It's funny to have a French name when you're specialty is Cape Cod fare, but that's exactly what you'll find at A La Carte, located in Jacksonville Beach. Jacksonville is known for its great seafood and Southern cooking. New England too has its own seafood and cooking traditions. A La Carte brings the two worlds together in its own unique way with a New England twist on Southern cooking, complete with local Mayport shrimp, Maine lobster and fresh fish all around.
A La Carte is known for its catering but also serves a New England lunch Friday through Tuesday. The menu is written out on paper hanging on the wall beside the counter and it is all made to order by Chef Roger Plouff. Jennifer Plouff works the front of the restaurant and will be more than happy to show you around or give you a tour of the quirky interior that includes a Moxie museum and hundreds of pictures of restaurant regulars. Lunch is served in a cottage setting - inside or out. We took advantage of the great weather and ate at one of the picnic tables outside.
First up was the New England Haddock sandwich ($12.95).
Instead of the too-typical 'where's the fish?' complaint or 'nice breading!' faux-compliment, we had way more fish than bun in an ever-so-thin coating of seasoned breadcrumbs. The two large pieces of fried haddock came with homemade tartar sauce, lettuce and tomato on a bakery style bun. Because the fish was so plentiful the batter could act as a complement and not a substitute to the main course. It added a pleasant crunch to the fish without being greasy or hiding the wonderful flavor of the fish.
We also ordered the shrimp po'boy sandwich ($10.95).
This sandwich was literally overflowing with juicy, jumbo, fried Mayport shrimp. Let the photos speak for themselves!
If you can see past the shrimp you'll notice the lettuce, tomato, and Louie sauce. The homemade Louie sauce is a mayonnaise based sauce; think of a fancy thousand island sauce. I am not a mayonaisse-loving person but by the end of lunch I was finishing up the Louie sauce with a spoon.
Both sandwiches came with a side of, what else, Cape Cod chips. Being A La Carte, you can also order french fries … a la carte.
A La Carte has long been a destination for Moxie Cola - an historical New England drink and precursor to Coca-Cola. Unfortunately, shipping costs have made Moxie prohibitive to carry and so we instead opted for another New England favorite - Blueberry Pop ($1.75). I can say that neither of have ever tried anything like this before. It's carbonated blueberry soda, but it's really good and went great with our seafood.
As with the po'boy sandwich, not everything at A La Carte is Cape Cod inspired. They also have chicken, barbecue pork, homemade meatloaf, and numerous gluten-free dishes.
In addition to lunch and catering, A La Carte offers a wide range of frozen meals to go. Just heat and enjoy. Their most popular, and most extravagant, is the lobster pie. It consists of large chunks of Maine lobster meat in drawn butter, sherry, and a light dusting of breadcrumbs. Being the most popular take out item we just had to try it. We let the lobster pie thaw in the fridge then heated for 20 minutes. Wow! Tender, succulent Maine lobster. Butter. Sherry. It was delicious and we were raving about it for days. "Frozen dinner" doesn't remotely convey the beauty of this dish. It is perfectly suited as an accompaniment to a nice bottle of champagne (in my dreams).
As we were looking over the menu we saw a picture of the A La Carte Lobster Roll - a huge sandwich holding the meat from 3 1-pound lobsters (the smaller version comes with the meat from a single 1-pound lobster). Having tasted how tender and delicious Chef Roger made the lobster pie only makes the prospect of the lobster roll more enticing. We'll just need to bring a serious appetite next time, or come prepared to share.
A La Carte is a destination worth looking for. It's on 1st Avenue North in Jacksonville Beach, on the west side of 3rd St. It's unique in its ambiance and delivers delicious options for eating in or heating up a gourmet meal at home. Eat-in at A La Carte is only on certain days and only for lunch so be sure to check their hours if you decide to drop by.