The concept of the Jacksonville International Food Trail originated from the innovative minds of the tourism team at Visit Jacksonville NC. As families from all corners of the globe converge on Jacksonville NC due to family members being stationed at Camp Lejeune, they bring with them the flavors of their homeland, often giving rise to small, family-owned restaurants. So plan your next foodie adventure and make your way to Jacksonville.
In 2022, the project saw its first phase come to life, featuring a dozen international restaurants offering authentic cuisine from a multitude of countries. The International Food Trail has now expanded to 26 distinct dining destinations, showcasing Jacksonville’s hidden culinary treasures. From carne asada fries to Filipino baked goods, and Japanese short ribs to Jamaican beef patties, visitors can indulge in a plethora of flavors and dining experiences.
Jacksonville, also home to Camp Lejeune, exhibits a strong cultural connection to countries around the world, including Jamaica and Columbia, South America. The city's international influence provides an array of genuine culinary options at affordable prices, a rarity in towns of similar size along the NC coast.
Prepare to be taken on a culinary journey through diverse and vibrant community, led by the masters of their trade - the restaurant owners who pour their passion for culture, food, and customer satisfaction into every dish they create. This carefully crafted list of dining spots encompasses a range of international cuisines, each one offering a unique and authentic experience. From the service, to the taste, to the rich cultural stories behind the menus, these establishments have been especially selected based on their ability to transport diners to faraway lands with just one mouthwatering bite. Whether you choose to visit one or all of these culinary gems, you will be amazed and excited by the exceptional dining experiences that await you. And with the convenient Google Map provided, planning your adventure to these eateries is easy. So go ahead, take a trip through the flavors of the world and let your taste buds be your guide.
Here's a Taste of What to Expect:
LILIANA'S COLOMBIAN RESTAURANT AND BAKERY
Liliana Rios and her mother, Aura Marie Ramirez, are the talents behind the homemade dishes, pastries and cakes at this traditional Colombian restaurant. Start your meal with refreshing juices, which can also be ordered with milk for a creamier taste. Then try the papa rellena de res, deep fried mashed potatoes stuffed with ground beef, and the sancocho de gallina, a thick and satisfying chicken stew. For Saturday breakfast or brunch, try the flavorful but not-too-spicy Colombian chorizo with eggs for a great way to start the day.
Don’t miss: freshly baked arepas – Colombian cornmeal cakes stuffed with cheese. Recently made famous by the Disney movie Encanto, arepas here have become a fast favorite.
ICE CREAM SHOP PALETERIA DEYA
Homemade Mexican ice cream, handcrafted popsicles, and traditional Mexican snacks promise flavor and adventure at this spot that speaks to the kid in all of us. Everything in this family-run ice cream parlor is made from scratch with all-natural ingredients. The freezers are filled with a colorful assortment of 43 popsicle choices and 24 ice cream flavors. When it comes to savory snacks, all options are made-to-order. Want a unique smoothie? Order the popular sweet/sour/spicy/salty mangonada, a frozen mango smoothie traditionally seasoned with sweet, spicy chamoy (a sauce made with chilies, hibiscus and dried apricots) and tamarind paste.
Don’t miss: esquites, a Mexican favorite. It’s boiled street corn served in a cup layered with mayo, crumbled Mexican queso, lime juice and chili powder.
HAVANA 58 CAFE
This hidden gem of a coffee shop is veteran-co-owned and drive-thru only. Even if caffeine isn’t your thing, Havana 58 makes fruit smoothies and offers tasty “pup cups” for any four-legged friends in the car. Tres leche cake, tiramisu and chocolate cake are also on the menu here. Need protein? Try the Cuban hot dog – a cross between a Cuban sandwich and a hot dog in a bun with pickle and mustard.
Don’t miss: The Cubano coffee is served as an espresso shot sweetened with cane sugar simple syrup. For a fabulous iced coffee experience, order the non-alcoholic espresso martini, where the powerful Cuban roast coffee is served over ice with a dreamy mix of cream and chocolate syrup.
MARRAKESH MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE
Ahmad Raman opened this restaurant in 2010, and it’s now run by his sons and grandson. Head here when the mood strikes for a Moroccan and Mediterranean vibe, where the interior speaks to the family’s heritage and you can watch the chefs cook in the open kitchen. Start your meal with citrusy spiced za’tar pita drizzled with olive oil, or share a spread of the traditional dips and salad sides. Marrakesh also offers a full bar, wine list and kids menu.
Don’t miss: stuffed grape leaves or kabobs (chicken, beef or lamb), served hot off the grill. Be sure to ask for a side of classic tabouleh salad (a lemony mix of chopped parsley, green onions, cracked wheat, tomatoes and olive oil). And if you love lamb, an order of chops is a must.
Traveler Tip: You may not find detailed websites or slick social media feeds prior to your visit. Some restaurants offer them; others don’t. We recommend calling ahead to confirm days and hours of operation.