Start your day at Gulf Drive Café
SUN PHOTO/LIZA MORROW
A server shows a quiche being delivered to a table at Gulf Drive Cafe.
Gulf Drive Café is a sunny, beachfront spot. With well-worn charm, a low-slung ceiling, tile flooring, ceiling fans, cafe tables, bentwood chairs and a long wooden covered deck facing the Gulf, the unassuming setting belies some interesting history.
You could say that Gulf Drive Cafe was destined for drama from the start.
Back in the 1980s, George and Wendy Kokolis bought the business, at the time named Trader Jack’s, at an auction from the state of Vermont after the owner was sentenced to prison for income tax evasion. The building was set on fire by an arsonist while under contract for purchase. Warily, the Kokolis family leased the building and returned north to run their group of restaurants in Virginia.
Twenty years later, deciding it was time to move south, they took over the management of Gulf Drive Café. After four years of updating and renovating, there are plans to expand.
Now all the excitement and drama is of the welcome kind. Plans for picnic tables, a children’s play area with a water spout and a beachside tiki hut with a full bar are set for vote by the city commission this month.
However even as it is now, Gulf Drive Café is a soothing spot to start your day. It is no matter what time that is, as breakfast is served all day. If you are a fan of quiche, this is the place to order a slice. Quiche, from other kitchens can be a disappointment with soggy pastry, scrawny, meager fillings and a complete lack of seasoning. But the quiche finds liberation here.
Each day brings a different concoction including one with crab, quiche Lorraine, a vegetarian version, one with sausage, mushroom and onions and another featuring artichokes and chicken. The seafood quiche has enough sour cream and half and half in the filling to make certain there bears no resemblance to its skinny (albeit, perhaps more healthful) cousin. It’s a puffy pie, chockablock with shrimp, clams and scallops. There is a spark of mustard and a touch of nutmeg. A sloppy, filling, comforting and astonishingly delicious breakfast., or lunch, or dinner. Happily, the recipe is extremely easy.
Where to start? With the eggs of course. Free-range is the way to go but should you choose brown or white? Interestingly, white eggs are favored in America and brown in Europe. It may come as a surprise to learn that hens with white feathers and white ear lobes lay white eggs, while brown eggs come from birds with red or reddish-brown feathers and ear lobes. Who knew chickens even had ear lobes? Assuming we’re settling in for a long, spiritually challenging summer, comforting and fragrant food seems the thing to be cooking. For any cook who wants to pack maximal punch into a single dish, quiche is even better at room temperature and is just as good the next day. Simple cooking at its best.
Seafood Quiche from the Gulf Drive Café
A good commercial prepared piecrust
7 oz. of sea scallops
7 oz. of shrimp
5 oz.of clams
1/4 c. red onion
2 fresh eggs
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. half and half
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. Dijon mustard
Dash of each salt, white pepper and nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Coarsely chop sea scallops, shrimp, clams and red onion. Combine and sauté in a bit of butter until just translucent. Set aside.
Whisk eggs with nutmeg, white pepper and salt in bowl. Whisk in sour cream then stir in seafood mixture. Spoon into the pastry crust and bake until puffed, golden and filling is no longer wobbly in center when quiche is gently shaken, about 20 minutes. Cool and serve in slices.
Gulf Drive Cafe
900 Gulf Drive N.,
Open daily 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Early bird specials 3 to 5 p.m.