The local couple behind Jacksonville’s Abstrakt Filipino Essence food truck plans to open a 40-seat restaurant in Jacksonville Beach this summer.
Chef JoJo Hernandez, who opened his food truck in 2020, rented a 1,600 square foot former real estate office with his wife, Desiree. The restaurant, at 1500 Beach Blvd. in the Gates of Beach Boulevard shopping center next to Engine 15 Brewery will feature an open kitchen and be built from the ground up. Hota Design Studio of Jacksonville is the architect of the new restaurant.
Hernandez said he chose the location based on the Filipino population in the area and added that he “knows” it and thinks its style of cooking would “blend with the tastes of the community.” .
The restaurant’s lease is for five years with an option to renew. Hernandez said he plans to keep the food truck for now, but use it for events and focus his efforts on the restaurant.
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Jojo Hernandez is originally from the Philippines and moved to the United States in 1995. He started out as a cook at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club at age 21, and was promoted to sous chef and started running the kitchen. He then spent 18 years at the Florida Yacht Club in Ortega as sous chef to the banquet chef before becoming sous chef to the executive sous chef and overseeing the club’s a la carte and banquet cuisine for lunch and dinner.
He quit the yacht club to pursue his dreams, opening the Abstrakt Filipino Essence food truck on March 18, 2020, in downtown Court Urban Food Park, just as the pandemic hit. Despite the uncertainty of this time, Hernandez said his first two years were “a success” and that he was “beyond grateful to the Jacksonville community.”
Inspired by the cooking of his wife and mother, and with two young children at home (now three), Hernandez longed for more flexibility and the ability to focus on the Filipino cuisine that was so near and dear to him. .
Food truck bestsellers include pancit and lumpia, pork belly sisig, and tocino chicken bowl with crispy Brussels sprouts. He said he plans to incorporate a Sunday brunch at the restaurant that will feature longsilog, a traditional dish of longganisa sausage, fried eggs and garlic rice. The plan is to open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., with a Filipino brunch on Sunday.
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Hernandez said he plans to use his country club experience to create a relaxed, family atmosphere to sit down and enjoy the meal. He says it won’t be a “quick” experience and wants customers to feel relaxed.
“Never in my dreams did I think I could open a restaurant,” Hernandez said. “I am inspired every day by my wife, Desiree, and my mother, Maybelene, and my three children, Razzlyn Joy, Aiden Ely and Eugene Jamie.”
Caron Streibich is a cooking enthusiast who reviews restaurants in the Life section. Follow her culinary adventures on facebook.com/caroneats and #caroneats on Instagram.