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Finding the best Jacksonville restaurant is pretty easy when you have Food Network as your guide. The Secret Garden Cafe isn’t a secret anymore. Over the last two years, Food Network has shined a light on some of the best eats at local Jacksonville restaurants.

I have to admit, I can’t claim to be a foodie, but I do enjoy a good meal. I decided to take my own Food Network journey around Jacksonville guided by Food Network’s Chef Robert Irvine, host of Restaurant Impossible and Guy Fieri, host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

The first stop on my quest for a great meal was The Secret Garden Café located on Beach Boulevard. The owners Mike and Zach requested the help of Chef Robert Irvine, host of Restaurant Impossible, to get their struggling café back on track. In 48-hours, Chef Irvine and his team came in with a critical eye and revamped menus and remodeled the restaurant with a $10,000 budget. Chef Irvine and his team arrived at The Secret Garden Cafe in December, 2010. The episode aired on February 23, 2011. You can view the remodel in the video below.

For this dining experience, I invited Eddie, a Jacksonville Firefighter. We both love a good meal. Most importantly I knew I could count on his “honest” opinion. We decided to drop in on a Sunday afternoon for a late brunch. When we arrived, the restaurant was fairly crowded. Now mind you, it’s not a huge place but has a comfortable, warm atmosphere. When you walk in, you can grab a seat anywhere you’d like. There were a few tables that needed to be cleaned and initially service was a bit slow. It was nice to see Chef Irvine’s décor in person. The infamous wall of mirrors was still there and looked beautiful.

While I loved the décor, I was there for one reason and one reason only; to experience the food. Beth, our waitress was friendly and promptly took our order. I was disappointed that they were out of orange juice but Beth offered me a Poinsettia (cranberry juice and champagne) instead of the mimosa she’d mentioned earlier. I opted for the Poinsettia, while Eddie ordered his iconic Arnold Palmer. There were a number of menu items that would make any mouth water. Decisions. Decisions. For breakfast, I chose French toast made with fresh ciabatta bread and served with honey butter, maple syrup and fresh berries. In the show, Irvine blasted the French toast before the menu makeover. Eddie, chose Shrimp and grits, a particularly interesting dish served with fried grit cakes, shrimp, shrimp bisque with shredded Romano cheese and tomatoes. One breakfast menu item that gave us a good laugh was “A Hot Mess.”  Served with 3 eggs scrambled with bacon, sausage and ham atop a bed of cafe potatoes with sharp cheddar cheese and diced tomato. You can make it a REALLY Hot Mess by adding the sausage gravy!

Our meals arrived hot and tasted as good as they looked! Ed was so impressed with the simple but tasty menu that he’s vowed to take his son back for a meal. Portion size was appropriate if not more than expected for the price. Count this restaurant as travel agent recommended. It’s safe to say that the Secret Garden Café is no longer a secret. Thank you Chef Irvine!

The next stop on my Jacksonville, FL Food Network journey is 13 Gypsies, featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with host  Guy Fieri. Add Secrete Garden Cafe to your “must try” list. It’s one Jacksonville restaurant you don’t want to miss.

Have you been to the Secret Garden Café? We’d love to hear about your experience there. Share your comments below.

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