Ever since Dig Foods Café opened in Jacksonville, Florida, in May of this year, the peanut gallery has been relentless: “Have you been to Dig yet?” “We should really go to Dig, like soon!” “You have to go to Dig; it’s awesome!”
Well, we figured that unless owner and chef Sean Sigmon had suffered some rare form of amnesia that affected his masterful chefly skills, it would be awesome—but downtown is a long trek from TOA headquarters for a weekday lunch-only spot. However, when popular demand caused a June shift to Tuesday through Saturday hours, the time had come.
The TOA crew ventured over to 113 East Bay Street a few Saturdays ago, reflecting all the way on that “popular demand.” We recounted sold-out, intriguingly themed brunches at Bold Bean, well-received popup and charity events and, of course, the grilled pizzas that were snapped up as fast as Sigmon could make them on Tuesday nights at Intuition Ale Works.
Dig owner and chef Sean Sigmon at a 2012 benefit dinner.
The key to Sigmon’s success seems to be that he applies his magic touch to fresh, local, seasonal, organic ingredients and eschews animal products—an approach that a huge part of the Jacksonville population has been yearning for. The refrain from the peanut gallery back then was “Wouldn’t it be nice to go to a restaurant without having to worry about whether or not something was cooked in butter?” and “Ack! A vegan restaurant just opened in (pick a city). Why can’t we have that?!” So for Sigmon, it was really either open a restaurant or wake up chained to somebody’s stove.
An example of the local, organic food Sigmon might work with. This bounty comes from KYV Farm, which is accepting CSA memberships now.
Now we do have “that.” A healthy (and cruelty-free) gourmet-casual restaurant has finally come to Jacksonville! The first thing you notice about Dig is that it’s actually inside the entertainment venue Underbelly. A section of the space has been curtained off for the café’s cozy booths and tables-for-four. Everything, even the hostess stand on wheels, has a reclaimed/homemade look to it. Someone has a bit of low-overhead genius in them! And we’re not sure exactly what the arrangement is between Dig and Underbelly, but putting an existing space to multiple uses is always a beautiful thing, environmentally speaking.
We love that you can choose your entree portion size and that Dig works with other local businesses like vegan bakery Sweet Theory!
Being nostalgic types, our crew already had their hearts set on the grilled pizzas, but we did manage to branch out and start with the carrot and ginger soup of the day. The fact that it was a chilled soup was an unexpected, but pleasant, surprise in the heat of the day. The flavors were perfectly balanced – not too much ginger, not too much carrot – and the texture was pure silk. It didn’t even last long enough for a photo! We should have ordered the bowl instead of the cup.
So many delicious choices!
The arrival of the pizzas brought back everyone’s crust envy. How that man gets grilled, thin-crust pizza dough so fluffy, with just the right touch of crispiness, has got to involve the dark arts. The margherita pizza’s fantastic homemade sauce, decadent cashew cheeze and sprinkle of basil always disappears fast. But the sweet potato and kalamata olive pizza, with its complementary textures, held its own. No one could choose a favorite!
The crew was full, but the mutiny of those who’d been convinced to skip the popular farm chop salad and the spaghetti squash with roasted eggplant special in favor of the pizzas was imminent, so we made a peace offering of the homemade lemon cornmeal cake with fresh blueberries and coconut cream. What an ideal dessert! Once again, Sigmon’s genius at balancing flavors, letting each one shine, was on display. The double slice of cake had just a hint of crust to it, while the inside was moist. It didn’t suffer from over-sweetness either, as do too many restaurant desserts. Instead, it shone in a sandwich of sweetness from the coconut cream on the plate and tartness from the berries on top.
A little fuzzy, but we were full up to our eyeballs with pizza by then!
While we’re excited that Jacksonville finally has an animal product-free eatery, the food is simply fantastic regardless of your dietary choices. But what is the peanut gallery saying now? “You know that list everyone has of great restaurants you have to take family and friends who are visiting from out of town to? Dig is at the top of my list now!” Yeah, it’s like that.
Dig Foods is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Go.
P.S. Want more? Read other reviews of Dig Foods Café on Urban Spoon:
At the April 27 Tree Hill Nature Center Butterfly Festival, folks were able to sign up for email subscription to The Organic Adventurer, thus entering a drawing for an official Organic Adventurer T-shirt.
