In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, Flagler County restaurants are thriving, welcoming tourists and residents, alike, with an array of menu options and the same hospitality that has made this destination a favorite for decades.
In its fifth year of business, Kokomo’s Café is located in the central district of Flagler Beach and serves breakfast, lunch, homemade desserts, beer, wine and espresso drinks with a fun, quirky, hometown vibe and brilliant beach views. The restaurant specializes in different types of sandwiches, including breakfast sandwiches, like the popular Pastrami Breakfast Sandwich. Lunchtime favorites include the Chicken Salad, along with a sandwich called the Cowabunga, featuring a stack of roast beef, ham, bacon and cheddar, topped with red onion, field greens, banana peppers and horseradish, served hot on a fresh roll. To top it off, everyone loves the eatery’s homemade sangria.
“We took Hurricane Matthew very seriously. We buttoned down the building,” said owner Christine Hutsell. “Even with our precautions, the storm damaged the front of the building significantly, tearing off all of the siding.” The restaurant was able to run generators to the freezers so they did not lose product. As soon as the storm passed, Hutsell worked closely with Emergency Management, returning to business as usual soon after electricity was turned back on, even though part of the restaurant’s sign was along A1A and another part was found two blocks away. It took three weeks to fully restore the exterior of the building but the restaurant was only closed three days.
“After Hurricane Matthew we had regular customers from out of town who were calling us or messaging us via social media to ask us if Flagler Beach was still open,” said Hutsell. “We really put it out there that Flagler Beach, as a whole, was doing fine and was open. We made it a priority to spread the message that we were ready to accommodate visitors because tourism is important to our business and the entire area.”
Kokomo’s is always changing the menu and adding new signature dishes like smoothies to keep things interesting on a regular basis. (202 S Central Ave, Flagler Beach, KokomosFlaglerBeach.com)
Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill, located directly on A1A, offers an ocean of flavor, an ocean of fun, something for everyone, in the words of owner, John Lulgjuraj. Here, the atmosphere is cool, causal and service is number one. Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the eatery specializes in dishes like their famous Greek Salad and their pizza—a fusion of New York and Greek style pizza that’s not too thick, but not too thin, with a crispy crust, layered with homemade pizza sauce, Bacio mozzarella cheese and sprinkled with a little “Magic” seasoning. Taste bud tempting bites coupled with an unobstructed beach view and outdoor, upstairs deck seating that overlooks the ocean makes this restaurant a Flagler favorite.
With such close proximity to A1A, Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill was one of the hardest hit area businesses during Hurricane Matthew. Lulgjuraj says he had about a dozen employees who were so affected by the storm and had nowhere to live, that they were forced to move back home, out of state. The storm also cost Lulgjuraj about $250,000 in lost revenue and coincided with a personally hectic time in his own life—the arrival of his newborn baby.
Now, things are looking brighter than ever, with a thriving business and open beaches.
“After the storm, the community came together. Within a month and a half we regained our loyal customer following with the re-opening of A1A,” said Lulgjuraj, who currently employs more than 70 people. (1848 S Ocean Shore Blvd, Flagler Beach, OceansideFlagler.com)