Had an errand to run in beachtown today, and since it was around one o'clock, decided to stop for lunch at one of the landmark restaurants on Flagler Avenue. Flagler is a narrow sandy street with a starting point at just about the easternmost point of Florida, almost as though the street rises up out of the Atlantic surf. Not a long street, it runs due west for no more than half a mile from ocean to Intercoastal Waterway. It is a quaint, picturesque street pleasant to stroll along, lined with all the shops you would expect in a beachtown. Bars, restaurants, surf shop, bike shop, souvenir and pottery shops, ice cream stand, a couple of art stores, and small versions of post office, hair salon and greenery shop. Traffic is rarely so heavy that sightseers and locals can’t wander freely from side to side, and those cars, motorcycles and skateboarders you see are all cruising at about five miles per hour. Several places on Flagler deserve a repeat visit now and then; I wrote last July about The Breakers and their super hamburgers. Another Flagler restaurant I visit about once a month is Clancy’s Cantina, an attractive and terra cotta cool spot for Mexican food. The soft tacos are terrific. Flagler also has one particular art and framing store popular with locals and visitors, Anthony Bell Creations. There must be at least five things hanging on my walls framed by Anthony Bell.
But about lunch… One of the oldest structures on Flagler Avenue is a bar and restaurant called The Flagler Tavern. The restaurant was originally a private beachhouse built in 1906. I’m not sure when the owner sold it, but it became a restaurant called The Red Rooster. Twelve years ago the present owner took it over and changed the name to The Flagler Tavern. I’ve eaten lunch there many times, mostly because I enjoy sitting on the raised veranda that overlooks the street. There was a time several years back when it had a different feel to it, and I was likely in those days to go more often than now. These days it has what feels like a different air, and more often than not I end up mumbling to myself about this or that downslide.
Before any complaints, it is only fair to say that the menu has a couple of excellent choices, one of them being the burgers. I’ve heard one or two people say that the Flagler Tavern burger is better than a burger at The Breakers. It would never occur to me to make such a comparison. I disagree with that opinion, but at the same time don’t hesitate to say that The Flagler Tavern does indeed make a good hamburger. I had a hefty bacon cheeseburger with lettuce tomato and fries today that was darn good. They also offer a tasty pasta salad that a friend of mine orders every time.
The thing is, more and more in the past year or two, service had gotten sloppy, and the crowd out on the veranda full-of-beer rowdy. Here is a line I scribbled in my journal while there today…
‘The place gets worse month by month. Sitting on the veranda overlooking Flagler Avenue, surrounded by loud, cigarette puffing people comparing their failed marriages. Just in front of my nose is mustard and ketchup, each in a plastic bottle thick with grime and street dust and encrusted with last week’s drips and dribbles.’ Before starting in on your burger—and probably a very good one—remember to wipe off the tabletop and the silverware.
For anyone who likes the loud energy, The Flagler Tavern often has live music, and my guess is the place is jumpin’ on those nights.