Jacksonville is currently one of the youngest and fastest growing areas in the country, thanks to the military presence in the area, so it’s no surprise it’s quickly becoming a top rated hotspot trending for travelers. Onslow county’s largest city sure has no shortage of enticing eateries to try.
Steeped in history and surrounded by stunning scenery, there’s a wide range of reasons to stop and spend time in this delightful borough, including fantastic fare!
You’ll find a number of mouthwatering meals to indulge in, from classic Carolina comfort food to fresh seafood to globally inspired flavor packed bites. Chow down at all of these best restaurants in Jacksonville, NC.
Best Restaurants in Jacksonville, NC
- Price: $$$
- Cuisine: Modern Southern comfort cuisine
- Address: 2121 N Marine Blvd, Jacksonville (GPS)
- Website: See menu
For modern Southern cuisine, head to Flavor Hills. It’s the self-proclaimed finest from scratch kitchen in the city, and there’s no argument here. It was opened by two former veteran Marine Corps Officers, a fitting founding story for the city.
Each plate is rich, flavorful, and almost too pretty to eat, and always made with all of the highest quality locally sourced ingredients. The cocktails are just as thoughtfully crafted, especially the Momma’s Kick’n Sweet Tea. They have brunch, lunch, dinner, and even a late night menu.
Some of our favorite inventive fares are the Waffle Burger, Catfish and Grits, and the Honey Jerk Chop. For meat-free feasters, the Impossible Meatloaf is amazing as well.
- Price: $$
- Cuisine: Mediterranean restaurant
- Address: 409 Western Blvd, Jacksonville (GPS)
- Website: See Menu
Marrakesh is a casual dining spot serving up classic Mediterranean eats and is easily one of the best restaurants in Jacksonville, NC. It’s family owned and operated and has been a staple of the foodie scene here for over a decade. Everything is fresh and organic from the farm-raised chicken to the locally caught salmon.
Traditional techniques are used to make food the old fashioned way for the most authentic experience possible. House-made seasoning blends add an extra home cooked feel. Pair your plate with a Greek or Lebanese wine for the full package.
We love to stop here for lunch when we’re in town, and usually get the Moussaka or Shawarma Sandwich.
Plaza del Mariachi
Plaza del Mariachi is a festive dining destination offering all the favorite Mexican fare. It’s family-run, as the Alvarez-Alaya clan has brought all the best flavors from Jalisco to Jacksonville. The space is vibrant with plenty south of the border flair that feels both fun and laid back.
Original recipes passed down for generations cooked expertly make up the entire menu here. It’s an extensive array with plenty of options for everyone, including vegetarians. They’ve got bowls, quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, tacos, and specialty plates that will blow you away.
To be honest, the Tequila Bar is enough reason to pop in. The Spicy Mexican Mula and the Blood Orange Margarita are especially tasty.
Duck’s Grille & Bar
Duck’s is a neighborhood wateringhole loved by all locals. They serve fresh seafood and American fare in a super cozy setting. They often have a fun live event happening where the community gathers, from dueling piano performances to DJ dance parties.
They offer a vast variety of delicious dishes to try like burgers, sandwiches, and pasta, so every palette will be pleased. The Slow Braised Brisket comes highly recommended.
The atmosphere is so vibrant and refined that it’s the place we go for easy yet elevated eats and a guaranteed good time in Jacksonville. Be sure to check out when they have happy hour specials, like buy one bottle of wine and get a second one for a penny!
Southern Harvest Soul Food
Here you’ll find food straight from the heart of Mississippi that’s sure to nourish both your soul and your stomach. Southern Harvest Soul Food offers home cooked comfort fare and we can’t get enough. It’s one of our favorite spots to go to support local businesses in Jacksonville.
The breakfast menu is stacked with sweet and savory staples and a well curated coffee bar, plus their in-house toppings, like bourbon infused maple syrup or all purpose seasoning. You can even build your own breakfast or go for a crowd classic like the Slap Yo Mamma Chicken and Waffles.
Be sure to check the daily special menu here as well. For lunch, the Fried Catfish and Pork Chops really stand out, with Collard Greens and Mac and Cheese on the side of course.
The Kettle Diner
The Kettle Diner is exactly the kind of charming, no frills joint you’d expect. They’ve got all the classic American diner fare from the Country Breakfast to the Patty Melt, though the food often feels fresher than the average greasy spoon.
They’ve been around for over 20 years and are open seven days a week all day long. The word around Jacksonville is that you’d be wise to try a milkshake here, and we love to tack on the Fried Pickle Chips to any order as well.
The Kettle Specialties include some time honored traditional eats like the Pot Roast alongside more obscure old school dishes like the Liver and Onions. Hefty portions at a great affordable price with super service make this spot a safe bet every time.
- Price: $$
- Cuisine: Thai cuisine
- Address: 1215 N Marine Blvd, Jacksonville (GPS)
Old Siam is the mecca of masterful Thai cuisine in Jacksonville. The dining room is decked out with warm woods and traditional Thai decor, which adds extra authenticity. They give you a button to press after being seated for when you’re ready to order (fair warning it can be hard to choose!) for super efficient and fun service.
There are a wide range of vegetarian curries (in green or red), fried rice, sauteed dishes, and noodle dishes. It’s honestly a meat-free eaters dream! There’s plenty of seafood selections, such as the Sweet and Sour Fish, along with beef, pork, and chicken variations.
They aim to honor the culinary traditions of Thailand in recipes passed down for generations, using rich combinations of herbs and spices that are as healthy as they are tasty.
