We’re always excited when a new restaurant opens in Jacksonville, so we’re happy to review the new California Pizza Kitchen. The restaurant is located at 4712 River City Drive, across from Magianno’s at St. Johns Town Center. California Pizza Kitchen has a youthful following who like to refer to it simply as “CPK” so we’ll do the same.
We at Jacksonville Fine Dining Examiner have visited the Orlando, Millenia Mall location and recently paid a visit to the Jacksonville CPK. We wouldn’t say this is our favorite chain for pizza but it still has a lot to offer. Here’s what we think.
The exterior of the restaurant features large CPK signs and outdoor, sidewalk seating reminiscent of a European eatery. Given that our previous experiences with CPK have all been at the huge Millenia location we expected another large restaurant. In contrast, the Jacksonville version of CPK is somewhat smaller.
As for decorations, there weren’t many to speak of. The tables consist of light wood and there is a good deal of booth and bar seating with a few flatscreens overhead. Also, the kitchen and the large pizza ovens were visible from our seat. All in all, the restaurant seemed clean but there’s nothing in the decor that creates any sort of “wow factor.”
CPK has a better menu than most pizza chains, however, it’s still somewhat commercialized. This can be a good thing because chain restaurant quality control keeps popular items on the menu and replaces unpopular options. However, don’t expect to find anything truly unique here.
To start the meal, we tried Mediterranean plate, which has antipasto, hummus, and traditional pizza crust for dipping. We also tried the field greens salad, which had marinated pears and delicious candied walnuts with Dijon balsamic vinaigrette. We were highly pleased with both these appetizers and recommend them strongly.
CPK is known for its BBQ chicken pizzas. These pizzas come in a few varieties. On our recent visit, we chose the Hawaiian BBQ pizza (pictured on the left) with a honey wheat dough. This dough was of a standard thickness that was closer to thin crust than deep dish. The pizza itself has a BBQ sauce base along with seasoned chicken, cheese, and pineapple. The pizza was good but wasn’t noticeably better than other local pizza restaurants like Mellow Mushroom, Al’s, and Urban Flats.
Drinks are worth noting here because CPK offers a wide variety. First, there are flavored lemonades and teas available. We tried the mango and strawberry teas and found them overly sweet. This may be a plus for lovers of ultra-sweet teas but we ended up switching back to unflavored tea for our second glass. Mojitos, wine, and a solid beer selection are also available.
As with any new restaurant, there are kinks to work out in terms of service and other areas. Our waitress was attentive and knew the menu well. However, there was one awkward incident where our server brought tea refills at the same time another waitress also brought refills. This is to be expected and the service was quite good overall.
Given the excellent location and solid fan base, we foresee a rosy future for the new CPK. We also expect long waits to be seated until the new restaurant hysteria wears off. If you haven’t visited one of these restaurants before, we suggest you do.