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The Funky Pelican Finally, Quietly Opens In Place of the Pier Restaurant in Flagler Beach

| January 9, 2013

A painter adding a few colors outside the Funky Pelican in Flagler Beach Wednesday. The new-old restaurant opened Wednesday, after a protracted struggle with the Flagler Beach City Commission. (c FlaglerLive)

A painter adding a few colors outside the Funky Pelican in Flagler Beach Wednesday. The new-old restaurant opened Wednesday, after a protracted struggle with the Flagler Beach City Commission. (c FlaglerLive)

One slog is over: the years of endless negotiations with the Flagler Beach City Commission, of securing permits, of battling the state over environmental regulations, of discovering how much of a ruin the old place had been and how much work was needed to get it back in shape, have led to this: Funkatizers, Funky Martinis, pesto funk, the “Big Doggin” (that’s the half-pound hot dog), seafood paella, all the fried seafood your arteries can bear, and a flourless chocolate cake that, by itself, is worth the price of admission.

On Wednesday, the Funky Pelican opened its door in the softest of openings (“Come On In” was written in big letters, in chalk, on a giant blackboard-like wall fronting Oceanshore Boulevard).

“We’re doing a Paul Revere sort of opening,” owner Ray Barshay said, “sending people out in the country on horseback saying, come on in, come on in.”

Flagler Beach is experiencing a restaurant renaissance of sorts. The demise of Hurricane Patty’s and another short-lived bar partially named “pelican” aside, the town has seen the re-emergence, after big moves or major refurbishing, of Blue and the Beachhouse Beanery, and of Kokomo’s, where the Beanery used to be, with more coming.

The Funky Pelican was always going to be a main course, because of its location, because of the Pier Restaurant’s history, and because of the epic negotiations that preceded its opening, including a good deal of displeasure from local restaurant owners, including the Flagler Fish Company, who thought they should have been given more opportunities to make a pitch for the location. The restaurants were not given that opportunity because Barshay already had a deal with the previous owner. The deal was not binding on the city commission. But the commission wanted as close of a sure thing as it could get, and to get it with the promise of six-figure investments in a property that the city itself had woefully neglected as much as the previous restaurant owner had.

The Funky Pelican replaces what had been for to many years to count the once-iconic Pier Restaurant. Once iconic, because in its latter years the Pier Restaurant had become a living ruin, its owner no longer interested in running the place, what was left of its legacy starved for a savior.

In came Barshay, the deceptively unassuming owner of the River Grille in Ormond Beach, whose remarkably even temper through those harrowing sessions with the Flagler Beach City Commission—which owns the restaurant property and the pier—belied a steely, sometimes wily shrewdness that secured him an enviable deal (at $3,000 a month in base rent) and allowed him to say on Wednesday: “It was always going to work out.”

And so it has. Gone is the tired grime of the old Pier Restaurant, the ancestral smell of oil dating back to the Reagan administration, the Dutch-school-like interiors of dark corners contrasting with pockets of light. Gone, too, is that refectory-like food that ensured more vacant tabletops than raves in these last years.

To enter the Funky Pelican Wednesday was like stepping into the third verse of Genesis: “And then there was light.”

The old place’s alternating square-and-circle windows that had kept more light out than in have been replaced by wall-to-wall large, angular bay windows, letting not only light in but the ocean, whose waves as if lap at your feet at high tide even though the space just beyond the windows has been filled by a new deck, with bar. The interior of the restaurant is redolent of that unfinished-wood feel from floor to ceiling, including table tops made to look like freshly sliced lumber. It’s the work of the guys at Zafari Studios–”awesome, great people,” Barshay said, taking a moment to take it in this afternoon, before heading down to the River Grille for an event there. “They’re funny guys besides, kind of creative, as you can see.”

Ray Barshay spoke with George Hanns, the county commissioner, who was one of his first guests at the Funky Pelican Wednesday. Barshay had not met Hanns before. (c FlaglerLive)

Ray Barshay spoke with George Hanns, the county commissioner, who was one of his first guests at the Funky Pelican Wednesday. Barshay had not met Hanns before. (c FlaglerLive)

It’s in the name: Funky Pelican, a brand already nesting t-shirts of psychedelic colors and caps, and art work full of mysteries to decode. Mysteries Barshay himself has yet to decode. The menu will be familiar to River Grill patrons: a mixture of meats, seafood (including gigantic shrimp), sandwiches (“hand-helds”), salads, soups (including an earthy concoction of corn and potatoes more evocative of meatless stew than soup), and those desserts mentioned earlier (cardiologists, rejoice: the Funky Pelican’s fortunes are also yours). Aside from a $27 filet mignon, the fare is relatively reasonably priced, with breakfast in the $4 to $12 range, appetizers in the $10 range, main courses in the $12 to $19 range.

Breakfast is served daily from 7 to 11 a.m. By contract with the city, the restaurant will have to be open all but two days a year, with Thanksgiving and Christmas as the exceptions.

George Hanns, the Flagler County Commissioner and the only local politician in office over two centuries, had known the restaurant under its old incarnation—going back far enough to have known it when it was a reputable place—and has been, with his companion Sophie, a frequent patron at the River Grille in Ormond Beach. The couple was at the Funky Pelican Wednesday, sampling out the Minorcan clam chowder and three appetizers. They liked what they had for the most part, although—as with a sampled burger—the kitchen was obviously still working out a few kinks.

