Five Points Tavern has been one of our beloved spots, a fine dining gem in the Jacksonville restaurant scene. This tiny Riverside restaurant has some of the most consistent food and service and has been one of our most recommended places to family, friends, and internet friends since they opened. Their lamb burger made our list of top burgers in Jax. Their hangar steak is tops. We’ve had incredible octopus, mussels, pasta, and more at this lovely local spot. Recently Five Points Tavern completely changed their concept to meatballs and burgers. Were we sad? Yes. Were we doubtful? Also yes.
The announcement by Five Points Tavern on social media was surprising, but also we couldn’t tell if it was meant to be vaguely sexual with the meatball menu consisting of “bases”, or if it was intended to be strictly baseball themed. We hardly know a chef who can resist a meatball innuendo, but we can’t speak for Five Points Tavern. So with all of that, we were severely disappointed in the change coming to Five Points Tavern.
It has now been a few weeks since Five Points Tavern changed over to their new meatballs and burgers concept. We stopped in with hopes to enjoy a meal, regardless of our feelings about the change.
The restaurant interior looks just as fresh as ever. There is a small dining area right inside the front door and a modest dining room in the back of the building, plus copious outdoor patio dining in front. Five Points Tavern repainted the walls a rich, warm brown and added some bar or tavern type of decor here and there, but overall it still felt elevated, not like a dive at all.
The menus are thickly laminated and consist of meatballs on side and burgers on the other. There are dry erase markers in a glass on the tables to make your selections directly on the menu. One of the owners came by our table right away to go over the meatball section, which was helpful because there are six different types of meatballs, six different types of sauces, and a number of options for how you would like them served, plus sides. We saw a number of staff members going over the menu when guests first sat down, which is a solid proactive move because it does look a bit overwhelming at first. One of the things we’ve always admired at Five Points Tavern is how the team works together, which results in great service.
My dining partner and I went full meatball, since we were already familiar with the burgers at Five Points Tavern. We had spicy pork meatballs with spicy sauce over rigatoni and a side of the seasonal salad and veggie meatballs with basil pesto over linguine with another seasonal salad side. The meatballs and sauces are all made fresh, from scratch in house. Because the menu is nearly all burgers and meatballs, most of the work is done ahead of time, which means the food comes out from the kitchen quickly.
The seasonal salad was the fattoush salad, with grape tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, arugula, pita crisps, red onion and sumac with lemon garlic vinaigrette. All the veggies were so crisp and delicious and made for a gorgeous, colorful salad. My personal pet peeve is restaurants that don’t make a single dressing in house. It is one of the easiest things to do. Not only does Five Points Tavern make their own dressings, but this vinaigrette was perfectly balanced- not too acidic, not too sweet, not too anything, it was just zingy enough to add some bold flavor to the salad without completely covering up the flavor of all the beautiful veggies. Pro tip: check any restaurant’s social media before dining. We saw the fattoush salad on Five Points Tavern’s instagram feed before heading over and knew we wanted it.
Our meatball selections could not have been more different, from spicy pork balls to veggie balls. However, both were generous in size and delighted the taste buds. My dining partner’s spicy pork balls, spicy sauce, and rigatoni was not light your mouth on fire, but it had an enjoyable kick. The rigatoni didn’t soak up as much sauce as other pastas may have, the sauce more or less slid off much of the rigatoni. It’s really a personal preference how saucy you want your pasta, but if rigatoni is your thing consider ordering extra sauce. The veggie balls were a real sleeper hit. They consisted largely of lentils and as is common for veggie “meats” they crumbled and fell apart very easily. The basil pesto sauce was absolutely divine, and though it would probably be good on any ball (or just with a spoon….), combined with the lentil veggie balls it created quite an earthy flavor masterpiece in my mouth. To me linguine is the perfect bed for any ball and sauce combo, and I was not disappointed with my choice. The veggie balls did not hold up to the fork twirling needed for the perfect bite ratio of pasta/ball/sauce, but that’s the price you pay for housemade veggie balls without processed food style weirdo ingredients.
My dining partner insisted on dessert so we shared the salted caramel chocolate mousse. It came in a wine glass and our server brought two spoons. It was rich and thick and not overly sweet.
The cocktail menu is more or less unchanged, which was a delight. You will find refreshing and creative drinks, plus a variety of craft beers on tap and carefully selected wines. The Hot Lolita (tequila, hot hot honey, lime, Gran Marnier) is a favorite of my dining partner and the Margaret Street is my personal favorite (Hendricks gin, cucumber, rosemary, bubbly).
Overall, the new menu and concept at Five Points Tavern is a hit. Most of the things we loved about Five Points Tavern are the same- the great service, the quality of the food and drinks, the clean and cozy space. The trick is letting go of the previous fine dining vision we loved so much. Life is full of change and if this is what Five Points Tavern has decided is best for them, the least we can do is have an open mind.
Five Points Tavern
1521 Margaret St
Jacksonville, FL 32204