Do not underestimate the man behind the counter at Jax Diner, Chef Roderick “Sweet Pete” Smith. The forefather of the Food Truck movement here in the River City is one of the little-known facts about this delightful, funny and kind person. After an impressive stint in some of Jacksonville’s best dining spots he spent time in the Bahamas, and Sea Island, now back home at Jax Diner that talent is being used to provide the best of the best at a price affordable to all. This owner and chef took the time to chat with me about his new undertaking.
Tell us about Jax Diner and what makes it so unique?
Jax Diner is a hidden gem in Jacksonville. What makes it great? Previously it was a sandwich shop like a fast food casual restaurant. In some ways we are similar, but we use local top of the line ingredients; farmers stop in three to four time a day, and we purchase what is in season then formulate our menu around those items. Our meats also come from local butchers, we keep everything as much as possible within the local family, and we take great pride in that.
What type of food do you serve?
On the menu, we have a lot of quick grab and go items, like burgers and dogs, but the most popular items are on the specials board. Ninty percent of the patrons order from the board and never look at the menu. The board showcases our style of cooking and how much talent we have here at Jax Diner and still present it at a fair price.
What would you recommend to first-time customers?
It depends on what they’re in the mood for. If a burger, it would have to be the Cajun Burger, a little hit of spice, spiced sausage from Azar, provolone cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes, or perhaps the Ruben; we are one of the few restaurants in town that cure our corned beef. If they want something heavier, like an entrée, the Shrimp and Grits would be my recommended choice.
Most popular dish on the menu?
That’s a good question; I don’t know it’s pretty even across the board; anything from the po’boy, the tacos or the burgers.
What is your favorite dish?
You mean what’s on the menu or just in general? My favorite dish right now is the loaded Mac and Cheese. The people who come in and order it call it “Crack and Cheese” and that is how you will see it on the menu.
What would you recommend for something a bit more adventurous?
Talk to the chef, tell him what you are in the mood for and if we can do it, we will. People often ask us just to make them something.