Chef Kenny Gilbert Opens Gilbert's Social
Chef Kenny Gilbert and his wife and business partner, Anna, are expanding their footprint in the Jacksonville area and bringing a touch of their Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen with them, with the opening of Gilbert’s Social (GS), their second solo venture. GS is located at 4021 Southside Blvd (Suite 200), in the former Big John’s Crumpy’s Wings and Things location, just North of Tinsel Town.
GS features seasonal and creative modern Southern fare with hints of international influence. Dishes like Hot Miso Catfish: broiled miso & sambal brined catfish, turnip & mustard greens, jasmine rice congee and sweet potato congee (available at dinner); and Southern “Ramen:” smoked ham hock broth, pulled pork, baby kale & roasted nori radish, jalapeno shrimp cake, mushrooms, 63 degree egg, egg noodles and toasted benne seeds (available at lunch), showcase this approach. For those Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen loyalists, Kenny’s also bringing his signature Fried Chicken, Fernandina Beach Hot Chicken, Anna’s Mac & Cheese, and Smoked Pulled Pork To Duval – all favorites from the menu at his first spot in Fernandina Beach. At lunch, the traditionally Southern Meat & Three is offered an option, just as at GUK, as well as a selection of meat sandwiches. Desserts include: KG’s S’mores, GUK Banana Pudding, Blueberry Short Cake and Kentucky Derby Pie.
The menu will also feature Lion Fish from time to time, an invasive species that is threatening the Florida ecosystem, as well as Texas Antelope, which is sourced from a farm in Texas that is as free range as free range can get. A variety of wild game will also make an appearance on the menu throughout the year, including wild boar, which is currently showcased in the South Texas Wild Boar Toast: country bread, pepper smoked wild boar ham, “Texas Armadillo Egg Spread,” and pickled carrots; and goat, which is also currently showcased in the Goat Curry Soup: field peas, Moroccan spices, pickled raisins, crushed cashews and raita; amongst others.
On the beverage front, GS serves and eclectic assortment of American and international wines, local craft beer and a selection of hand-crafted sangria cocktails, including The Beast: hot and sweet sangria with ginger beer, jalapeno and allspice simple syrup; Berry Romance: a refreshing strawberry lemonade with juniper berry simple syrup and rosemary; and more – with sangria flights offering a tasting of all five for $30.
The menus will change weekly and seasonally, based on the best local ingredients available. All of the dishes at GS are intended to be shared, and will come out of the kitchen as they are ready. A kid’s menu is also available, and features favorites like Mac & Cheese, Smoked Turkey Noodle Soup and a Pulled Pork Sandwich, as well as a Kool Aide of the day.
With over 20 years of professional culinary experience, Kenny rose to fame in 2010 as one of the fan favorites on season seven of Bravo’s “Top Chef.” Since then, he has cooked for the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, Stedman Graham, Samuel L. Jackson and A.J. Calloway, just to name a few. He has competed on “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Beat Bobby Flay” – both of which he won, as well as served as a judge on “Chopped Junior.” Kenny began his culinary career in Jacksonville when he took a position at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company as an apprentice in the garde manger kitchen of their Amelia Island property. Kenny worked his way up to Chef de Cuisine at the age of 23 at the Ritz, helping to consistently secure the AAA Five Diamond Award for the property during his tenure. He would then set about, cooking in restaurants in Naples, Sea Island, Jupiter and Telluride, before returning to Jacksonville to open Nippers Beach Grill, where Folio Magazine named him Chef of the Year. Next up was Miami, where Kenny served as the Corporate Chef at the James Beard nominated Yardbird Southern Table & Bar and Khong River House. A year and a half ago, Kenny and his wife Anna settled back in Jacksonville – third time’s a charm – where they opened Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen in Fernandina Beach, their first solo venture. Gilbert’s Social marks the duo’s second venture in the area – this time in Jacksonville proper. In addition to the restaurants, Kenny has a line of spices, Chef Kenny’s Spice Blends, which are available for purchase at the restaurant, as well as a selection of Kenny’s sauces, soups, jams, dips and more.
With the interior at GS, Kenny and Anna celebrated the pre-existing vibe of the funky exterior, by creating a unique homey space on the inside. The space is decorated with the rich tones of burnt orange and deep yellow, complemented by black trim throughout. The unique vintage feel is showcased in several elements throughout, including vintage pottery, old classic rotary phones and neon lighting.
Tabletops are stainless steel and set with mason jars and vintage china from Rove and Swig out of San Francisco, while big arched windows bring in natural light, helping to create a warm and social environment where Kenny and Anna want to emphasize that all are welcome.
The restaurant serves dinner Tuesday – Saturday, from 5 pm - 9 pm; and lunch from Tuesday – Sunday, 11 am to 2 pm. For reservations, visit OpenTable.com, or call the restaurant directly at (904) 647-7936.
For more information, visit www.gilbertssocial.co.