I bet you’ve never been served beer by a philosopher. Or have you?
Behind the doors of a Mediterranean eatery in Downtown Jacksonville, you’ll find one. He’s got jet-black hair peppered with grays, olive-toned skin and a toothy, contagious smile.
His name is Jerry Ewais, and he’s owner of Zodiac Bar and Grill on Adams Street. In addition to two Jacksonville-area restaurants under his belt, the native Jordanian also boasts a master’s of philosophy degree from the University of Sofia in Bulgaria.
When he immigrated to the United States in 1990, he lent a hand to his family’s restaurant on the Southside, Hala Café, until he could open his own. Now, with his friendly nature and restaurant know-how, he’s serving up good eats, drinks and yes, a dozen hookah flavors, every weekday Downtown.
I first met Jerry and the rest of the Zodiac team this January, my third day on the job with Downtown Vision, Inc. at one of our Dine With Us Downtown events. I was an instant fan of the eatery, which has been a Downtown staple for the past three years.
Partial to Mediterranean tastes, I loved what the menu had to offer, especially the curried chicken tapas. If you’re looking for a hummus or falafel fix, this is your Downtown Jacksonville go-to. There are even a few hidden surprises in the menu, such as the cheesy jibneh be shatta and spanakopita.
And guess what — there’s also a $9 all-you-can-eat lunch buffet with a take-out option at $5.50 per pound. Next on my list to try are the salads, from Greek to chicken, which Jerry told me are his most popular lunchtime dishes. His business-crowd patrons come to Zodiac knowing they’ll get a delicious, healthy Mediterranean meal, he said.
That’s Jerry’s favorite part of Zodiac — the people who walk through his doors. He loves the idea that businessmen and women meet friends here, discuss careers over tapas and, most of all, use his Downtown eatery as an oasis away from their hectic work days.
The Downtown Vision crew and I often pop over to Zodiac after work for a happy hour, as our office is a mere half a block away. We love to sit at the sleek high-top tables and order — you heard it here first — $2 domestic draughts. $2.
How’s this for a bit of philosophy: locally owned and operated spots like Zodiac are what make Downtown Jacksonville truly the place to be. What are you waiting for? Dig into Downtown at Zodiac Bar and Grill.
Photo by Tammy Czigan www.gplstudios.com