Cowford Chophouse: More Than A Steakhouse
Thank you so much to Cowford Chophouse for sponsoring this post! As always, all opinions are my own.
As a mom of two--and a busy schedule to match, date nights are few and far between. Days go by quickly, weeks are blurred, and suddenly it’s time to pay the bills again. We get wrapped up in the day-to-day of just trying to make it through sunrise to bedtime. My significant and I try to be intentional with planning date nights at least once a month, if not more, even if it’s something small, so you could imagine our joy when we had reservations at Cowford Chophouse – a fine dining restaurant in Downtown Jacksonville. We weren’t sure what to expect. We knew they had just released their fall menu and we were glad to have a night where we could break routine.
Rich in History
One thing I look for as a food blogger is the story behind the food. Everyone loves a good story and I love finding the WHY in food. For example, Why this name? Why this décor, things of that nature. Upon entering or when I stepped into, Cowford Chophouse I immediately had the feeling there was more than meets the eye. The historic building you see today was built after the raging fires that swept downtown Jacksonville in 1901. In 1902, the First National Bank of Florida was built on the corner of E. Bay Street and S. Main Street. The building underwent many changes and had been abandoned and rundown for some time until current owners Jacques and Tracy Klempf purchased the building in 2014. The Klempfs had a vision to make the building into something beautiful that could represent our bold, coastal city.
Cowford Sets The Tone
Raise your glasses to the view! According to the Cowford Chophouse website, the name “Cowford” is a nod to the original name of Jacksonville, given in honor of the narrow point in the St. Johns River where settlers would cross the river with cattle. Today, guests can gaze across that same river to enjoy Southbank skyline views from Downtown Jacksonville. It truly is breathtaking standing on the terrace and the perfect place to sip on a glass of wine and nibble on some light appetizers while watching the sunset. The design of the restaurant is a three-story steakhouse with a coastal-southern twist. Even though I would classify the décor as modern, there are many nods to the building’s former life.
For example, the steakhouse is adorned with original ceiling tiles and wood from the building has been transformed into family-style dining tables on the first floor, just to mention a few. Heading to the second floor, you’ll find framed photos of the Chophouse restoration lining the stairwell, which then brings you to the more formal dining floor with white tablecloths on the tables and an open cut-out (that was inspired by Klempf when he visited his daughter’s university) in the middle with views from top to bottom. Whether you choose to take the elevator to the roof or get in your steps on the stairs, neither floor will take your breath away like the view from the rooftop. Half covered to provide relief from the Florida sun or the occasional afternoon sun shower, the rooftop has both a full bar and full dinner service. It’s the perfect place to start or end your evening under the sunset kissed skies and glowing Jacksonville skyline. From the herringbone tile flooring and cool gray walls to the arched original bank windows, it all sets the tone for an elegant experience.
More Than A Steakhouse
Let’s talk food! Lucky for my date and me, Cowford Chophouse rolled out its fall menu. On top of what you might expect at a traditional steakhouse —chops and starchy sides – the Cowford menu boasts complex dishes with a southern flare and these items change seasonally. Anthony, our server, knew the menu like the back of his hand and was able to answer questions in great detail and length. We started our meal with seasonal cocktails — because it’s not a date night without one, right? The Johnny Apple-Rac stood out to me. Made with Whistle Pig Piggyback Rye, cranberry juice, spiced apple syrup, Dom Benedictine rinse, angostura bitters, it tasted like a boozy, delicious apple pie. My date’s choice was the Mezcal Me a Cab made with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, aperol, foro amaro, orange bitters, Aztec chocolate bitters. Lucky for him no cab was needed and both fall selections were perfect to get us in the spirit.
As our dining experience continued, we had the pleasure of meeting Executive Chef Ian Lynch, who went into detail about how he created our appetizers for the evening. We ordered the Salmon Spring Rolls with hints of ginger, garlic, and cilantro served with the house-made sweet soy sauce and soy mustard sauce that added a slight kick. Next on our appetizer adventure — what seemed to be the favorite — were the house-made meatballs ground in-house with pork and Wagyu beef. Three generous meatballs sit on white cheddar rice middlins with garlic, parmesan and a house-made tomato sauce that would rival your favorite Italian restaurant. WOW! From the first bite, I could see why it was a house favorite. Do yourself a favor when dining at Cowford Chophouse and order the meatballs for your starter.
