Royal Palm Village is named for the road it’s on in Atlantic Beach. It’s a freestanding building directly behind Culhane’s Irish Pub. I’ve been in that area and never noticed Royal Palms Village Tapas and Wine before. We tried to go here the week prior to this visit. Yelp said they opened at 11am. We assumed this meant lunch. What else could it mean? Oh silly us! They actually do a substantial amount of business in retail wine (they have an enormous selection), so they open at 11am to sell wine. The kitchen doesn’t open til 5pm for dinner. That was slightly disappointing. Now we all know not to show up before 5pm. Royal Palm Village Tapas and Wine is a fun space. It feels like a clean, open wine warehouse. The tables are all made to look like they are sitting on wine barrels as a support. There are large round tables that seat up to six, and smaller round high top tables that seat two to four. It’s a cool space and I can’t think of any restaurant interior like it elsewhere in Jacksonville.
On the Friday evening we visited they were doing a free wine tasting with four wines, and of course they had specials for those wines. In general their prices for wine were pretty reasonable. Since they sell all their wine retail, any bottle you choose to consume in the restaurant comes with a $10 corking fee, which is standard. They also have an abbreviated list of wines for by the glass consumption. Their retail wine prices seem pretty fair.
As I was the only wine drinker that evening, I ordered a glass of white sangria ($5). It was positively delightful, as was the price. It tasted like happiness. Do you remember drinking koolaid as a kid and thinking, “Man, this is the stuff right here”? This sangria was the grown up version of that experience. I could have had several glasses of the stuff. I didn’t because I wanted to be good company and not asleep on the table, but I could have.
We started things off with Prosciutto wrapped dates ($6). Two words: bacon candy. Oh yes. Don’t hold back, let yourself salivate over this food marriage. Okay now a few more words: $1.50 per bite. That stopped you in your tracks, didn’t it? This delicious teeny tiny plate is 4 prosciutto wrapped mini dates for $6. That price seems a little ridiculous. These are not even the size of extra-large olives. It truly is a laughable amount of food. We were not expecting a large quantity, but to take two bites and figure you just spent $3 plus tax and tip? Ouch. These prosciutto wrapped dates do taste like bacon candy though. Awesome flavor, nice crunch, a fantastic (and itty bitty) overall appetizer.
Pork and black bean empanadas ($9). Yum! Two hot, crispy empanadas filled with black beans and pork. They are topped with fresh tomatoes and guacamole sauce, which complements the empanadas perfectly. If you’ve been reading us very long you know we are a bit picky about our tomatoes. These were perfect! They were a great complement to the empanadas simply because they were so ripe and flavorful. The guacamole sauce was mild and creamy. I was wishing for a ramekin of it to dip the empanadas in. Or eat by the spoonful, either way. If I had made these empanadas my meal, I would have been a happy camper.
Edamame pot stickers ($8). Edamame seemed like a strange choice for pot sticker filling, but we like edamame and we like pot stickers, so why not? Here’s why not. Edamame pot stickers do not have much flavor on their own. Or any flavor, really. The chili sauce and pickled veggies that accompanied the potstickers made a nice bite. But without those condiments it was indiscriminate warm carbohydrates. Eating these was like taking a bite of warm nothingness. At least it was a somewhat more reasonable amount of food for the price. Definitely skip these!
Roasted Brussels sprouts ($8). If you are Team Brussels Sprout you will like these. If you are Team Any Vegetable Besides Brussels Sprouts, now is not the time to attempt a conversion. They’re Brussels sprouts….they weren’t bad. They were roasted nicely with caramelized brown edges. These came with pieces of crunchy prosciutto and bleu cheese crumbled over them and then topped with a balsamic drizzle. The prosciutto was fabulous. There were a lot of flavors going on here, with the roasted sprouts, balsamic, blue cheese, and prosciutto. It was almost too many flavors for us. We agreed we would have preferred it with one less component, preferably the balsamic. This is one dish that is a good size for the price.
Calimari a la gallega ($12). This calamari is roasted instead of fried, with potatoes. Calamari can be downright delightful in many preparations besides the basic fried version. If it’s your first time trying calamari that’s not fried we suggest trying the sautéed calamari at Taverna in San Marco. It’s amazing. The bad news is Royal Palm Villages wasn’t so amazing. Quite frankly it was pretty darn bad. The menu said it was supposed to be topped with chorizo, but ours came with no chorizo on it. The calamari was served with the diced and roasted potatoes. It was exceptionally chewy and not well prepared at all. This dish was a giant fail. We didn’t even eat half of this between us. We probably should have asked for it to be taken off the bill.
Our meal had started out so promising, and then took a sudden turn south. We did ask our waitress for some recommendations at the outset. She recommended the Mac n cheese, the flatbread, and the sliders. We saw many more interesting things on the menu and tried those instead of the basic items our waitress had recommended. Maybe next time we’ll listen to our waitress. As far as the service goes, there is absolutely nothing to criticize. We had a waitress change in the middle of our meal. That usually spells trouble but without any lapse in service we hardly noticed. The employees at Royal Palm Village appeared to work together to help each other out. That automatically creates a nice, relaxing environment for the patrons.
Royal Palm Village is a fun place but we were disappointed with the execution of some of the more exciting menu options. Additionally as many of the user reviews on Urbanspoon state the portion sizing is a bit our of wack in relation to the pricing. When we left the restaurant our bellies were not satisfied, after spending $60, with only $5 of that on alcohol. Since we were still hungry we stopped at happy cup for frozen yogurt on the way home. While eating my frozen yogurt I couldn’t help but think we’d have been much happier having a sandwich and yogurt at happy cup for 1/5th of the price.
- Great wine selection
- Great service
- Fun place to gather with friends
- Portion size by pricing was way out of whack
- Hit-and-miss execution of menu items
- Avoid the calamari like the plague