Flagler Beach – You'll Eat It Up

By: Denise Maloof

From caffeine to sweets, it's all here, with a dash of the ocean.

Yowling stomachs and yowling from the back seat signal meal time for most four-wheeled Florida travelers.

How lucky if the uprising coincides with a passage through Flagler County.

A three-mile detour east off Exit 284 (SR 100) of Interstate 95 leads straight to Flagler Beach, an unpretentious coastal community that serves everything from morning caffeine to evening sweets – all with a tinge of salt air.

"I think it's always a surprise to come off the interstate and see how close the ocean is and the variety of places that are available," said Amy Lukasik, tourism marketing manger for Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. "The old Florida and laid-back atmosphere is something you don't see everywhere."

Troll for breakfast, lunch or dinner where Moody Boulevard (SR 100) dead-ends at Oceanshore Boulevard (A1A). Side streets off either also yield numerous choices.

For those yearning to pair coffee with an ocean-view sunrise, Maggie's European Bakery & Cafe touts European pastries; Java Joint, vegetarian fare. Both front A1A. Complete sit-and-eat breakfasts draw crowds at Friends Café, off South Flagler Avenue, and at Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill, where big windows capture the Atlantic sunrise.

Picnic tables, plunked in sand above the beach, line the commercial area of Flagler Beach's compact shoreline. The east shoulder of A1A offers enough room to park near most tables, meaning if lunch is your preferred detour, try ordering two slices and a drink from one of the town's handful of pizza parlors, and throw a beachside picnic.

Or request any local deli or grill to package your sandwiches, salads or burgers for the same purpose. You won't need the salt shaker; the brine is in the air.

Then – yes – walk your dog to the beach.

"We've got everything from a fried fish sandwich to Blue, which is at a hotel and might not be what you expect, but still very good food at very good prices," Lukasik said.

If air conditioning beckons, Flagler Fish Company, off South Daytona Avenue, is a fish market and seafood kitchen wedged in the same space. A recent three-taco lunch special – one each of shrimp, portobello mushroom and steak – oozed spice, sauces and grilled vegetables.

Colorful metal sea life sculptures lining the walls can be purchased to-go. One refrigerated case contains all necessary decoration; the crème brulee and banana bread are homemade. Flagler Fish Company also sells its house seasoning.

At Johnny D's Beach Bar & Grill on A1A, claim a green-padded stool at the outdoor counter across from the beach and order through a window to the kitchen.

Further south, across from the Flagler Pier, Ocean Art & Books is a good browsing stop, with local artists (painters, photographers and glass sculptors) featured along with New York Times bestseller beach reads.

If a surfboard is handy, catch a few sets off the Pier. Many afternoons, youngsters not long off a school bus sprint across A1A, boards in tow, to join you.

For dinner, go early or late to Flagler Fish Company, which isn't large. Or return to the beach, where restaurants serve up the ocean with cocktails.

The Golden Lion Café, also open-air on A1A, and Finn's Beachside Pub, at the corner of Moody Boulevard (SR 100) and A1A, both offer the beach-bar vibe and elevated views of the Atlantic.

"So many of the restaurants, like the Funky Pelican and Fuego Del Mar, are starting to put decks on their businesses, so you can enjoy your food with a view of the ocean," Lukasik said.

A Flagler Beach stop on the first Friday of each month means additional fun from 6-9 p.m. First Friday festivals offer live music, car cruises, children's games and pet-themed activities and more at the tiny Veterans Park where A1A and Moody Boulevard intersect. Shops and galleries also stay open late.

Who leaves the beach without ice cream? Don't.

Sally's Ice Cream on A1A provides traditional soft-serve. Both Sally's and The Waffle Cone, on South 4th Street, feature hard-packed flavors from the Working Cow Creamery in St. Petersburg – small-batch, pure-ingredient stuff that tastes like it.

"I always get a big, 'Wow,' when I bring people off the interstate," Lukasik said.

All you must do is stop.

If You Go

Note: A complete list of Flagler Beach restaurants, shops and galleries can be found at www.palmcoastandtheflaglerbeaches.org

Directions from Interstate 95: Take Exit 284 and head east on State Road 100 (which becomes Moody Boulevard). Go approximately three miles to Flagler Beach. State Road 100 ends at A1A (also Oceanshore Boulevard in Flagler Beach).

Flagler Fish Company
180 S. Daytona Avenue
Flagler Beach

Golden Lion Café
500 N. Scenic Highway A1A
Flagler Beach

Finn's Beachside Pub
101 N. Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach

Funky Pelican at the Flagler Beach Pier
215 A1A
Flagler Beach

Fuego Del Mar
608 S. Oceanshore Blvd.
Flagler Beach

Johnny D's Beach Bar & Grill
1005 N. Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach

Blue at the Topaz
1224 S. Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach

Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill

1848 S. Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach

Maggie's European Bakery & Café
909 North Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach

Java Joint
2201 North Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach

Sally's Ice Cream

410 North Oceanshore Boulevard
Flagler Beach

The Waffle Cone
South 4th Street
Flagler Beach

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