This is the design on the back:
These beauties are super-soft Anvil Organic cotton T-shirts in their City Green color. We wanted to avoid plastisol, so we worked with a Jacksonville, Fla., local small business, Great Atlantic Outfitters, to use water-based discharge ink. This creates a softer feel and doesn’t leave the plasticized texture that you can feel on many T-shirt designs.
We have sizes M, L, XL, XXL available for $15 each, plus shipping. More info. is available on our T-shirt page.
If you decide to order, know that your purchase will help support our environmental education efforts. And we’re all about spreading the eco-love, so $1 from the sale of every shirt will be donated to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that watches all of our backs when it comes to the toxins in our everyday lives: household chemicals, cosmetics and toiletries, food and more. And they also work to improve policies regarding drinking water, energy, and other “big picture” issues.
Thanks in advance for your support, and please feel free to use the Contact page if you have any questions about the shirts or ordering (or anything else).
Okay, on to the winner: Congratulations to Chantel W. of Arlington on winning an official Organic Adventurer T-shirt!! We’ll be contacting you for your size preference and delivery info.
Thanks again to everyone who came out to the Butterfly Festival this year. It was wonderful meeting all of you! And keep an eye on The Organic Adventurer site as we may add other products and have other special offers throughout the year.
It seems like here in North Florida, it’s either feast or famine when it comes to rain. Today we’re feasting…more like drowning, really!
If this keeps up, we'll have to name this river!
So it seemed like a great day to reflect on last Saturday’s sunshine-filled celebration of a critter that’s most definitely not flying about today. The 12th annual Joseph A. Strasser Butterfly Festival at Tree Hill Nature Center was every bit as ideal as the weather we had for it: upper 70s, sunshine and a nice breeze all day long.
Interesting butterfly trivia and quotes were chalked throughout the trails at Tree Hill.
Families started rolling in as soon as the gates opened and stayed long after the festival was over. One Tree Hill staffer told us that there are always plenty of people who end up walking back to their cars at the off-site parking long after the free shuttle arranged by the event’s organizers stops running. We don’t have an official count of attendees, but we can say there was a constant, heavy stream of people down the path on which the majority of the vendor-participants were situated.
TOA's home for the day.
And what a crowd it was—old, young, families, singles, kids and more kids! There were those with lots of earth-friendly experience and those with none. How exciting it is to connect with so many different kinds of people on so many different levels. The kids who came by our table got butterfly, flower and animal stickers while the adults signed up for our T-shirt drawing (more on that later) and got some information on reducing indoor air pollution, eliminating toxic household substances, energy efficiency, food safety and security, and much, much more.
Colorful butterfly banners flew in the open areas of the preserve.
Actually, it wasn’t just adults, of course. One little girl told us all about her organic raised-bed garden (yay!), a young man shyly offered that he was hoping to get earth-friendly ideas for Boy Scout projects and a sweet little wing-wearing eco-warrior told us about her concern for sustainability. If nothing else, we got a renewed sense of hope for the future from the Butterfly Festival.
The butterfly parachute canopy was a big hit!
No one can resist a colorful bouncy slide!
It was so busy, we didn’t get much of a chance to walk around during the festival, but we were situated right behind the amphitheater and the live entertainment sounded great and seemed like a big hit. Around about 3:10 or so, everyone started moving in one direction down the path toward the field on the other side of the amphitheater trying to score a good spot for the butterfly release. At 3:30, all of us along the path turned in that direction, hoping to see the rainbow of wings paint the sky. The excitement of the countdown was palpable, and the cheer upon the release could surely have been heard across town. A few minutes later, butterflies started filtering back to us in the woods, searching for shady spots and flowers.
A restful spot
After the festival, we got a chance to walk around and see the Pink Flamingo Arts tent where kids had been painting pottery; the butterfly tent, which was still packed full of people visiting with the winged “Nature Deficit Disorder” therapists; and the amazing Arlington Community Garden, hosted on the grounds of Tree Hill.
The butterfly tent is always a big draw.
The envy-inducing Arlington Community Garden...look at those Brussels sprout greens!
We also got a peek at the brand new boardwalk trail. It looks like it’s going to be an amazing addition, allowing people even greater access to this urban nature preserve. And, of course, we caught sight of a few butterflies resting after their big day.
The merest peek at the new boardwalk trail
Can you spot the butterfly?
