Chad and Sandy Neumann- San Marco Night Life

San Marco boasts a bustling night life! A central historic location, San Marco Square sits just south of downtown Jacksonville across the St. Johns River. Numerous interesting boutiques, bars and restaurants provides an endless amounts of things to do and people to meet!


Emerging after the American Civil War, San Marco was incorporated in 1907.  People started to turn plantations into what we see now as residential areas.  As soon as the Acosta Bridge was completed in 1921 a real surge of growth began in the area.  This bridge connects the neighborhood to downtown Jacksonville.  In the early 1990s, San Marco saw another heave of historic preservation and redevelopment making this city into what it is today.  Home to 14 different parks and several schools, not only is it a great place for families but the area also has a great nightlife.

Known as the “triangular district” for its three way juncture, San Marco Square, as it is also called, has gone through major commercial development, though there is still historic buildings still standing.  One of these is the San Marco Building which its architecture is known for a Mediterranean revival and was the city’s first commercial building.  Another famous building is the San Marco Theatre which is known as the nation’s oldest movie houses.  Its gorgeous art deco design is an architecture beauty in San Marco Square.


Looking for a unique experience that involves great drinks?  Grape and Grain Exchange is a must do then!  This shop is a specialty bourbon, wine and craft beer retailer.  They really know their booze here.  With a fully educated staff, you will leave knowing a bit more about your alcohol.  Not only can you pick up the essentials here to make a good cocktail, this bottle shop allows you to drink inside with a $1 corkage fee.

When you walk in you will love the eclectic and hipster feel.  Walls are covered in specialty bottles of bourbon and whisky while their mini-bar in the corner is set up with rotating cocktail menu that they try to tailor to the season.  Don’t know what to order first?  Ask for any pre-prohibition cocktail – that is their specialty.  Along with a wide selection of handcrafted beverages they do offer cheese and charcuterie, which is a perfect complement to many of their drinks.


In keeping with the prohibition ambiance, behind a secret sliding bookcase in Grape and Grain Exchange store opens up to another room they call The Parlour.  Open Tuesday through Saturday 5pm to the early am and you can listen to a great music, such as jazz on the weekends.  This small music venue is definitely off the beaten path of musical venues.  Not only is it behind a secret bookcase but if you try to enter it from the side, it may be a bit hard to find as there is no sign above the door.  Make reservations if you plan to visit on the weekend.  It fills up fast and this will ensure your entrance.  The best spot to enjoy the music is on the front bar stools.  You get the best view of the music there.


Known once as only serving tapas and light bites to complement their wine business, this fine dining restaurant has gone through a bit of growth.  Today, The Grotto, now has a full course dinner with great stand alone dishes.  This puts them in a position to remain competitive with all the great restaurants in the San Marco area.   Although they may have stepped up their menu, they know what they do best and that is wine.  Every other Sunday is open to people who want to learn the steps a master sommelier goes through when wine tasting.  They also have additional tastings on every Thursday which is a great way to meet new friends or maybe meet that special someone.  Wink!

There are outdoor dining areas where you can not only enjoy a glass of wine but a fine cigar as well.  This is the only place you can pick up fine cigars such as Davidoff white label, Romeo y Julieta, Arturo Fuente and Padron 1964 Anniversary in the San Marco area.  A good recommendation when visiting is to try a Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real paired with a Dr. Hermann Riesling.  You will be thankful that you did!


If enjoying a flick is more up your alley than you will enjoy San Marco Theatre.  It is one of the most recognized facades in San Marco and is one of the nation’s oldest movie houses.  This little treasure only has one screen and was designed after Venice, Italy’s Piazza di San Marco.  They show a multitude of genres from the latest releases to cult classics, documentaries, independent and art films that have been unseen anywhere else in Jacksonville.  Not only can you enjoy a great flick but you can enjoy a great bottle of wine or beer while watching!  Their menu is delicious with popular selections such as pizza or a chicken quesadilla.  There is nothing better than watching a great picture with a good drink and food at hand.

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