gilbert’s Social is now my new favorite restaurant in Jacksonville.
There are no salt and pepper shakers on the tables for a reason. If you eat here and ask for salt, I hope you’re promptly escorted out the front door. Everything is perfectly seasoned and should not be tampered with. Just eat it. Savor it. And enjoy every single bite.
Thanks for reading, and if you’re local be sure to go check out Gilbert’s Social! You won’t be disappointed.