What a fantastic day everyone had enjoying nature, entertainment and education in one of our city’s treasured natural spaces, Tree Hill. Even if you didn’t get to come out to the festival this year, make plans to come out to Tree Hill soon. They have so much to offer: excellent natural history and nature exhibits in the Nature Center; First Friday Twilight Treks that include dinner, natural history stories, hands-on experiments, a guided trail tour and owl calling; a book club; Saturday programs—we can’t even list it all here! You can rent space for birthday parties at Tree Hill or rent the amphitheater for bigger events. Tree Hill also offers memberships.
During the festival, we were asked so many great questions that we thought it would be a good idea to share just a few below. Question answering is what we do, so if you’d like to set up a consultation, please use the Contact page to get in touch!
Finally, if you signed up for the T-shirt drawing, remember that you must respond to the confirmation email you received in order to complete your entry. If you didn’t get a confirmation email, please check your spam folder. If it’s not there, go to our home page and enter the same email you used at the festival where it says “Follow By Email,” and then follow the instructions that appear.
Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to make sure our kayaks are sound…just in case!
FAQs from the Festival
I thought all that “green living” stuff was more expensive. Can you really save money by living sustainably?
Yes! This question was prompted by a graphic that we always have at our event table. It shows the cost comparison of three very basic sustainable-living recommendations with their “conventional” counterparts. For example, did you know that a family of four can save more than $100 a year by using cloth napkins and towels instead of paper napkins and towels? Now think of all the other single-use paper products we typically have in our homes and workplaces…it really adds up!
Are there any good farmers markets in town?
That’s a huge yes! Lots of people wanted to know about farmers markets, the number of which has exploded in Jacksonville in the past couple of years. Keep in mind that not all farmers markets are equal; there may be specific things you want to look for or avoid. That said, there’s a listing of Jacksonville farmers markets under the Jax Farmers Markets tab here on our site. It even includes a link to a map of their approximate locations! For our far-flung readers, try starting with the Local Harvest website.
Where can I find a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm?
We talked with a number of people about sustainable agriculture and the benefits of local, organic food. Some were new to the area and some were new to the idea of getting their food from someplace other than the grocery store, but they all wanted to know where they could find such local businesses to invest in! Just as with farmers markets, there are things you’ll want to consider before subscribing to a farm – locations of drop-offs or pick-ups and a match between their practices and your values are just a couple – and you’ll need to remember that there are differences between a single-farm CSA and a co-op. That said, two CSA farms in Jacksonville are KYV Farm and Down to Earth Farm and two area co-ops are The Veggie Bin and Urban Organics. Again, there are a number of CSAs and co-ops in the area and, of course, tons around the country, so start with the Local Harvest website above or try the Co-op Directory Service Listing or do a search in Sustainable Table’s Eat Well Guide.
Where can I get a set of reusable utensils?
We usually have our sustainable dining pouch on display at events, and lots of people asked about the awesome reusable utensils in it. Ours are To-Go Ware, which we bought locally at Native Sun Natural Foods Market. We seem to remember they may be on sale there now. If you’re not in the area, use the “Retailers” tab at the To-Go Ware website to find a retailer in your area.
Do you have a question for The Organic Adventurer?
Contact us! We’d love to hear from you.
There are a ridiculous number of fantastic events going on in Jacksonville, FL, on Saturday, April 27, one of which is a virtual institution in this town: the Butterfly Festival at Tree Hill Nature Center. This year, The Organic Adventurer is very excited to be participating in this celebration of nature, so allow us to tell you a bit about it.
The Butterfly Festival always offers something unique for its thousands of visitors, and this year is no exception! From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., young and old alike can enjoy the live butterfly exhibit. This is a huge attraction at the festival. Take a piece of cantaloupe into the butterfly tent and be enchanted by these delicate creatures.
The butterfly tent attracts those of all ages
A bit of fruit brings child and butterfly together
There will also be hands-on animal encounters, all-day live entertainment, face painting, free kids’ crafts by Pink Flamingo Arts, inflatables and more. Local artists and vendors will have eco-friendly arts and crafts, and a portion of the sales of food, drinks and frozen treats will be donated to Tree Hill. The Organic Adventurer will be there with information on how to integrate healthy, eco-friendly tips, products and methods into your daily life and how you can save money doing it! We’ll also have a raffle for an official Organic Adventurer T-shirt, so stop by our booth and say hello!
The Butterfly Festival offers hands-on animal encounters
The live entertainment alone is worth the admission price
There are always plenty of fun, creative activities for kids
Speaking of booths, there are all kinds of educational and environmental organizations out doing their thing at the Butterfly Festival. In years past, we’ve seen the Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club and many more. One year, we even met some folks from the Jax Herpetological Society educating people about reptiles, which was fortunate because, less than a week later, we knew who to call for help with a pygmy rattlesnake!
