Jacksonville has a lot of great food and I intend to sample it all. When I find something especially good, I'll let you know. This week, I visited Mina's Bakery & Café, located on San Jose Blvd., right across from Native Sun and just north of Whole Foods, which means there are a lot of serious foodies in the neighborhood. With neighbors like 3 Sisters Chocolate and Cakery and Village Bread it also means that any restaurant needs to work hard to stand out.
Mina’s is a small bakery and sandwich shop selling a collection of European jams, coffees and sweets, along with sandwiches, cakes and pastries made by its owner Nermina Banjac. The cafe has an attractive eat-in area and a patio along the side, but also does a good take-out service.
I am a sugarvore at heart, but for appearances sake I order two paninis to go - a gyro and a smoked turkey ($5.49 each). It was only after chatting with some other customers that I saw the sign saying sandwiches were served from 11am - 2pm. Oops! No problem though -- it just meant the panini maker would take a few minutes to warm up.
While waiting I talked to customers who were eating their way through Mina's bakery menu. They recommended their favorites and suggested I try out the European sweets, such as Rosehip Jam and Eurocreem. They also recommended the pita, which is quite unlike Middle Eastern pita bread. Bosnian pita, also known as Burek, is made with a light, flaky dough. It is baked to order and takes about 25 minutes. Phoning ahead is recommended, unless you are prepared to eat your dessert first, while waiting. While I'm always willing to start with dessert, I decided the pita would make a good excuse for another day.
To accompany the two paninis I ordered three desserts - Medovik, Boem, and Krempita. Yes, I know that's more dessert than sandwich but research is research. While the names of the desserts may not always be familiar, they are well known favorites in the Bosnian community and the staff at Mina’s will help out if you can’t decide where to start.
The paninis were both made with a light, crusty roll about the size of a good (Middle Eastern) pita. The gyro meat was well seasoned and balanced by a light tasting cheese. The smoked turkey panini came with thinly sliced turkey, cheese, spinach, and a red pepper remoulade. Both sandwiches were delicious. My wife and I were hungry, but the sandwiches did a good job of filling us up. This was a bit of a challenge with three desserts to go, but we don't give up easily.
The desserts were quite large. At $2.49 - $2.99 each they were also a bargain. I wouldn’t be surprised to find them for $5 - $8 at any upscale restaurant, where they'd fit in perfectly well.
First up was the Medovik (pictured left, top), a Russian honey cake. Layer upon layer upon layer of moist, lightly spiced cake is alternated with a sweetly delicious cream filling and topped with drizzled chocolate. The honey was evident, but the cake was not over-sweet, especially as the honey was blended with cinnamon. The Boem (pictured left, middle) is a hazelnut cake. This was my favorite. The nutty flavor was in both the cream and the cake. Once again, sweet but not too much. The Krempita (pictured left, bottom) is the most popular dessert at Mina's. It's easy to see why. A flaky pastry dusted with icing sugar sits on top of a large serving of smooth, rich, custardy goodness.
If you’re looking for something a little different and a lot tasty, Mina’s has plenty of options and is available for both eat-in and take-out. As of this writing Mina's enjoys a 96% rating on Urbanspoon and a 5 star rating on Yelp.