The historic Bostwick Building sat tragically idle for years, rain falling through holes in the roof, interior slipping deep into disrepair, and its jaguar-themed murals fading away. With a location just down the ramp from the Main Street Bridge, it was one of the first structures visitors into Downtown saw, and its deteriorating state made it an eyesore and a prime candidate for demolition. Fortunately, City Hall’s efforts to spur a renovation opened the door for restaurateur Jacques Klempf and executive chef Ian Lynch to create what could be the jewel of Downtown dining, Cowford Chophouse.
Cowford’s highly anticipated opening in October came after a painstaking, two-year renovation. Architecture firm DCOOP’s exquisite design gives each of the three floors its own look and feel while still sharing a harmonious aesthetic. The ground floor has a grand bar and large community tables crafted from wood saved during the renovation, ringed by plush seating and smaller tables. The second floor is suited for the full fine dining experience, with more space between settings and white tablecloths. The second floor also has a small bar to the side, though if the plan is to sit at a bar, the view of the illuminated Main Street bridge from the rooftop bar at night is a sight to behold.
While the lunch and bar bites menus are modest, the dinner menu reflects Cowford’s billing as a proper chophouse, so diners should expect upper tier steakhouse prices. Guests are greeted with a concise list of appetizers, the most notable being the duck fat cornbread ($17), chopped salad ($13), and wood-fired French onion soup ($11). Larger parties could elect to sample from the roasted seafood tower ($110), with oysters, shrimp, king crab, and lobster tail. Cowford’s dry-aged 38-ounce tomahawk steak tops out at $130 and it is a seriously thick ribeye cut that could feed an entire table. There is also a ribeye cap ($65/85) that is as flavorful as advertised, though there might not be anything on the menu quite as tender as the Wagyu filet ($50/95). The cuts are served a la carte, so side dishes are ordered separately and accommodate two guests.
Red meat aside, there is a respectable seafood selection, with a daily fresh catch ($36) preparation over a celery root purée and braised leeks, as well as a pan-seared halibut ($40). The Saint-André cheese risotto ($26) is also a fine alternative to beef.
Klempf brought over executive pastry chef Michael Bump, formerly of Restaurant Orsay, to craft the dessert side of the menu. His baked Alaska ($10) is a stunner on a plate as is his carrot cake ($10), which incorporates coconut, pineapple, golden raisins, an airy cream cheese icing and pecan oil from local farm Congaree & Penn.
Parking Metered spots (free after 5 PM) on the block are there to find, complimentary valet is available during daily dinner service at the Ocean Street entrance, and nearby garages offer parking at various prices.
Planning Reservations via OpenTable or by phone are highly recommended, as tables—especially on the quieter second floor—are hard to get.
Raise Your Glasses The view of Downtown is undeniably stunning from the rooftop bar. It’s an excellent place to grab a drink and snack on a selection of appetizers.
Cowford Chophouse 101 E. Bay St., Downtown • (904) 862-6464 • Cowfordchophouse.com
Published in the December 2017 issue of Jacksonville Magazine.