Off the Line: Taverna
Off the Line takes a behind the scenes look at what's happening around the region in the kitchens of our favorite restaurants. In photo essay format, we bring you to the back of the house then follow chef creations right to the plate, highlighting the inspiring ways local culinary teams are bringing food and drink to the table.
Powerhouse proprietors Executive Chef Sam Efron and Wine Director Kiley Wynne Efron established Taverna in the heart of San Marco in 2009. Chef Efron is a native of Jacksonville who learned to cook in New York City, and while Taverna's claim to fame is hand-crafted Italian, their seasonal menu also draws inspiration from Spain, France and other European traditions. Taverna is a hip, date-night kind of place which is, at once, both sophisticated and comfortable.
The restaurant’s design co-mingles rustic elements like reclaimed barn wood and greenery with modern features like high ceilings to create an atmosphere that is intimate and energizing, depending on the time of day you visit and where you sit. Al fresco dining is also available for those who want to sit outdoors. Guests have a choice of booth, bar or table inside.
One of the most exciting things for us about Taverna is what's happening behind the scenes in the kitchen. Like a growing number of restaurants in the region, their menu focuses on seasonality and their offerings change each summer and fall/winter cycle. Specials often reflect what's come into the kitchen that day, fresh from the dock, farm, or field.
We especially appreciate that Taverna believes in honest ingredients and chooses products with flavor in mind, sourcing it responsibly and sustainably, when possible. Customers who prefer the predictability of a consistent menu will be equally at home with diners who enjoy a nightly special made from the creative musings of Chef Efron and the freshest ingredients in season.
Chef Efron carefully puts the finishing touches on his Braised Short Rib plate, served with mushroom and winter squash barley risotto -- a clever twist on traditional rice risotto that results in the perfect combination of textures and hearty, warm flavors. Entrees at Taverna generally pair meat with vegetables to enhance the center of the plate, although several equally well-prepared options are available for vegetarian diners as well.
House-Smoked Chicken with perfectly roasted Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, bacon, apricots, walnuts and truffles come together for a remarkably savory dish that combines smoky, savory, nutty and ever-so-slightly sweet flavors in perfect harmony.
And finally, don't forget a stop at Taverna's bar for a cocktail. While the wine selection is, indeed, impressive -- their artisanal approach to food and fine dining spills brilliantly from the kitchen to their bar. The staff is trained to help guests find the perfect complement to any meal, and we encourage you to ask. A must-try is the Barrel-aged Boulevadier -- bourbon, Campari, vermouth and orange bitters -- aged in an oak barrel for two months in house, then finished with a lemon twist. The perfect complement to Taverna's House-Smoked Chicken. Or, a signature cocktail you won't always find on the menu, but is definitely worth a special request: Orange is the New Black, a beautiful, citrusy accompaniment to the Braised Short Rib, finished with charred orange.
If you think you'll have trouble deciding what to eat at Taverna, try opting for the small plate offerings and order several items to share. Whatever you choose, rest assured it's been prepared with great attention to flavor detail, starting with simple, honest ingredients and finishing strong through every last bite.
Off the Line: a behind the scenes look at professional kitchens throughout our region, celebrating the ingredients they use, the techniques they've mastered and the art of bringing great food and drink to our tables.