Jacksonville, Florida, is the largest city in the contiguous USA, at least when measured by its 885 square miles - not so much when measured in population! The city is so large that most folks are really only familiar with their particular neighborhood and its immediate surrounds.
Rather prosaically, we roughly divide our city into the North, South, West and East sides. There are many small recognized "villages" within those broad delineations. Because all the 4 quadrants are really entire unto themselves with shopping, banking, entertainment, medical care, restaurants, service centers, etc., aplenty, most of the time the denizens of each quadrant rarely need to visit any of the other three. Because we are like most of the folks here, we find that the North, West and East sides are like "terra incognita" to us. So visiting one of these areas can be a mystery trip in itself.
So with that in mind, Kay's tour was very simple but quite interesting. Our destination was a recommended local restaurant on the far North side of the city - even further north than our main north-south dividing boundary, the St. Johns River. So it took about 30 minutes to reach Chowder Ted's on Heckscher Drive from our home on the Southside.
Talk about location - it was perfect. The little place looks like a shack on the salt marshes of the Trout River. Not in anyway prepossessing but also not really off-putting either. The view over the gently waving Spartina grasses in their greenish-gold coloration was quite photo-enticing. Since photographically capturing everything we see is important in all our travels, this was a real plus.
Once the photos were taken, we entered the small rustic interior of Chowder Ted's welcoming clamor. It was immediately clear that this restaurant is a local favorite since it was pleasantly noisy and most of its picnic style tables were full. We found that it was usual to sit anywhere there is a seat even with strangers.
There were police and firemen already seated at a short bar, five retirees celebrating some event at one of the tables and working men filled most of the other tables. We were able to find two spots for ourselves. It is a good rule to follow that where police, firemen, and hard working men eat there is going to be good food aplenty.
Chowder Ted's was no exception to that rubric. Not only was the food delicious, the prices were amazingly low. We learned that this long time family-owned eatery has never accepted credit cards of any kind and that it passes the savings from those charges onto its loyal customers.
The daily fresh fish chowder had been strongly recommended to us so we each ordered a bowl and then having no idea how large & filling that "bowl" would be, we foolishly also asked for po-boy sandwiches. Wow! No wonder the very busy waitress looked at us like she knew we were newbies here. However, she offered no word of caution.
While listening in on the friendly chatter going on around us, we knew we were in the right place! Locals who know each other well and do a lot of bantering back and forth about our poor football team, the Jaguars, discussing falling oil prices and how it's affecting their fishing businesses, not too much politics either local or national and even that was amicable.
Very shortly, the waitress brought us small sauce pans filled with the most delicious fish chowder I have ever eaten. Then followed an embarrassingly large plate overflowing with the po-boy sandwich and of course lots of French fries.
Way too much food for the five at the retirees table much less the two of us. However, we valiantly dug right in and managed to eat all the tasty chowder and about 1/4 each of our sandwiches. The sweet tea so characteristic of the Southern States was refreshingly cool and delicious too - even here on the North side of Jacksonville.
Kay's mystery tour was a success because of the beautiful drive along the Trout River to reach the down-home restaurant, the warm and friendly atmosphere in this really local eatery, the low prices for a prodigious amount of food, and the fun of discovering a part of the North Side of our big city home!