On Tuesday, after a couple of tense days of hurricane meals in a hot, dark house (we did not evacuate), we were more than eager for a return to air-conditioned dining.
Surely there must be some place open where we could relax, enjoy a chilled glass of chardonnay (ours at home had long-since reached room temperature), and celebrate the fact that the wicked Irma had caused comparatively little damage to our community.
But we began calling around and found nothing. Several restaurants we reached told us they had their power back, but workers had evacuated and hadn’t returned, food had been thrown out and would have to be replenished, and all were a day or two away from reopening.
Then my husband belatedly recalled that when they were marketing the Ocean Park condos next to Humiston Park, one of the features they had touted was a commercial-grade backup generator.
Bingo! The Citrus Grill. Only restaurant with a big backup generator on the island.
And when we called, sure enough, Chef Scott Varricchio answered the phone and said he was open for dinner.
When we arrived, the restaurant was surprisingly full. We clearly were not the only island residents eager for a return to normalcy.
“After a hurricane, these are the days that the role of a restaurant changes,” Varricchio said. “Everyone is hot, hungry, tired and stressed. Life is nowhere near normal. A restaurant, just by being open, helps to nurture, comfort and provide relaxation. Knowing there is a place you can go, even if only for an hour, is comforting in itself. And maybe you can even charge your phone while you recharge yourself.”
More than 100 people recharged at the Citrus Grill Tuesday night, and that’s certainly how it worked for us.
The restaurant was blissfully cool, the properly chilled wine never tasted better, and we dined on some perfectly seared sea scallops and a beautiful piece of grilled swordfish. Now that’s my idea of hurricane dining!
Later, Varricchio told us he had actually opened for lunch that day, and had even hosted a small, impromptu dinner party at the restaurant the previous night.
“A few of my staff and a few customers that had no power called to ask what I was doing, so I figured it was the perfect time to cook for them,” he said.
We will remember that in the event Vero is ever hit by another storm.
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The reviewer is a beachside resident who dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of this newspaper.