JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Tucked away below the bustling streets of Downtown Jacksonville is a hidden gem that specializes in serving southern-style seafood: J.L. Trent’s Downtown Café.
The restaurant is located in the basement of the BB&T building, 200 W. Forsyth Street, Ste. C-3, is a spinoff of the popular J.L. Trent’s Seafood and Grill off of Roosevelt Boulevard near NAS Jacksonville, which was established back in 1997.
Though the cafe specializes in seafood dishes, it also serves a wide-variety of popular lunch-menu items like burgers, sandwiches, wraps and chicken wings.
“We have people coming in three-to-four times a week for the wings,” smiled Deena Trent, the owner and operator the downtown location. Trent is also the wife of the founder, James Lee (J.L.) Trent.
The Downtown Café was first opened back in 2016. Since then, Trent said it’s been a huge success.
“Downtown Jacksonville was the place to be,” she said. “It’s very poppin’, very busy spot … we serve 100 plus people a day in a two-and-a-half hour period.”
Similar to its other location, Trent said J.L. Trent’s Downtown Café is also family-owned and operated.
“This location is different [from other downtown restaurants] because it’s a close-knit family that runs it,” Trent said. "My husband, son, daughter, we all work here. A sister works here. A nanny to my children does too. It’s family and that’s what sets us apart.”
Trent said what they also find important is showing their customers that they care, not just about their business, but about their lives, as if they are part of the Trent family. She said they recognize the regulars and address them by name.
“You can tell when you come in that we care, that we’re genuine,” she said. “We want to make our customers happy and keep coming back because it impacts us personally.”
What are your prices?
“Our prices range anywhere from $7 to $12 to $14. We have a wide variety from grilled cheese to seafood.”
What are your specialties?
“Jumbo shrimp, fried shrimp, anything seafood is what we do, what we are. That’s where we got our start.”
Most popular dishes?
Bang Bang Shrimp ($9.50)
Beer Battered Haddock ($9)
Bang Bang Fish Wrap ($9)
Double cheeseburger ($9)
What are your favorites?
“I’m a huge fan of the Bang Bang Fish Wrap, Beer Battered Haddock, the fish and shrimp combo and Mike’s honey buffalo chicken bites … we make our own sauces!”
How long are the wait times?
“Typically, our wait times run 10 to 12 minutes. During the lunch rush … our longest wait time is 15 to 20 minutes … Everything is fresh and we cook to order.”
Where: 200 W. Forsyth St., Ste. C-3 (in the basement of the BB&T building)
Hours: Monday to Friday, 10:45 a.m. to 3 p.m.