Are your taste buds tingling yet?
Enjoying our drink selections, breadbasket assortments, and appetizers, my date and I weren’t fully prepared for the main courses we were about to receive. Everything had already been so rich in flavor and presentation. Anthony never missed a step on checking in on us and making sure our drinks were full to the brim. For the main courses we had the pleasure of speaking with General Manager Matt Mannick who gave some insight to our entrée dishes. Matt explained that the American Wagyu Spinalis is the most unique and flavorful chop on the menu. It’s the cap that comes right off the top of the ribeye – it has incredible flavor, is rich in marbilization and is as tender, if not more than, a filet. Our other entrée was the seasonal grouper dish, which rested upon cauliflower puree topped with freekeh, charred cauliflower, fennel, mint, pomegranate seed and arugula salad.
Both entrées were incomparable. The grouper was light, flavorful and very complex. It felt like an explosion of flavors hitting your taste buds! The Spinalis was our favorite of the evening. It was pure perfection melting in your mouth like butter. AND I can’t forget about the side dishes — the seasonal glazed carrots and house favorite, au-gratin potatoes.
Did Someone Say Dessert?
I’m pretty simple when it comes to dessert choices, if I am being honest. Hook me up with a cupcake, brownie, or cookie and I’m a happy lady. My significant other, however, is huge on desserts and Cowford had some fall selections for us to indulge in. We started with the Apple Crisp dessert that had brown butter oat crumble, vanilla ice cream, and caramel. The vanilla ice-cream is made in house and the dessert is a perfectly warm tasting Dutch apple pie that you can’t stop eating. The next selection was the Chocolate Espresso Crème Brûlée topped with seasonal berries. The Crème Brûlée challenges your pallet but the hint of espresso matches perfectly with the richness of the chocolate and caramelized sugar on the top to make every bite just as elaborate as the last.
If you want to take a different route on dessert, Cowford also has a selection of dessert cocktails like the Espresso Chocolate Martini made with Van Gogh vanilla vodka, crème de cocoa, Godiva white chocolate liqueur, cold espresso, and cream. This drink was a perfect match to my evening on Cowford’s rooftop bar watching the sunset. While my date had The John Wayne made with Four Roses bourbon, maple simple syrup, coffee ice cubes and bacon-tobacco bitters. A slow sipper that starts out with a bright citrus taste and ends with a full bourbon flavor — a strong drink that lives up to its namesake.
The most unique part of the evening was knowing that I was dining in a piece of our city’s history while enjoying a meal that won me over from beginning to end. Chef Ian explained that Cowford prides itself on being committed to serving grade-A steak that is consistently prepared every time, as well as sourcing sustainably raised fish, local grown fruits and veggies, hydroponic herbs and cheeses from local dairy and farms. And if that wasn’t enough, Cowford does all this while utilizing as many local ingredients to create a menu that reflects the Jacksonville region. If you ask me, Cowford Chophouse stands apart and goes beyond what you expect from a steakhouse — it’s modern meets classic, history meets visionary, and it’s the destination downtown Jacksonville needed.
Cowford Chophouse exceeded our expectations from the moment we walked in. With exceptional hospitality, it’s a home away from home, a place for everyone, a place to celebrate all occasions, no matter how grand or small. The modern décor and history under your feet makes Cowford a place you can’t forget — a place that leaves a mark with food you’ll crave. Here is a video to take you behind the scenes of what it takes to curate a menu like Cowford’s. You might recognize someone in the video, so please take the time to enjoy and watch ;) If you’re a local, make Cowford Chophouse your next reservation and if you’re visiting make it your next dining destination.
Location: 101 E. Bay Street Jacksonville, Florida
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