One of the modern charms of small-town city squares is the unique restaurants one can find that offer appetizing cuisines, delicious desserts, and java. Calhoun County has multiple towns where these types of restaurants can be found, but there’s a special kind of allure to one in particular–Public Square in Jacksonville, Alabama. Over the years, many businesses have come and gone, but thankfully, the culture of this quaint spot in the university town of JSU is thriving.
One of the newest eatery additions on the square has taken over a space with a lot of history. At 1 Public Square E. (formerly the home of Roma Pizza & Steak House), you can once again enjoy a delicious pizza or other American cuisine at Mon Go’s Pizza. This restaurant was opened in February of 2022 by Benjamin (Mongo) Ostrander, who had envisioned opening a restaurant for 15 years. He had studied in the culinary field in his 20’s, but also drew inspiration from his grandfather who was a grandmaster baker from the age of 12 till late in life. Mongo worked many years for the non-profit CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) until the opportunity presented itself for him to make his dream a reality, just as many restaurants were rebuilding post-pandemic.
If you’re in the mood for pizza, that’s the specialty at Mon Go’s. You can customize a 10” or 16” pizza with a wide variety of high-quality meat and vegetable toppings. The options for cheeses and sauces are noteworthy. You can choose from mozzarella, provolone, Monterrey Jack, American White/Gold, Colby Jack, Feta, Cheese Curds, White Cheddar, or Yellow Cheddar cheeses. Custom sauces include: Classico Red, Alfredo, Bama Barbeque, Tatanka Sauce, and White Wedding Sauce. Once prepped, the pizzas are baked in 6×4 double stack brick ovens.
There’s also plenty of other Italian options like calzones, chicken fettuccine alfredo, or spaghetti bolognese. Or try their catfish and chips, burgers, sandwich selections, salads, and more. You can enjoy indoor dining where art hangs on display from local artist Stephen Dabrowski, or delivery is offered in the Jacksonville area. Call (256) 365-1023 to place an order, or visit 1 Public Square E., Jacksonville, Sunday-Thursday 11am-9pm, or Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm.
Every town square needs a place to placate one’s sweet tooth post-dinner. Jacksonville’s answer to dessert shops is the newly opened Scoop Du Jour Creamery & Desserts. This shop is actually the second location–the first Scoop Du Jour was opened on Broad Street in Gadsden in September of 2020 after the Goodyear Tire Company shut down. It was such a success that the owner brought its delectable delights to 22 Public Square W.
Ice Cream is the main draw, with 32 enticing flavors which include some unique combinations: Raspberry Truffle, Apple Struddle, Butterscotch Bomb, Espresso Chip Coffee, and Milky Way. They also combine ice cream into some specialty desserts: Peach Pie or Apple Pie with Ice Cream, Red Velvet Oreo Blast, or the fan favorite Slutty Brownie and Ice Cream. Other menu items include their visually appealing specialty milkshakes, banana splits, chocolate chip cookies, and other mouth-watering sweets. You can visit them Tuesday-Thursday 12pm-7pm, Friday and Saturday 12pm-8pm, and Sunday 12pm-6pm.
No town square is complete without a local coffee shop. But The Red Bird Coffee shop is beyond typical, blending exceptional coffee and desserts with a mission. The owners Gary and Laura Humphreys, transplants from North Carolina, opened it in October of 2020 to support the Kingdom of God by offering community support to local ministries such as Big Oak Ranch Orphanage, the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), the JCOSC (Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center), and the Jacksonville City Schools. They make monetary donations to any of these based on funds raised from their unique “pay as you can” menu pricing. While they do have suggested prices on their menu, they’ll sell their java for more or less. If customers choose to pay more, the proceeds will go to the local ministries.
Laura creates the syrups and sauces that go into the drinks herself: The Redbird (Cherry, Almond, Cascarra), Mocha, Caramel, Honey Cinnamon, Vanilla, and Sugar Free Vanilla.
Their menu covers all the classic coffee shop faire–latte, cappuccino, cortado, espresso, and Americano drinks. They also offer drip, pour over, and cold brew coffees, as well as signature drinks. Their main coffee supplier is the Balconies of Heaven farm in Pangoa, Peru. The missionaries behind this enterprise, Tim Goshorn and Salvador Roncal, utilize the proceeds from their farm to feed and educate children in Peru.
Most of the baked goods offered on The Redbird Coffee menu (scones, danishes, cinnamon rolls, croissants, and cookies) come from Artisanal Baked Goods in Anniston. Visit this welcoming coffee shop Monday thru Friday 8am-6pm, or Saturday 8am-2pm at 5 Public Square E.
Other Local Favorites
We can’t be more excited about the newer restaurants on the block. Rounding up the eating choices local folks can enjoy are established restaurants specializing in Asian and Mexican cuisine. Kt Pho at Jacksonville, located at 2 Public Square W., features a wide selection of Chinese dishes, as well as Vietnamese Pho plates, Thai Curries, and Pad Thai options. Their hours of operation are Sunday-Friday 11am-9pm.
Tucked just around the corner from the main square is a local gem for street tacos–Heirloom Taco. They just celebrated their 3rd birthday, and are going strong with their offering of authentic Mexican favorites–tacos, empanadas, quesadillas, burritos–and a local favorite Mexican street corn. They’re located at 111 Ladiga St. SE, Jacksonville, and are open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-8pm.