Of all the chefs we’ve had the pleasure to work with, there are few more committed to healthy, sustainable, local cooking than Chef Rosaria Anderson. She is a passionate force in the Jacksonville food community, giving both her time and energy to countless organizations throughout our area and supporting local farms, artisans, and vendors in the process. Her focus is primarily on healthy, clean eating, but her food covers all dietary philosophies – vegan, gluten-free, paleo, and even delicious food for us meat-eaters as well. For a while now, Chef Rosaria has been an active participant in the local green food scene, selling her healthy This Chick Can Cook grab-and-go meals at markets and through her catering service.
Now she brings that same passion and energy to her new venture – This Chick’s Kitchen on 6th Avenue in Jacksonville Beach. Chef Rosaria’s new place is modeled after in-home eateries found scattered across Europe. Chef Rosaria fondly recalls stopping in at such casual home restaurants during her childhood growing up in Sicily. Food was prepared with whatever was seasonal and fresh at the local market, not based off of a grocery list or a rigid menu. And when you walked in, you were greeted and welcomed as if you were family. This Chick’s Kitchen sets exactly the same tone. There is a cozy, familial atmosphere, made even more welcoming by Chef Rosaria’s warm and inviting personality. When we stopped in recently, she was thrilled to show us around.
The front dining area is drenched in sunlight and filled with the colorful and eclectic work of local artists. This is the perfect spot to grab a quick lunch from the grab-and-go case or to craft a custom meal from the Innovation Station, Chef Rosaria’s pride and joy (more on that in a moment). There is also a back room tucked behind the open kitchen, creating an ideal space for more intimate gatherings and events, with a great view of the healing garden out back. The garden boasts a wide array of greenery and herbs and provides a space for people to relax, wander through the labyrinth, and enjoy a little bit of nature. Not only does Chef Rosaria offer up delicious food to nourish the body, but her new space also has art, decor, and ambiance to feed the soul. It is a calm and peaceful space, but also has a rejuvenating, energizing effect.
As far as food goes, there is no doubt that Chef Rosaria has mastered her craft. Her food is nothing short of art. It is beautiful, seasonal, and well thought-out. Keeping all that in mind, Chef Rosaria created her Innovation Station, a unique way to allow diners to create their own custom meals without the strict guidelines of a traditional menu. When you walk up to the counter, you are greeted by a beautiful spread of farm fresh, local ingredients, just waiting for you to dream up something delicious to eat. The idea is to allow diners to order anything their heart desires, all handcrafted with the best locally sourced veggies. While it may seem overwhelming to have so many choices and no structured menu, trust us – you are in good hands with Chef Rosaria.
She explained that she wants diners to feel as if they are in their own home, opening up their own fridge, and figuring out what they can prepare with what they have on hand. Except it’s way better than that, because at the Innovation Station, you will find incredible fresh, local ingredients and you don’t have to do any of the work – you have a talented and inspired chef with thirty years of experience to guide you and steer you in the right direction. Don’t see an ingredient you want? Just ask – odds are Rosaria has it (or something comparable) and would be thrilled to share it with you. Need inspiration? Rosaria is brimming with it, as is her Instagram feed which shows off some of her latest creations. There aren’t many chefs as in touch with their ingredients as Chef Rosaria. Watching her craft a meal is like watching a painter with his pallete of paints. While we were there, she drew from that creativity to whip up a delicious wrap using ingredients from the Innovation Station – and it was amazing. Quinoa and fresh vegetables were packed inside a mustard green leaf and accented with just a bit of spice. The cool crisp veggies were a nice contrast to the subtle heat. And the accompanying salad of greens, pineapple, and pomegranate pips added a perfectly sweet pop to complement our wrap.
In addition to our wrap, we also had the chance to try some of Chef Rosaria’s already prepared grab-and-go items. She served up a quinoa, lentil, and amaranth soup that was rich and hearty while still feeling light and healthy. It was packed with vegetables and was incredibly flavorful. We also tasted an amazing slice of paleo quiche. The farm fresh eggs were full of flavor on their own and were heightened by tomatoes and a tasty almond flour crust that added a nice crunchy texture and hint of sweetness. That quiche plus a simply dressed salad would make a perfect light lunch for just $11.
In addition to Chef Rosaria’s healthy and delicious eats, This Chick’s Kitchen also offers items from a few other local vendors. Chef Rosaria is a huge supporter of small businesses and local artisans, and her new venture serves as a platform for these vendors to showcase their goods. We sampled a yummy gluten-free apple cinnamon muffin that pleased even the pickiest among us – a toddler! One minute it was there on the plate and the next minute, it had been gobbled up and all that remained were a few stray crumbs. I did manage to sneak a couple of bites and am happy to report that it was moist, sweet, and apple-y. I couldn’t even tell that it was gluten-free.
There was also a gluten-free biscuit that changed my mind about gluten-free breads. Often, gluten-free breads fall flat and are just sort of “off” when it comes to texture. This biscuit was soft and fluffy and had amazing flavor. It is a game-changer as far as I’m concerned. Being from the south, I have had my fair share of biscuits. The gluten-free version at This Chick’s Kitchen holds their own with some of the best of them. To complement both of these gluten-free baked goods was an amazing vegan cinnamon butter. I don’t understand what sorcery was used to conjure up such a rich and flavorful “butter” without the use of any dairy, but it certainly won me over. It was creamy, buttery, and rich. It was perfect on both the muffin and the biscuit. I could use a jar of that in my fridge at home…yum! I washed down these delicious treats with a nice glass of kombucha, which is made in-house by Ryan, one of the talented vendors that Chef Rosaria supports and works alongside.
Needless to say, I was thoroughly impressed with This Chick’s Kitchen. It is the perfect location for beach goers looking to grab a light lunch after a day in the sun. It is also a quick and healthy lunch break option for those seeking a respite in the middle of their work day, or a great place to pick up dinner when you’re not in the mood to cook. The atmosphere is warm, friendly, and earthy, much like Chef Rosaria herself. The food is artful, inspired, and healthy. And the sky is the limit as far as food goes. You have the flexibility to pick what you want to eat, made with some of the best ingredients around.
Don’t be scared of the carte-blanch style menu offered at This Chick’s Kitchen. The lack of a rigid menu and structured guidelines may seem daunting at first, especially in this age of pre-made, pre-packaged convenience food. But what that really means is that you are getting the freshest seasonal, local ingredients possible, prepared just for you to meet your specific health goals. Chef Rosaria scours local markets and frequents area farms to bring amazing food to the masses. She is happy to help folks craft their perfect meal and to customize their food to meet their own dietary needs. She can’t wait to share her food with everyone in town. So stop by her cozy new spot next time you’re out at the beach. Grab a healthy lunch, down a ginger shot, and settle in to recharge your body and your soul.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.
For this review we welcome a member of the JRR family: Rhonda Kovar grew up in the heart of North Carolina before moving to Florida after getting hitched in 2002. She is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University and a lover of all things crafty, musical, or edible. Rhonda loves finding new and delicious ways to turn her two tiny picky eaters into future foodies. You should follow her on Instagram.