Alex: It took some time, a good amount of searching, and finally a dose of patience to find my new favorite place to eat during my lunch break. My trips to the fast food joints were always rushed and unfulfilling, but anywhere interesting would take longer than I wanted to spend. Enter Liberty Bakery; satisfying both my need for a quick turnaround and my love for all things local all in one fell swoop.
Liberty Bakery is an adorable little building, about two steps above being called a “shack”. It’s nestled between Bowden Rd and Parental Home Rd in Jacksonville. There are no other buildings nearby. It stands alone; an outpost of patriotic themed food and baked goods manned by the bubbly and lovable Grace Kernan (with some helpers) standing against the teeming masses of hungry people in any direction.
I first caught wind that they’d opened up from a friend at work emailing the menu. It was still early that day, and I’d forgotten to pack my lunch so it seemed as good a time as any to try a new place out. I pulled up, and for the life of me I couldn’t decide on what to get. It was during that moment of uncertainty that I knew that I had to try absolutely everything they offered, from the Abra-Ham Lincoln to the Peanut Butter and Jelly (and Doritos).
That first day, I decided to go with the Red, White, and BBQ lunch combo with a hazelnut heath cookie. Somehow I made it back to work without diving into the bag, but when I opened the sandwich up I had no regrets that I’d waited. The shredded chicken soaked up all the barbeque sauce, and the sautéed onions made an already amazing sandwich completely incredible. Not to be outdone, the hazelnut heath cookie was a great combination of toffee and nutty flavors that left me wishing for more.
That first lunch had me hooked, and since then I’ve done fairly well working my way through their menu. Two if by Brie brings turkey, brie, and cranberry sauce together and is definitely one of my favorite comfort sandwiches. We the Pesto is certainly one of their more gourmet offerings, a shaved chicken sandwich topped with pesto aioli, a tangy balsamic glaze, and tomatoes so fresh I could still taste the sunshine on them. Last but not least is the Johnny Apple Cheese, which I had refrained from until only recently because it sounded so much like a dessert. Thinly cuts chunks of fresh apples covered in caramel sauce and topped with both Havarti and Swiss cheese. Oh, and I forgot to mention that every single sandwich they make is on fresh homemade bread and usually lightly buttered and toasted for extra decadence.
Though I have waxed eloquent about Grace’s skill and creativity in the sandwich arena, her skills in baking are just as fantastic, if not better. Her mother’s recipe for homemade carrot cake is absolutely to die for, stuffed with shredded carrots and raisins and so wonderfully moist. Her other treats are incredible, and she cycles through them once a week. One thing I hope she always keeps on her menu forever and always is her cinnamon rolls. I can’t really express how much I love them, coated with sweet homemade icing and so buttery and tender. These are the kind of sweets I grew up sneaking off of the kitchen counter; and somehow she has reached back into the past and served up a delicious bite of my childhood. I really can’t say for sure since the treats will change from week to week, but it will be a tough thing for her to make something that I love more than her cinnamon rolls.
I’m so glad to have found Liberty Bakery, because finally I can eat something I love that I couldn’t even pretend that I can make at home and not feel like I’m bankrupting myself to do it. Everyone there is so nice and friendly, and the quick service has you in and out before your lunch break is over. When I get back to work and peel the blue painters tape off and reveal a heart-shaped sour cream biscuit (baked with extra love!) I know I’ve found the right place to eat.
6661 Bowden Rd.