Kenny Gilbert, a famous chef, created Gilberts Underground Kitchen. The restaurant, which was situated in Jacksonville, Florida’s Fernandina Beach, had an unusual menu of distinctive, soul-satisfying Deep South-inspired dishes. Gilbert’s return to his First Coast origins inspired the cuisine, which was replete with classic southern meals produced using organically grown and locally obtained ingredients. The meal, paired with the restaurant’s downhome setting, provided a feeling of warmth that made you feel as if you were eating at home.
Gilberts Underground Kitchen was destination dining done correctly, located only 30 minutes outside of downtown Jacksonville in Fernandina Beach, just minutes away from the magnificent coastal waterways and the historical mansions and attractions of Old Town Fernandina. The restaurant’s concept pays tribute to bygone eras while also including the famous chef’s accomplishments. The decor and food also paid homage to the region’s rich cultural past, and even included personal touches from Gilbert’s own collection.
Guests praised the restaurant’s vibrant environment, which made them feel perfectly at home. The interior featured three inviting locations, including a Safe House Lounge, which was ideal for enjoying cocktails with friends and small bites to eat, Muscadine Hall, the restaurant’s traditional dining area, and the Datil Pepper Park, which was ideal for dining al fresco under the beautiful Fernandina Beach weather.
Menu selections were numerous and included a variety of dishes that expertly combined classic Southern cooking with contemporary tweaks to produce genuinely distinctive and delicious dinners. All of the meals were vibrant in color, taste, and scent, making eating at this restaurant a true multi-sensory experience. A seasonal menu utilized locally sourced ingredients and allowed Chef Gilbert to display his newest creations, which were always full of delightful surprises. For those searching for a mid-afternoon meal, an Express BBQ Lunch was also popular. Classics like pulled pork were available, as were more experimental options like flavor-packed Alligator Ribs. The food truly shone during dinnertime. Southern Noodles, Smoked Oxtail Hot Pot, Local Wild Shrimp and Grits, Smothered Organic Chicken and Dumplings, and side dishes like cheddar grits and collard greens were among the menu options. Desserts included typical southern Coca Cola Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Chocolate Icing and Dried Cherry Preserves, Blackberries with Cracked Pepper, and even Banana Fosters Parfait.
Despite its popularity, Gilberts Underground Kitchen went down after just a few years. According to a December 3, 2019 story in the Jacksonville Business Journal, Kenny Gilbert announced the closing of his Fernandina Beach restaurant. This establishment shuttered barely five weeks after Gilberts Social, the chef’s Southside Boulevard restaurant, closed. The reason for the shutdown was not mentioned.