Saturday, June 4, 2011

Definitely Not Starbucks

Since first coming to live in this small beach town on the east coast of Florida one ingredient of the good life has been missing. For a long time I was accustomed to having a nearby coffee shop offering good iced coffee, sandwiches and a comfortable atmosphere, a place to pass an hour or so in the late afternoon, relaxing finish to the waning light of day. It was starting to look like a shop of this description might be a permanently absent ingredient of these streets, the nearest thing bad paper cup coffee from an ice cream shop down the street. And then a few days ago I noticed what looked like a café on the main street of town, one of those drift wood and surfboard type places. Went inside and found out they open at 6:30 a.m. and stay open until 6:00 p.m., serving coffee hot and iced, as well as sandwiches. Icing on the cake is the free Wi-Fi along with some skillful acoustic guitar playing and singing from the locals.

The place is called Chuckeyta’s, an interesting name for sure and the business card calls it a ‘surfing sea monkey shack’ built in 1910. A flyer explains that the old bungalow is a Sears and Roebuck craftsman mail order home, a landmark house that has been occupied by several of the city Mayors. The owner is a local man named Chuck Carter, and that explains the first part of the café’s name. The full version came out of Chuck’s hobby of collecting banana stickers, with Chiquita becoming Chuckeyta’s.

You almost expect to hear Jimmy Buffet singing “Margaritaville” when you walk inside and see the unmatched wooden tables, casual decor and dust motes floating in slanted rays of beach light pouring in through the windows. The café gets it look from the eclectic splash of accessories—things like old telephones, hubcaps, street signs, license plates, water skis, surfboards, wicker topped tables, wood puzzles, sombreros and old coffee mill. Few could complain that the look is uninviting.

The menu is limited but still offers plenty for anyone not wanting a full meal. Smoothies, various teas, fresh squeezed orange juice and lots of baked goods like homemade banana bread, muffins, cookies and bagels; on the sandwich end are chicken salad, very veggie and peanut butter & jelly. The very veggie is also offered as a salad of lettuce, tomato, shredded carrot, feta cheese and sunflower seeds served with raspberry vinaigrette or Italian dressing. The most popular sandwich seems to be the Maxximum—two eggs scrambled, bacon and American or feta cheese served on a fresh croissant. The partner to my excellent iced espresso was a chicken salad sandwich on toasted whole wheat bread. The chicken salad is made with raisins, cranberries and apples and a couple of secret ingredients that all add up to a pretty darn good mix, maybe the best in a long time.

When I first walked into Chuckeyta’s there were no more than three or four other people and definitely a quiet kind of place. A short time later a couple of high school guys with guitars came in and set up in a corner across from my table. Fifteen minutes later it had become three guitar players. Obviously I’m out of the link but these high school musicians were far beyond untuned and broken chord amateurs. Mostly surfer tunes with a few old Simon and Garfunkel songs, but good enough to attract a circle of blonde doe-eyed fans of the curvy gender. Under some circumstances this kind of background would send me looking for another place, but these guys did it well and were in no way loud, crude or obnoxious. Small town beach boys who like guitars and surfing and do it without breaking up a comfortable atmosphere.

Comfortable, good atmosphere, excellent coffee and tasty sandwiches. Looks like I found the spot.


  1. Looks like a great place to chill out, read, listen to music and get a tasty bite to eat with iced coffee. You may not miss Starbucks after all. Very nice post!

  2. Chuck needs a copy of your post to post on his wall. Does sound like you found your clean enough well-lighted place for doing a bit of writing. Absolutely nothing wrong with a little atmosphere to lend a hand to the written word.


About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America