Whenever I hear about a restaurant, I always check it out on Yelp. I know that Yelp has gotten its share of backlash for deleting reviews and things like that, but I find that I end up agreeing with most of the reviews for the places I go to.
Sitting at Number One on the ratings there is a place I've been meaning to go to for years - The French Pantry. Open just 3 hours (11 - 2) a day on weekdays only, The French Pantry is supposed to be Jacksonville's best restaurant. Since I was off work on a Friday, I figured I'd finally make my way over to see what all the fuss is about.
While The French Pantry (TFP) is known for awesome food, I've only ever known it as "that place with the line." Each day, people line up around the building for lunch here, but I'm told that the line moves pretty quickly. Ever since I first heard about TFP, I've been afraid to go because the idea of standing in line for 45 minutes is just insane to me.
I got there at 10:30, a full 30 minutes before they open. Surprisingly, I was only the 4th person in line. TFP people know how to deal with the crowds - outside has benches, umbrellas for shade, plus a thing of water for hot days.
After the (not so long) wait, we headed in. At TFP, you order at the counter, and are told where to sit while you wait for your food. I ordered a Tiramisu to go, plus a Korean short rib grilled cheese for my meal.
At TFP, they do European-style seating. This means you share your table with other people who aren't in your party. Since I was one of the first people seated (woohoo!), I didn't have any neighbors until my sandwich was about to come out. I sat with two ladies who raved about the place, and were surprised that it was only my first time there.
First up, each party gets their own bread sampler dish, complete with oil for dipping. My buddy Cody said the bread was awesome, so I was excited to try it. It was super soft and delicious, and I learned later that you can buy loaves of their bread to go. But, since I knew I had a huge meal coming out, I only stuck with one piece of bread. The downside of eating alone...
My grilled cheese came out, complete with fries and aioli for dipping. Now it was time for the moment of truth: would TFP be worth the wait and hype? Spoiler alert - yes. This was probably the second most decadent thing I've ever eaten in my life, second only to a duck club I had up in Charleston. I was very happy that I ordered my dessert to go, because this thing was incredible. The cheese, the bread...everything was just insane. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. My dining neighbors both ordered salads, which also looked incredible.
I also heard great things about the fries, and they were equally as amazing. And, any place that gives you aioli gets an A in my book.
Now, I didn't have my dessert there, but that didn't stop my neighbors from insisting I try some of their treats. I've never met a chocolate I didn't like (well, except dark and white chocolate...), so I was happy to oblige. The cake (and strawberry sauce) was just...incredible. It was super rich, and the strawberry was a nice little addition.
They told me the other dessert was a Napoleon, which has layers of custard and puff pastry. I sound repetitive, but this was incredible as well. After eating my meal and sampling some desserts, I rolled myself out the door.
Later on while I was home (after taking a food coma nap), I treated myself to my Tiramisu. Spoiler alert: also decadent and amazing.
So what's the final verdict? ABSOLUTELY worth it. I highly recommend this place, but make sure you arrive early and come hungry!
I'm Jenn! I'm a baker, blogger, sorta-runner, and writer living in Jacksonville, Florida!