Jacksonville’s Food Scene is developing, but is still a bit disjointed. The sheer size of the city could intimidate even the most adventurous foodie as they navigate the culinary landscape of chefs, cooks, and artisans churning out local favorites while an influx northerners press the gas on chef inspired pop-ups and newly opened eateries. Of course, Covid has put a major damper on ambitious foodies’ frequent dining experiences, but many are getting their fix thanks to UberEats and GrubHub.
One eatery that hasn’t missed a beat is Celestia’s Coastal Cuisine located at 6765 Dunn Ave., in North Jacksonville. Chef Celestia Mobley and her husband Varon Mobley opened this eatery in 2017 after Chef Mobley spent 20 years building the culinary reputation of the Potter’s House Soul Bistro. Celestia’s food is some of the best seafood in all of Jacksonville, and it’s provided with warm hearted service.
Chef Celestia is a respected chef with visits to the Food Network and other television appearances under her belt. Unbeknownst to my close family and friends, all the amazing food I prepared and served for my annual Veterans Day BBQ, actually came from her “Southern Goodness” cookbook. No shame to my game, the cookbook is awesome because in addition to providing a true window into the mind of one of Jacksonville’s best soulful chefs, it also honors the classic soul food of her childhood.
All 14 of the restaurants we visited in Jacksonville served delicious food, but Celestia’s was the most memorable. It includes an expansive seafood menu that includes delicious snow crab, Dungeness crab, and chargrilled oysters with garlic and parmesan cheese, and some of the most delicious sides I’ve ever tasted. Our journey started with yams, okra and tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, and cabbage – sides so good I still taste the flavors just thinking about them. I also liked that chef uses the shell pasta for her mac and cheese, keeping with the beach theme since it’s a seafood spot. Yes, chef, I noticed. Love, it.
The Crab and Shrimp Boil takes you on a tour through the vast and swampy stretch of Cajun Louisiana cuisine, down to the inland goodness of Black American low country cooking in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia then making a final stop in the southeastern U.S. coastlands as the Gullah Geechee kitchens throw a party for your palate. The seafood is as fresh as you can ask for and the crab legs and shrimp were so flavorful I bit my fingers.
The next standout was the snapper, which was fried to perfection. Good God Almighty! I hadn’t had fried fish this good in a long time. The snapper meat had a gentle, yet present flavor with simple seasoning that delivered a huge punch by accentuating the natural sweet and nutty flavor profile of this delicious fish. The fish was lean, moist and with a firm texture outside of the bones. I added some hot sauce and almost lost conciseness. Just imagine the best fish fry of your childhood at a family gathering where all the older folks are discussing how good the fried fish is. Now recall how it was served with white bread, grits, and hot sauce. Yeah, it’s that type of vibe.
I loved everything about this place. The people. The service. And of course, the food. Man, this place was really, really, good. I can’t wait to come back. You can give them a call at (904) 551-6089.