“We were very pleased with the décor, the service is superb, everyone is so friendly,” Hanns said. “I’m looking forward to coming in for that hot dog.” The service was notable: the ratio of waiter-to-patron seemed to hover around 2-to-1 despite brisk business, though much of the staff is at full blast to get trained. The restaurant will account for a few dozen new jobs in the area.

Barshay said he was a little tired, but happy with the outcome. He’s planning a grand opening sometime in March or April.

Barshay hadn’t lost his wry humor, tinged with that business acumen, when it was suggested to him that it was difficult to sample more than a few plates at a time. “You don’t have to do it all today,” he said. “We’ll be here for 25 years or so.”

(c FlaglerLive)

(c FlaglerLive)

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23 Responses for “The Funky Pelican Finally, Quietly Opens In Place of the Pier Restaurant in Flagler Beach”

  1. Palm Coast Residence says:

    Long awaited…….Congratulations……We’ll be there as soon as we can! Keep the beer cold!

  2. The Truth says:

    It is great to see something in that location. It’s such a nice location that just about anyone who put some money and effort into the place can be successful. I wish the new owners the best of luck.

  3. barbara haspiel says:

    Fabulous food. I LOVED the burger. The atmosphere is terrific and so is the staff.

  4. rickg says:

    Me and the Mrs will be there soon. Have waited a long time to get some good food at the Pier.

  5. FLL says:

    OMG!!! FlaglerLive you are sooooooo awesome!!! First again to break another news story…this time about a restaurant! If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t know where to eat lunch today. So tired of all the same places, but now, thanks to FlaglerLive I have more options. Not sure how you do it but keep up the good work…or should I say remarkable work.

  6. PatrickS says:

    Looks absolutely gorgeous can’t wait to try it! Although it is very well-written, the writer’s opinion is almost too much to bear. The facelift to the landmark was well needed, but the previous establishment really wasn’t as bad as the writer makes it out to be.

  7. Diego Miller says:

    Glad to see Mr. Haans is finally doing something he is qualified for. Ray and his partner have cleaned up this sewer and I know they will succeed. Thanks Ray and Ford.

  8. stop projecting says:

    can’t wait to go!

  9. blondee says:

    George Hanns has been in office for two centuries?!?!?

  10. sandra says:

    Stopped in today just on a whim. Mom and I were very impressed. No wait, great service and our meals were very good. Nice HOT soup, and homemade. We liked the renovations. And a big plus for us ladies, the bathroom is big, renovated and clean. We plan to stop back for breakfast and maybe get a table on the deck.

  11. Bob Smith says:

    Looking forward to trying it out.

  12. Mike says:

    Have been waiting for this, We will take my grandson tonight

  13. Erin Barshay says:

    The Orange Creamsicle pancakes are SO delicious you’ll never want to eat anything else for breakfast and it’s incredible what they’ve done inside and out– the place has truly become a work of art! Can’t wait to come home and enjoy beautiful Flagler Beach.

    And I’m so happy for my very wonderful, very funky father!!! Go Dad!

  14. Mack says:

    Absolutely fantastic place. Food, service, and view is great, not to mention a beautiful new interior and deck.

  15. Anna & Bobby says:

    This place is great! Like any new place opening they have been slammed and made a few mistakes but one of the girls training from River Grille was quick to take care of it and we loved that. Food was great as long as with the smiling staff only thing was my husbands french fries were cold but like I said a young lady brought from the other resturant was very quick to fix it. So we will be going back and telling all our friends about it as well. We welcome you Funky Pelican!!!

  16. PJ says:

    Congratulations and good luck !

  17. RNYPD says:

    I tried it today. They were very busy and it took quite a while but the waitress was nice and the food was good. The prices are a bit high but you expect to have to pay a bit more for the view I guess.

  18. Pamala Zill says:

    Great to see and believe, this town can evolve. I was at many city council meetings advocating for a more ‘ agreeable, friendly, pier. I hope the vision continues. CONGRATULATIONS. and THANK YOU. W.B .

  19. Wolf says:

    Truly a great destination to visit. Mr. Barshay must have known the right person to oversee his opening operations. It is incredibly hard to come out of the gate especially in the kitchen which I personally know was overwhelmed on Saturday night after waiting over 45 minutes for my burger. The food was great the service was friendly and his trainers from the Rivergrille where effective. As any new restaurant that has opened in the Flagler – Palm Coast area we all rush in to check it out not realizing that we are all overwhelming the staff, the place was packed and to expect the very best was the furthest from my mind. The Funky Pelican may have some bumps in the road ahead but they by far had it more together than the big corporates that have opened recently in Palm Coast. Can’t wait to go back a month from now.

  20. Pam says:

    Mr Barshay did a great job building a new restaurant to replace the old Pier Restaurant. First, I was disapointed when they named it the “Funky Pelican” which sounds like it might be a strip joint on Ridgewood Avenue. To make matters worse they allow the face of the building to be covered with amature art work and anyones scribbling. This makes it look like graffiti on an old vacant buildiing. The public doesn’t expect ellegance when dining in Flagler Beach but they must wonder what awaits them inside as they walk by a mass of graffiti.

  21. Dianne says:

    I actually like the name. Love the pelicans so that works.. and we use to have a great ice cream shop with extra rich ice cream custom made for us.. …. the name?? Funky’s!!
    Why would a strip joint be called the Funky Pelican??? Doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with that. I don’t understand that thinking.

    Hope to be trying out the restaurant in a few days. Welcome to Flagler Beach.

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