When I need to quiet my growling stomach, I head to a restaurant that has “Mex” as a prefix or suffix. Hightide Burrito Co. touts its “Beach Mex,” a vibe and flavors that lend themselves to Jacksonville’s ethnic and geographic diversity. The menu is inspired by owner Alejandro Juarez’s family recipes from Central Mexico.
This family-friendly, seat-yourself, two-room spot is clean and modern with an abundance of seating. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the menu's straightforward and easy to read. Your toughest choice? Whether you’re up for a burrito (flour or wheat tortilla), burrito bowl, nachos, tacos (corn or flour), tortas or salad. Then determine if you’re in the mood for steak, ground beef, barbacoa, chicken, carnitas, fish, shrimp, roasted vegetables or beans and cheese.
Salsas are made in-house, and everything tastes fresh. Queso seemed like a must to kick off our lunch. We found it to be full of flavor, thick and creamy, which nicely coated our bags of homemade tortilla chips. There are few things worse than runny queso. Beware: These triangular gems are beyond addicting — super-crunchy, warm and lightly salted. Perfection.
I eyed the best-seller claim next to Lupe’s famous Baja fish tacos, and I knew what I’d be ordering. Best-seller? They must be delicious. And they were! Panko-breaded, lightly fried tilapia is generously topped with shreds of crunchy cabbage, then drizzled with a tangy white sauce and accompanied by a wedge of lime. I concurred with the claim. The fish was moist and cooked to perfection — each bite gave way to the perfect amount of crunch from the breading. I added a few generous dashes of the Peruvian sauce there on the table and some of the pico de gallo that came with my chips. I caught my boyfriend sneaking a bite on more than one occasion.
Also intriguing were the made-to-order acai bowls. I opted for the beet bowl with a blend of frozen acai berry (deemed a superfood), ginger, beets, lime juice and apple juice then topped with banana slices, strawberries and blueberries, granola, a sprinkling of bee pollen and swirl of honey. Each bite burst with delicious antioxidants. It was sweet, but in an I-just-worked-out-and-went-to-yoga-and-now-I-need-a-treat sort of way.
On my second visit, I ordered the spicy pig quesadillas: four thick triangles stuffed with carnitas, bacon, chipotle sauce and jalapeños, served with salsa and sour cream. While good, the bacon overpowered the other ingredients.
Hightide offers daily specials. On Mondays, you can snag a Lupe’s famous Baja fish taco for just $2. On Taco Tuesdays, $6.25 gets you two tacos, chips and a drink.
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, Hightide’s best hours are 4-7 p.m. when drinks are two-for-one. Who doesn’t love a free drink? Try one of the local brews: Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale and Killer Whale Cream Ale from Bold City Brewery, Green Room Brewing’s Head High IPA and Intuition Ale Works’ I-10 IPA.