Elsa’s Place specializes in unpretentious Caribbean cuisine. The small brick front shop is so unassuming you could easily miss it. Inside the enticing aroma hits first and you’ll find a few tables and walls adorned with maps, flags, and framed photographs.
Easily the best Jamaican food you’ll find in Jacksonville, it’s earned quite a reputation among those in the know. The Oxtail and Goat melt right off the bone and the Jerk Chicken is craveable as well. It’s first come first serve, so hedge your bets by being part of the lunch crowd, otherwise you risk arriving late to empty trays.
Fish Fry Friday here has become a beloved tradition in the area as well, and usually includes Tilapia, Spot, Speckled Trout, Catfish, and Shrimp.
Gone AWOL Cafe
- Price: $
- Cuisine: American, Pub and bar
- Address: 413-B Western Blvd, Jacksonville (GPS)
- Website: See Menu
Veteran owned and operated, the Gone AWOL Cafe honors the military history that Jacksonville is most known for. The menu is simple but so tasty with a selection of decked out hot dogs and paninis. The Chesty Puller, with mustard, chili, cheese, slaw, and onions, is a real crowd pleaser.
The walls are adorned with an impressive assortment of memorabilia supporting its army theme, from photos to uniforms to artillery. There’s also a long line of vintage pinball machines, which is a huge part of the draw for most.
Plenty of big screens are always showing the big game so you’ll easily get a sports fix here as well. On the weekend stop in for a few cold ones and some karaoke!
Jeff’s Burgers, Dogs, and Shakes
For a legendary fixture of fast food in Jacksonville, look no further than Jeff’s. Enjoy fresh made to order casual American classics, including the best fries and shakes in town! The hardest part is saving room to indulge in it all.
Everything is made from scratch, right down to the salad dressings. It’s a small, laid back atmosphere that’s easy and fun for the whole family. The name says it all, but there are many options for both burgers and hot dogs here, like the Saloon Cheese Burger and the Italian Sausage.
You can even switch your patty out for Bison or Beyond! Order it All The Way to ensure you’ll get the best toppings of mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, ketchup, and mustard.
Family owned and operated, Abruzzo’s prides itself on creating home-style Italian pies with traditional flavor. There are two convenient locations, so it’s easy to grab a slice on either side of town. Everything is made to order with fresh, quality ingredients, hand tossed, and cooked in brick lined ovens.
They’ve been voted both best pizza and best Italian food in Jacksonville by local residents, so you don’t even have to take our word for it. The Cheeseburger, Chicken Florentine, and BLT are some of the more famous pies to try here.
You’ll find other options besides pizza if you prefer to mix it up, including salads, strombolis, calzones, subs, and pasta. Be sure to check out the bathroom floors, though we won’t ruin the silly surprise for you.
Wasabi serves up simple and traditional Japanese bites that honor the authentic culture right in Jacksonville. Fresh ingredients are used to expertly craft each plate, bringing joy and passion for the flavors right to the table every time. You can dine in the cute and cozy wood covered space, take the order to go, or get it delivered.
For lunch, we love the bento box and for a hearty evening feast we usually opt for a noodle dish like the Spicy Drunken Noodle. We haven’t yet met a piece of sushi we didn’t love here. The Iced Honey Green Tea drink is a secret gem of the menu, so don’t overlook this ideal refreshing addition to any meal.
Appetizers are always advised for any Asian culinary experience, though there’s a few creative ones here you may not try otherwise, like the Sushi Pizza or Crab Meat Spring Roll.
Okay so Mission BBQ may be a bit of a chain, but we love stopping here when we’re in Jacksonville as they have some of the best BBQ in North Carolina. They’re a military-focused brand, so it makes sense locals and tourists alike are always flocking here while in town.
For starters, every entree is served with a complimentary piece of cornbread, from the oak smoked Brisket to the slow smoked Pulled Pork. Their signatures include the Spare Ribs, which tend to steal the spotlight. For bigger groups the pick up packs are great.
You can order ahead and customize your meal exactly as you’d like and then enjoy it as a delightful picnic in the city. They have a gluten-free menu and plenty of allergy information readily available, so it’s a great spot to go if you have any sensitivities.
Pho Le seems like a little hole in the wall, so you may be surprised to find some of the best Vietnamese food around. The space is simple but often crowded with hungry and happy faces chowing down.
Pro tip, skip the Spring Rolls and Rice Bowls to stick to the Pho here, it’s what they do best. You can get in small, regular, or large sizes and every option is tastier than the next. They have Meatball, Rare Steak, Brisket, Tofu, and Seafood.
When in doubt go for the Combination which comes highly recommended. For an authentic and easy noodle fix, Pho Le is the place to be in Jacksonville.
Ocean Bay Seafood
- Cuisine: Seafood restaurant
- Address: 521 Yopp Rd Suite#100, Jacksonville (GPS)
- Website: See Menu
For ocean fresh fare straight out of the sea, this spot is a seafood lover’s dream. Though newer to the scene in Jacksonville, Ocean Bay has already made quite a name for itself as a much needed addition. They’re family owned and the service is always warm and friendly.
The menu boasts creamy pasta, fish and chips, shrimp po boys, and more. The Drip Sauce is the infamous topper to any tasty plate here and is really a must-try. Oysters Rockefeller, Crab Cakes, and Coconut Shrimp start any meal off with a bang. The Ahi Tuna, Blackened Catfish, and Open Fire Scallops are a few of the most craveable mains.
The ambiance is decidedly nautical, covered in colorful marine murals, which fits in well with the food.