Jacksonville has plenty of quirky coffee places and cool hangouts. From Riverside to Jax Beach and quite a few places in between, there are lots of spots in town to get great coffee. Orange Park?? Not so much. That’s why I was thrilled when I recently heard about Urban Bean Coffeehouse Cafe in Orange Park. Urban Bean is a new addition to the Orange Park food scene and even though they have been open for just a few short months, it already feels established and well-received. The opening of Urban Bean was highly anticipated, with their progress and work on the coffee shop (as well as on the menu itself) being thoroughly documented on their Facebook page. And the owners did a fantastic job of staying engaged with their soon-to-be customers and building up quite a following long before they even opened. Now that they are open for business, it seems that they have become a go-to spot for locals to get their coffee fix as well as to enjoy a full menu of pastries, sandwiches, and salads.
I stopped in on a Thursday morning around 9am. I immediately fell in love with the feel of Urban Bean. Their spacious outdoor patio area is really inviting and comfy-looking, with plenty of table and benches for seating. The pallet planter walls not only block out the Park Avenue traffic, but are also filled with succulents, which add a little greenery and life to the space. Inside is just as nice. First off, it’s roomy with plenty of seating options. The decor is a fun mix of industrial and farm house…complete with reclaimed wood, concrete flooring, handcrafted accents, and upcycled fixtures. The whole mood is warm, inviting, and friendly. There is even a fireplace to cozy up to and a small stage area with a piano for live music. Urban Bean feels quirky and cool without being pretentious or off-putting. And it was really busy. While I was there, there was a steady stream of people coming and going. Some people grabbed their goodies and left in a hurry (probably heading off to work, since it was about that time of day), while others pulled up a chair and lingered a while over their lattes and donuts. And that’s just what I ended up doing.
I went up to the counter to order, thinking that I already sort of knew what I wanted (I had glanced at their menu online before going in). But then I was blown away by the sheer number of options on the menu. Any coffee connoisseur knows that coffee can be ordered and customized in at least a million different ways. Add to that a full menu of hot and cold sandwiches, salads, omelettes, yogurt, oatmeal, soups, flatbreads, donuts, plus teas, cocktails, desserts, and more. So many choices! My head was spinning trying to figure out what I wanted. Luckily, the staff was very friendly and helped me navigate their extensive menu. I decided on a Southern Pecan Waffle Boat ($3.99) and a Sparkling Long Black ($3.49).
I had a seat and my food and drink were brought over to my table after a very short wait. They had taken my name at the counter, presumably so that they could call me up when my order was ready. But they ended up bringing my food right to me instead, which was nice. My Sparkling Long Black was pretty tasty. When I saw it on the menu, it sounded interesting so I had to give it a try. Basically, it is a cool carbonated coffee. It looked really great in the cup…a layer of cold soda water, then a layer of hot dark espresso, topped by a creamy foam on top. After giving it a quick stir to mix it all up, I took a sip and was in heaven. It was refreshing, lightly sweet, and was indeed “sparkling.” What a fun, unique, fizzy drink. If you’re looking to venture out from your regular iced coffee and try something a little different, I would definitely recommend it.
Another recommendation – the waffle boat. Oh my goodness, the waffle boat. They do a few different waffle boat variations at Urban Bean…each one built inside a perfectly cooked oblong waffle. I tried the Southern Pecan Waffle Boat and it was amazing. It was a hot fresh-made (as in made in the waffle iron right there in front of me while I was waiting) waffle topped with pecans, whipped cream, and a luscious housemade caramel maple syrup. It was indulgent, rich, and sweet. I loved every single bite and debated ordering another…I really wanted to try the Strawberries and Cream Waffle Boat.
I opted to not stuff my face with a second waffle boat on this particular trip. Instead, I had my eye on some gorgeous donuts that I had spotted by the counter when I ordered. That’s right, I just called baked goods “gorgeous.” Don’t judge. On this day, they had four different donut flavors to choose from, although their selection changes from day-to-day. I couldn’t decide on just one, so I got one of each to take home with me. At $3 a piece, I felt like a got a pretty good deal, especially considering how delicious they all were. My family and I savored each one and ended up sharing them so that we could all get a taste of each donut.
First up was the Strawberry donut. The cake donut was moist, dense, and was a great base for the delicious strawberry glaze. It was then topped off with a slice of fresh strawberry, you know…to make it healthy. The Maple Bacon was also really good. You can’t really go wrong with that combination, in my opinion, but this donut combined them in an especially tasty way. The maple glaze had a rich, dark flavor. And I loved that they used large chunks of real bacon to top it off…not measly little bacon bits. My kids’ favorite was the S’mores donut, obviously. It was a simple and iconic combination of chocolate icing, graham cracker crumbs, and mini marshmallows. But when paired up with such a delicious cake donut as a base, it took s’mores to a whole new level of yum. My favorite was the White Chocolate Cardamom. It had the sweetness of white chocolate, but the cardamom added an interesting spiciness and an extra depth of flavor.
I am completely in love with Urban Bean Coffeehouse Cafe. At first I was really bummed that they are in Orange Park…it’s so far from where I live. But after trying all these yummy treats and such great coffee, I will definitely be braving the traffic and heading back over the Buckman Bridge to pay them a visit again soon. It’s just such a great place. The staff is super friendly and helpful, the decor is fun and comfy, and their food is amazing. And I liked that the crowd at Urban Bean was so varied. Sure, there was a fair share of skinny jeans and ironic tshirts, but there were also business people meeting at a large table inside, seniors catching up over breakfast, and even a moms group hanging out with their kids on the patio. I think anybody would feel right at home at Urban Bean. But if you’re in a hurry and want to get your coffee on the go, fear not – they also have a drive-thru! Either way, you’re in for a treat and trust me, it is definitely worth the drive.
For this review we welcome a member of our own JRR family: Rhonda Kovar is a former call center manager turned stay-at-home mom. She grew up in the heart of North Carolina and moved 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 can follow her on Instagram.