BITE-SIZED

A Worldly Appetite

Make room for big portions of Greek, Italian and Cajun dishes

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In an unassuming spot on South Third Street in Jax Beach sits Eva’s Grill & Bar. Home to several restaurants over the years, the building's interior feels dated and plain, but small windows lend a few rays of natural sunlight. It’s spacious and kid-friendly, and would work well for larger parties.

Owner Chris Wright, along with his father William, opened Eva’s in early 2012. Many of the recipes are passed down from Chris’ mother, Eva. (He also has a daughter named Eva.) The menu includes Greek, Italian and Cajun dishes, but Eva’s is traditional in its approach, not a fusion of cuisines or flavors. Everything is homemade-style, except the hamburger buns and soda rolls.

My items were plated nicely, and I noticed the portions are quite generous and prices are fair. I see many take-out boxes in my future.

I started with an Italian panzanella salad: a bountiful plate of arugula, mixed greens, tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, red onion and herbed croutons, tossed with a flavorful housemade white balsamic vinaigrette. The salad was fresh and the flavors blended nicely.

Several small plates are available, including a Greek meze platter with spinach and feta pastries (spanakopita), fresh mint and feta pastries (tiropita), Greek salad and stuffed grape leaves (dolmades). The table next to ours had one, and my stomach growled with envy.

Feeling adventurous, I tried the beef short rib lasagna. Warm gooey mozzarella generously covered a tower of alternating lasagna noodles, ricotta, spinach, fontina and braised beef, surrounded by a mote of homemade marina sauce. I expected the dish to be heavy, but it wasn't. The sauce had a lot of flavor. I’m eager to try the calzones and pizzas next time.

Wanting to sample each culture represented on the menu, I ordered the cochon de lait, a French-sounding term with Cajun roots. The slow-roasted, seasoned pork was accompanied by buttery housemade mashed potatoes, garlic sautéed spinach and a sea of au jus. The pork was tender, moist and packed with flavor. Again, a huge portion — lunch for me the next day.

Loosening my belt a bit, we rounded out the meal with a dessert platter featuring Italian and Greek items: tiramisu, baklava and chocolate chip cannoli. The cannoli, with its crunchy shell and creamy smooth filling, was the standout; the other two weren’t memorable.

Word on the street is that Eva’s one-third-pound burger, crafted with a proprietary blend of brisket, sirloin and chuck, then topped with a remoulade dressing, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, is a favorite among regulars.

Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, Eva’s offers a happy hour 3-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday with two-for-one draft beer, house wine or well liquors. Come thirsty and hungry.

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