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Palm Coast Thursday, Sep. 19, 2019 4 months ago

Ocean City Beach Grill and Cantina has high hopes on troubled corner in Flagler Beach

Specialty sauces are made from scratch. Juices in drinks at the bar are freshly squeezed.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Restaurants have come and gone at the corner of South Daytona Avenue and Moody Boulevard in Flagler Beach, but Brian Hughes thinks he’s started something that will stick.

Ocean City Beach Chef Dexter Graham and owner Brian Hughes. Graham said the best piece of advice he's had over the years is this: "If it was easy, everybody would do it." Photos by Brian McMillan

The Ocean City Beach Grill and Cantina opened in early September and had a big first weekend, said Hughes, the owner. He retired after 28 years of corporate life in New York and opened the restaurant because, he said, "It was always on my bucket list."

He has paired up with a chef named Dexter Graham, who was a cook for 14 years in the Navy. They will serve Tex-Mex food with an emphasis on detail, presentation, friendly customer service and specialty sauces made from scratch. Juices for drinks at the bar are all freshly squeezed.

Graham said that if a chef forgets to add scallions to a Baja chicken plate, the server will point it out. “Everybody takes part on that plate coming out of the kitchen,” he said.

The restaurant is family oriented even down to the menu: Most items are named for family members, including Hughes’ son-in-law (Mike’s Mushroom Swiss Burger) and Graham’s daughter (Jaiden's Tacos). Leeann's Brownie Delight is named for Bar Manager Leeann Vaughan.

The name of the restaurant has community roots: Before it was named Flagler Beach in 1923, the city on the barrier island was known as Ocean City. And Hughes said he’s supporting the community by offering a 10% discount to educators, first responders, and active and retired military.

Hughes said he’s not worried about the previous few restaurants that had short stints at the corner of South Daytona and Moody.

“It’s all about great attitude, great environment,” he said. “That’s what’s going to make it survive. With the team we have, you come in, you see people smiling, and they make you feel appreciated that you came in.”

For a menu, visit

Brian McMillan has been editor of the Palm Coast Observer since it began in 2010. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children. Email...

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