It would appear that many professional athletes have an entrepreneurial spirit which is often ignited upon retirement. Because playing a professional sport is a much different lifestyle than that of a 9 to 5’er, most athletes aren’t trying to be confined to a cubicle when their playing career ends. This was definitely the case for former Canadian League and Arena Football player Michael Jackson. I was introduced to Micheal by his brother Tito..I am joking it was Stanley Jackson of  Ohio State, the NFL, and CFL. When I met Stan at a dinner I catered, he told me about Michael’s fabulous restaurant in Paterson, New Jersey; appropriately name Jacksonville.

As we talked about my love of cooking, Stan informed me I had to check out his brother’s spot!! So for all of my loyal readers, I have made the tremendous sacrifice of taking a road trip to experience a place that has  live music, comedy (including the likes of Tommy Davidson, David Allen Greer, Kim Coles and Earthquake), yummy drinks, and great food. Please know I did this for all of you 🙂  Part of my sacrifice also included my good friend/former teammate Shelly Mitchell-Hollingsworth and her husband Giuffre  joining me  on my visit to Jacksonville…What I won’t do to enlighten my readers…

This restaurant was amazing. When I say a true treasure hidden in Paterson, I mean a real unexpected treat!!!

There is something to be said for an establishment setting a standard and raising the bar for their community. Even though I didn’t do an extensive tour of Paterson, I would say Michael has created an environment that is providing Paterson, as well as New York and the rest of New Jersey, with a unique dining and entertainment experience. It was truly impressive….

So, this is Michael owner of Jacksonville and the Executive Chef..Yes, he is the creator of the delicious dishes you will experience at Jacksonville. We have agreed to a “throw-down” only one can come out on top!!! 

Originally from Paterson, Michael went to Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona,  Florida on a football scholarship. After leaving college, Michael made his way in the CFL. Once his career ended in Ottawa, Michael returned to New Jersey and played Arena League Football for the Red Dogs. After that Michael, like so many others who have played at the professional level, had to question what his next step in life would be. As a math major at Bethune-Cookman, Michael decided he would go to work for Merrill Lynch.  Well…that wasn’t Michael’s calling. He knew working under these terms was not what he wanted for himself. So…after two days..Micheal moved on and did some work in the entertainment industry.  There was a short film entitled “Underground Riders”, video production, and music. All along, Michael owned the space that is Jacksonville. After some high points and low points in entertainment, Michael decided to put his focus on the restaurant.

Our delicious appetizer spread…catfish strips, whiting strips, fried green beans, chicken wings, and sweet potato chips……..FABULOUS

Even though Michael is not a trained chef, he has worked over the years to refine his culinary skill.  As a result, he has now taken on the role of Executive Chef.  From what we sampled, he is doing an excellent job.

An intimate stage set up for the live performances..

Live music with a house band is one of the unique features of Jacksonville. There is a “warmth” at Jacksonville that was comforting to me. As beautiful of a facility as it is, this is not a pretentious environment, but one that is very welcoming.  Perfect for a girls night or a date night!!

What I assume is the VIP area off of the stage…..I would hope this is my seat on my next trip to Jacksonville

A chic wall, with a waterfall  I might add, that divides the front bar from the dining area…

 As Shelly and I walked around, we continued to be impressed with each step. There is a second level also for dining as well as private parties. 

There is a quaint bar as you enter the restaurant…..our girl Shane’ made us a “Moonshine Peach Ice Tea” Again, I can’t say enough about this place..It was delicious

And of course the “Wall of Fame”…Michael has since asked me a frame picture of myself

So I think you can see what a sacrifice this was on my part to put together this blog, but again I do it for you..All jokes aside, this place is truly amazing and I would encourage anyone and everyone to check out Jacksonville.. Attached is their official site for any of the details I didn’t include.

Now I must attempt to recreate one of the recipes and this will be tough. All of the food was delicious, but I am going with the catfish strips. My version is a little lighter kind of  “fish and chip” style.

Catfish Strips with Spicy Dipping Sauce


3 catfish fillets

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup cornmeal

1 1/2 cans of beer ( yes I used Coors Light)

old bay seasoning

cayenne pepper


vegetable oil for frying

1. Cut Catfish fillets into strips. Each fillet should produce 7-8

2. Generously season with salt/pepper and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

3. Heat oil in large skillet to 350 degrees over medium heat

4. Prepare batter mix flour, cornmeal, and beer. Whisk until smooth. Add old bay and cayenne to taste. About 3 tbsp of old bay and 1 tbsp of  the cayenne.  I taste my batter.  If you don’t like the heat, go with 1/2 tbsp on the cayenne.

5. To fry…dip fillets in the batter. Allow excess to drip off and place in oil. Fry about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Drain on a paper towel and season with salt…

My “cheaters” Spicy Dipping Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup Sriracha Sauce

Easy but very tasty……….

So take a road trip like me and check out Jacksonville…

Remember…Who Do You Want In Your Kitchen On Game Day!!