Joel and I have made a habit of making sure we get out at least one night of the Riverside Avondale Night Trolley weekends for date night. Since they started on the first weekend of the month in January 2014, it’s been an opportunity to try new restaurants, revisit old favorites and do some neighborhood exploring, without the hassle of driving and parking. We made sure to support the Trolley and enjoy our neighborhood in hopes that JTA would see the value.
So of course we were thrilled when we found out that the Night Trolley would become a permanent neighborhood fixture. The thrill turned to intrigue when we heard that a Downtown Night Trolley — that would have connecting stops with the Riverside Avondale Night Trolley — would be piloted August 1 and 2. Now I’ve talked about Downtown Jacksonville before — how we don’t really go but had the chance to check it out recently. The Downtown Night Trolley provided the perfect opportunity to support a local venture and get to know more of our city.
After doing a little research, I decided on a few stops:
- Dinner at Chomp Chomp. My friend Sara and I were intrigued by the name when we passed by a few months ago. Then Joel bought a bike at Zencog, a bike shop around the corner from our house. According to the bike shop people, the former owner of the bike was part owner in Chomp Chomp. So of course we had to check it out.
- Drinks at the Volstead. I love a good cocktail and a retro vibe. This one goes all the way back to the 1920s and the era of Prohibition. I heard good things about it from my boss so it went on the list.
- Drinks at Dos Gatos. I saw on some social media that Dos Gatos cocktails would be available at Jaguars games. After reading reviews of the place, it too was a must-see.
- Fireworks at the Landing. Who doesn’t like fireworks? (probably dogs and people who have blown off limbs lighting them)
- If time permitted, we’d spend a few minutes perusing the book stacks at Chamblins Uptown.
On Saturday the 2nd, we set off to catch the Riverside Trolley. We ran into a small issue (apparently the Star Cards we bought had no value). Not to be deterred though, we paid cash and took the Trolley to Five Points, where we picked up new cards at Grassroots. We caught the Downtown Night Trolley a few feet away from the store and took it to about a block from Chomp Chomp. We were absolutely starving at that point and headed straight to eat.
I got the Chomp burger and chips, while Joel opted for the Korean pulled pork with chips AND a salad (told you we were hungry). The handcut chips were amazing. I am a huge potato fan, but even Joel seemed to enjoy them (as he tried to guess what spice he tasted on them. That mystery was never solved).
Next we walked a few blocks down to the Volstead. We sat in the faux living room in the front at first, but the humidity was a bit much so we moved further inside. It was the right move because the chairs we sat in were so.freaking.comfortable. I could have napped there. Instead, we enjoyed a few cocktails. I started with the Peek-a-Boo, which was a little strong for my taste. Joel got the Hob Nob, which was delicious and grapefruity, so I got that as my next drink. In the meantime Joel tried the New Fashioned and the Baked Apple Sazerac (I tried the latter and thought it was going to put hair on my chest it was so strong).
By the time we finished up, it was 9ish, so we weren’t able to check out Chamblins. Instead we headed down to the Landing. We grabbed a few Yuenglings and managed to find a good spot on the river. We hung out and listened to the band play until the show started at about 9:45. It was an opportunity to really reflect on how beautiful Downtown and the St. Johns River are… there was even a slight breeze coming from the river, which was really nice.
Once the show was over, we headed over to Dos Gatos.
We started off with beers and then decided to check out some of their signature cocktails. Now, when we first got there at 10pm, it was moderately busy. We managed to snag two seats at the bar. Good thing, because the place BLEW UP within half an hour. Suddenly I turned around and there was barely standing room! And I get why — the drinks are amazing. Our bartender, Casey, was a true expert as his craft. It was fun watching him work — he was very intense and made a damn good drink. I got the Le Pomme et Le Poire twice it was so good. I could have drank those all night. Joel stuck with the Senor Extravagante.
After a few drinks, we caught the Downtown Trolley back to Riverside. We arrived in Five Points at the same time the Riverside Avondale Night Trolley did, so we hopped on to head to our final destination: home. It was a bit of a long ride, as we had to cover most of the route before getting to our stop. But it was fun just hanging out, people watching and listening to music.
When we finally got home around 1am, the lock on our door broke and we couldn’t get it open. Joel had to jump the fence and go in through the back door to let me in. It was one of those moments that was like “is this really happening” but also funny because of course at 1am, after a night of cocktail-drinking, we wouldn’t be able to get in. Joel eventually had to remove the entire lock to get the door open. Because I most definitely was not about to jump over our six-foot fence.
Despite a few hiccups, it was a really fun night. After our latest downtown excursion, we’re hoping to have more. I still want to check out Chamblins and some other establishments. I’m also really looking forward to the sculpture walk that is coming to Main Street Park next month. We’ve got a jam-packed two months ahead of us, but we’ll definitely be heading back to Downtown at some point (hopefully on another trolley… hint hint).