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The River City is home to some of the best restaurants in Florida. But when it comes to hosting a large group of guests, searching for the right catering accommodations can be a tall task.
By John Egan
So we’ve selected a quintet of local catering companies that you might want to put on the menu (and on speed dial) for your next big meeting or event.
Chef’s Garden eschews the standard catering fare. The mother-and-daughter duo who run the catering company, Liz and Jennifer Earnest, make sure of that.
Seriously, where else would you find crispy fried Japanese eggplant with buffalo mozzarella and yellow tomato confit? Or herb-roasted Amish chicken served with parmesan gnocchi, grilled asparagus and a roasted red pepper medley?
The Earnests pride themselves on pleasing your palette, but also on pleasing you with great service and a relaxing experience. Liz Earnest founded the business—now the exclusive caterer for the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens—after her daughter headed off to college.
Chef’s Garden deals with each client on an individual basis by working with a planner to suit all needs and budgets.
Their tagline is: “If you don’t see a Pit, it ain’t Legit.”
Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q has been dubbed by many in The River City as “the most authentic traditional southern BBQ experience you’ve ever had.” After all, they’ve been serving Jacksonville award-winning BBQ since 1949—prepared fresh daily and slow cooked in a live pit—the way real BBQ should be. They even have their own jingle!
They are the official Bar-B-Q of the Jacksonville Jaguars and they’ve been catering special events of all sizes for more than 60 years. Choose from pork, brisket, baby back ribs and lots more. Their Smokehouse Stackers include the Slawpy Pig (a heaping pile of pulled pork topped with coleslaw), the Bo-Hawg (BBQ pork topped with cheddar cheese and a sausage link), the Bird Dog (smoked turkey topped with sausage), and the legendary Po-Boy, their signature recipe stack. All come doused in a distinct mouthwatering special sauce.
Bono's also operates the Bono’s Bar-B-Q Express, a food truck catering service for events like concerts, corporate events and festivals. Bring a trained pit-master directly to your location to serve up traditional southern-style cuisine. Additionally, Bono’s has partnered with Pastiche Catering (formerly The Patio at Pastiche) to bring its offerings well beyond traditional barbecue.
On the Fly isn’t your garden-variety food truck, though. It also delivers a range of catering choices: platters of sandwiches and sides, a food truck stationed at your event, or a full-fledged buffet.
One of the many stars of On the Fly’s menu is overloaded sweet potato planks topped with melted crumbled blue cheese, braised pork, On the Fly Sauce and fresh scallions.
Face it: You won’t find a plate of those planks at your ordinary steakhouse.
Chef Andrew Ferenc, a graduate of the American Culinary Academy in Lakeland, describes On the Fly’s cuisine as creative and high-end. One example is the Butterfinger crème brûlée. Yes, Butterfinger as in Butterfinger candy bars.
The Perfect Pear Catering Co. tailors its offerings for people who need or want organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, allergy-sensitive dishes. And, of course, it can produce “regular” menu items as well.
Perfect Pear emphasizes that it focuses on the quality, taste and display of its food. Some of the standout offerings on the menu include smoked Gouda mac-and-cheese bites, and Aztec chicken empanadas drizzled with organic blue agave. Who knew there was such a thing as organic blue agave?
Bite-sized hors d’oeuvres and stationary platters can be arranged for 20 or more people, with staffing and bar service priced separately.
Rachel Deremer, who recently was hired as catering sales manager at One Ocean Resort and Spa, established Perfect Pear in 2007. She sold the business six years later. Perfect Pear now is in the capable hands of Anne Markstroem. Even though Perfect Pear has changed ownership, it still garners rave reviews for its presentation and professionalism—and, of course, its praiseworthy food.
With more than 30 years of experience in catering to hundreds of businesses in the Jacksonville area, A1 Catering offers a personalized experience at an affordable price for everything from its Drop-and-Go service to full-service catering.
Drop-and-Go options are prepared and delivered to you “buffet style” using safety measures to preserve the right temperatures. This includes everything from delivery to setup, plates, cutlery, napkins, cups and ice. Most orders can be completed within 24 hours every day of the week. Choose from breakfast, lunch, snack and finger food menus, with gluten-free and vegetarian options for special dietary restrictions.
Everyone’s needs are different, which is why all of these caterers offer customized solutions to meet your demands. Whether you’re catering a basic luncheon with staff or a formal event, you can rely on any one of these professionals to get the job done just right.
Local Expert- Arts and Culture