One of the Jax Herpetological Society helpers...two of them, actually!
The highlight of the day, though, will come at 3:30 p.m. when a riot of colorful butterflies is released with the help of a special Dreams Come True child. It really is going to be an amazing day. Tree Hill executive director Mark Mummaw says, “We encourage everyone to come out, connect with nature and have fun while supporting science and nature education in our community.”
The magical moment of the butterfly release
That’s a good point: This is, after all, Tree Hill’s biggest fundraising event of the year. So what is Tree Hill and what do they do? What kind of “supporting science and nature education” would you be doing by spending the $5 for adults, $3 for kids, or $4 for seniors, students and military?
First, the 50-acre nature preserve has been providing first-class, hands-on environmental education — not to mention being an oasis of natural beauty in the heart of Arlington — since 1971.
Tree Hill is one big, open-air learning experience
Second, the property features trails, gardens, native and exhibit animals and a hands-on natural history museum and has provided interactive programs and low-cost access to a natural space to over 15,000 visitors this year alone.
Executive director Mark Mummaw in front of one of Tree Hill's natural history exhibits
Third, Tree Hill does all this promoting of environmental stewardship (which you gotta love!) as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. In other words, they do a LOT of good for our town, its residents (especially the kids) and our planet.
So do come out this Saturday any time between 10 and 4, have some good family fun, visit with the animals and walk the trails, be one of the first to see Tree Hill’s new Boardwalk Trail, check out local artists and entertainers, see what local environmental groups have going on and support a great organization. Oh, and of course stop by The Organic Adventurer’s booth and get your green (and your wings) on!
Listen up, Northeast Florida business owners! There’s a nonprofit in town that’s under-recognized and under-utilized, and they want to save you money and reward you for your sustainability efforts. I know, I know, all of our nonprofits are under-recognized and a lot of them are under-utilized. But we’re talking about the U.S. Green Building Council North Florida chapter!
Courtesy USGBC NF
“Who?!” you ask? The U.S. Green Building Council North Florida (www.usgbcnf.org) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit trying to create a sustainable region and green buildings for all in North Florida within this generation. They tell us that they really want Jacksonville to be one of the “Greenest Cities in America!” If you’ve ever heard a business like a hotel or an organization like a school describe their facility as “LEED-certified,” the USGBC NF are the folks who guided them through the process of earning that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. The University of North Florida, the City of Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services and the Mayo Clinic’s Sleep Center are just a few of those the USGBC NF has helped.
UNF's LEED Gold-certified College of Education Building
Don’t be fooled by the word “building” into thinking they’re all for pouring concrete into our wetlands either. They do help owners of new buildings build as green as new construction could possibly be, but they really focus a lot on improving the sustainability of existing buildings.
But back to how they can save you money! Chances are, your business’s building is using more energy and water than it really needs to. According to the EPA, energy costs are a business property’s single largest operating expense. The USGBC NF is offering a series of three free workshops, called greenWORKs, to help businesses improve their bottom line through the financial benefits of energy use reduction as well as improve their environmental sustainability.
The March 20 workshop (that’s this Wednesday, so register now!) will cover reducing demand for energy and water within a building. The April 25 workshop will teach participants how to analyze their building’s energy performance with auditing tools. The May 20 workshop will bring everything together with information on commissioning buildings, implementing strategies, and measurement and verification. All workshops take place at Everbank Center Auditorium from 4-6 p.m. Register through the chapter’s events calendar at www.usgbcnf.org/event-calendar.
Then the chapter wants to give your participating, newly energy efficient business some green street cred. On May 23 from 5-8 p.m., they’ll recognize businesses that participated in the greenWORKs initiative, as well as present awards to Jacksonville’s sustainability leaders, at their annual awards gala at UNF’s The Boathouse, a LEED Gold-certified facility. Last year’s nominees included Green Hero Award winner Amanda Searle of Sustainable Springfield, a nonprofit community organization focusing on sustainable food systems; Breaking Ground Contracting, Green Business of the Year; and Interior Design + Construction award winner Gresham Smith & Partners.
Participate in the greenWORKs initiative and you can network with other sustainability-minded business owners at the awards gala
So, businesses, register for the USGBC NF’s greenWORKs initiative workshops, save your business some money, start your journey to being a “green” business leader, and help Jacksonville become one of the “Greenest Cities in America!”