Restaurant News & Reviews

Post-Irma life at Flanigan’s: ‘I was dying. I had to get out of the house’

Sisters Cynthia (left) and Sandra Jamarillo took a break from hurricane recovery to have a cold beer and a warm food at a local Flanigan’s.
Sisters Cynthia (left) and Sandra Jamarillo took a break from hurricane recovery to have a cold beer and a warm food at a local Flanigan’s. cfrias@miamiherald.com

By the time Cynthia and Sandra Jamarillo heard the Flanigan’s near their home was among the first Miami restaurants open after Hurricane Irma, they were ready for a drink.

They had tossed and turned during a sweat-soaked night with no electricity. They awoke Monday to a ransacked yard at the friend’s house where they’d weathered the storm. They dragged limbs, propped up a fallen fence and skimmed an autumn’s worth of leaves out of the pool, all before a swear-word-laced ice-cold shower.

A two-hour wait for a Goose Island IPA, a Stella Artois and a share of a burger and curly fries?

“Totally worth it,” Sandra Jamarillo said, clinking glasses with her sister, unfazed by the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at the restaurant. “We’ve had cabin fever for three days.”

Miamians who had been barricaded indoors for the better part of three days stepped out for the first time Monday to escape the heat and stale air, ready for a blast of air-conditioning and food that didn’t come from a can.

Cynthia Jamarillo closed her eyes and sipped her cold Stella as the music overhead switched from Led Zeppelin to Marc Anthony.

“The bubbles hit your throat, and there’s nothing else like it,” Cynthia said.

The sisters ducked a server who crowd-surfed among the schools of patrons, perilously balancing a tray of ribs, burgers and wings.

At the other end of the bar, Amanda Mendez fueled herself and her cell phone. She carefully balanced an iPhone on her shoulder, the white charging cable running up to an outlet above the bar, while she poured herself a beer like a poor man’s Cirque de Soleil acrobat.

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Amanda Mendez fueled herself and her cell phone at Flanigan’s, where she met up with friends Alex Rojas and Chester Cruz. Carlos Frías/Miami Herald cfrias@miamiherald.com

When she arrived earlier, “there were so many people here. It was sheer panic,” she said. But among them were her friends, who had staked out a corner of the bar and kept the pitchers of beer and cheeseburgers coming.

“I’d been surviving on crackers and wine,” friend Chester Cruz said.

“Well, you murdered that,” Mendez told him, pointing to the au jus chalk outline of his chicken Philly cheesesteak.

She checked her phone: 29 percent.

“Can I get some battery?” her friend Alex Rojas said. His iPhone was down to 7 percent.

This is the respite this crowd had been hoping for.

“We’re here for the A/C and the cold drinks,” said Camila Bermudez, who evacuated from her Brickell one-story apartment to Boynton Beach only to find it without power Monday morning. Fortunately, her friend Carlos Oliva, who lives near the restaurant, saw posted on the Miami Herald’s website that it was among the businesses that had opened early.

“I was dying. I had to get out of the house,” said Oliva, who weathered the storm caring for his 87-year-old uncle.

At the restaurant, they commiserated over a pair of Blue Moons with orange wedges. The bartender was never not pouring a drink.

“When we hire people, we tell them, ‘We’re the first to open, the last to close in a hurricane,’ ” said manager Jader Romero, who also lost power at home. “I’m not going to lie, I was kind of dreading all of this. But with the A/C, it’s amazing.”

Just then, singing broke out.

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Regina Vejar celebrated her 18th birthday during the storm by candlelight. She and her mother, Liliana Chavez, made it official the next day with a chocolate dessert at Flanigan’s. Carlos Frías/Miami Herald cfrias@miamiherald.com

The staff sang happy birthday to Regina Vejar, who turned 18 in the middle of the night, while blowing out a candle in a single slice of Publix chocolate cake, with her mom Liliana Chavez holding the flashlight. Today, she smiled wide as she was serenaded and feasted on cheeseburgers and a brownie sundae with chunks of Oreo cookies and Kit-Kat bars.

“We had to reschedule my birthday party,” Vejar said. “But we’re here, and we’re being optimistic.”

The restaurant started turning away customers at 4:30 p.m. so staff could get home before the 7 p.m. curfew. There, reality awaited. Fallen trees. Dark, hot homes. Scattershot cell phone service.

The Jamarillo sisters still had to go home and deal with the “funky” food in the refrigerator.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Sandra said.

“But,” her sister added, taking one last sip of beer, “at least we numb the feeling for a while.”

Carlos Frías: 305-376-4624, @Carlos_Frias

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