After seven years on State Road A1A, Johnny D’s Beach Bar and Grill has moved to the heart of Flagler Beach.
While Johnny D’s Beach Bar and Grill is best known for its secret recipe for pizza dough, owner John “Johnny D” Davis said the key to success for his restaurant is laughter.
“It’s the socialization with people, the gathering,” he said in a recent interview at the new restaurant, which opened Oct. 12, at 319 Moody Blvd., Flagler Beach, after seven years farther north on State Road A1A. “Laughter is a big part of our business. Everybody feels welcome.”
How do you create laughter at a restaurant?
“You laugh yourself,” he said. “You’ve got to be a happy person, and it rubs off. It mushrooms. If I got somebody working for me that’s grumpy or has no smile, I say, ‘You better get a smile on your face.’”
Davis himself is known for his larger-than-life laugh.
“People tell me, ‘I heard you down the dadgum block!’” he said.
“You can hear it from four or five blocks away,” said Davis’ wife, Anita, who also was at the restaurant for the interview. (Davis, 74, affectionately calls her Anita the Eighth, he said, because she is his eighth wife. They’ve been married for three years.)
Davis has spent 30 years in the restaurant business, most of it in Jacksonville. He retired in 2010 and didn’t do much for a few years, he said. He walked on the beach and read books — but mostly he drank. So he decided to open a bar, which became Johnny D’s. He said the city of Flagler Beach encouraged him to make it not just a bar but a restaurant, so he got his pizza dough recipe and added family favorites to the menu.
For seven years, Johnny D’s was a popular spot in the north end of Flagler Beach, but because it was far enough away from the downtown gathering spots, he mostly had regulars and locals as customers. Now, he’s the first restaurant you see when you go over the State Road 100 bridge.
While Davis said many customers will miss being right across from the ocean at the old location, the new one is much nicer.
“This is the Taj Mahal,” Davis said.