Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen was the brainchild of celebrity chef Kenny Gilbert. The restaurant, which was located in Jacksonville, Florida’s Fernandina Beach, featured an eclectic menu of unique, soul-filling foods that were inspired by the Deep South. The menu was inspired by Gilbert’s return to his First Coast roots, as it was filled with traditional southern dishes that were made with naturally grown and local procured ingredients. The food, combined with the downhome ambiance of the restaurant, created a sense of comfort that made you feel as if you were dining at home.
Situated just 30 minutes outside of downtown Jacksonville in Fernandina Beach, just minutes away from the beautiful coastal waterways and the historical homes and charms of Old Town Fernandina, Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen really was destination dining done right. The theme of the restaurant paid homage to days of yore, while also combining the achievements of the celebrity chef. The theme and menu also paid tribute to the rich cultural heritage of the region, and even featured personal accents that came right from Gilbert’s own collection of items.
Guests loved the lively atmosphere of the restaurant that they said made them feel right at home. Three inviting locations within the interior included a Safe House Lounge, which was the perfect setting 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 the ideal spot to enjoy dining al fresco under the beautiful Fernandina Beach weather.
Menu items were plentiful and featured an array of dishes that perfectly blended together traditional Southern fare with modern touches to create truly unique and taste-tantalizing meals. All of the plates were bursting with color, flavor, and aromas, making dining at this restaurant truly a full-sensory experience. A seasonal menu featured locally harvested items and served as a way for Chef Gilbert to showcase his latest dishes and was always loaded with pleasant surprises. An Express BBQ Lunch was also popular for those who were looking to enjoy a mid-afternoon meal. Items ranged from classics like pulled pork and there were more adventurous items too, such as flavor-packed Alligator Ribs. At dinnertime, the menu really shined. The fare included items like Southern Noodles, Smoked Oxtail Hot Pot, Local Wild Shrimp and Grits, Smothered Organic Chicken and Dumplings, and side dishes like cheese grits and collard greens. For dessert, traditional southern Coca Cola Chocolate Cake with Sour Cream Chocolate Icing and Dried Cherry Preserves, Blackberries and Cracked Pepper, and even Banana Fosters Parfait, were sure to tickle the taste buds.
Despite the popularity of Gilbert’s Underground Kitchen, sadly, it closed down after just a few short years. According to an article in the Jacksonville Business Journal that was posted on December 3, 2019, Kenny Gilbert announced the closure of his Fernandina Beach restaurant. The closure of this location came just five weeks after the chef closed Gilbert’s Social, his Southside Boulevard restaurant. There was no mention of the cause of the closure.