/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
By Kristina Aviles, DVI Intern
When you walk into Azucena Corner Deli, you’ll find a friendly staff, meals freshly cooked with ingredients from local farmers and a wall of beer calling your name. Located in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville on the corner of Forsyth and Ocean Street, Azucena recently gained a new owner who is excited to see what this opportunity has in store.
Marlon Hubbard became an investor with the founder, Cheikh Mboup, and recently took over Azucena in March 2015 when Mboup moved out of the area. Named after the mother of Mboup’s mentor, “Azucena” also stands for a white lily flower which to them, represents purity, simplicity and a drive for growth.
When asked to describe Azucena in one word, Marlon quickly said, “community.”
Marlon and his wife, Chevara, stressed how much the community means to them.
“We want the restaurant to serve as a community space and hope to restore the soul of the city.”
Their goal is to give back to their employees, not only giving them a job, but encouraging them and creating stepping stones for a better future. Most importantly, they strive to give back to Jacksonville and their customers.
A unique feature Azucena offers are its gender neutral bathrooms, making sure customers feel welcomed.
As Marlon grew up watching Cheers, he was inspired by the bar’s fun atmosphere where people became regulars and everyone knew each others’ names. Marlon wants customers to feel at home when they come to Azucena.
When it comes to the restaurant, “We focus on three things: good food, good service and a clean establishment.”
With a background in marketing and advertising, work has led Marlon to live in several states. He moved to Jacksonville in 2010 and Chevara moved to Jacksonville a year and a half after him.
“After growing up with extreme hardship,” Chevara said, “I became committed to community, understanding connections.” Currently, they live in a home that was built in 1924 in historic Springfield, connecting themselves to development, restoration and revitalization.
After you give them your ID, you receive a wristband with a badge on it. You take the wristband and tap on the beer want (beers featured include local brews and other great craft brews), pour and drink. It charges you by ounce so you can pour as much or as little as you would like. On the screens above each tap, you can read the history and description of each beer, find instructions on how to pour and see how much beer you have poured so far. It’s great because you can sample each beer to see what suits your taste buds plus you don’t have to wait in line for the bartender.
This deli can satisfy your cravings from omelettes, pastries and lattes to gyros, sandwiches and beer. Some of their most popular dishes include Seared Ahi Tuna Salad, the chef’s special Curried Shrimp and Grits, Herb Grilled Shrimp Skewers and Sweet Potato Fries. However, Marlon and Chevara both agreed their favorites would have to be their dessert brought in for customers from Three Layers Café and “The Hub,” named after owner Marlon Hubbard. It’s a take on the Philly sandwich, finished off as a Panini press.
You can join Azucena for breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour… But that’s not all:
- One Night Stand: River City Karaoke | Every Monday you can come out and have fun all while helping a cause. Each week they highlight a local nonprofit doing critical and meaningful work in the community with “Karaoke for a Cause.” 10% of all proceeds benefit the organization.
- Azucena After Dark | Every Thursday you can enjoy live music featuring the talent of local musicians, DJs and vocalists.
- Femme Floetry: Womyn Rockin’ the Mic (men are invited to drop a verse or two) | On the first Tuesday of each month, Azucena offers women a safe space to talk about the intersection of their lives. Once a quarter they partner with the Women’s Center of Jacksonville and other women’s organizations to have an evening for women who are survivors of violence to talk and share their stories.