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European Street San Marco To Reopen 5 Months After Irma's Flood

Zarka with cases of beer and candy
Jessica Palombo
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WJCT News
Andy Zarka co-owns European Street with his mother.

Two San Marco restaurants that were badly damaged Hurricane Irma are reopening this Thursday, Feb. 8, nearly five months after the St. Johns River flooded the Jacksonville neighborhood.

One is the upscale foodie favorite Bistro Aix.

The other, European Street, has been a Jacksonville staple for decades.

With three days until opening, workers were doing last-minute electrical tweaks Monday morning at the European Street on San Marco Boulevard.

The glass-front dessert case and tables had yet to arrive, and boxes of beer and candy were stacked along the back wall, awaiting shelves.  

“I know it doesn’t look like it, but we’re real close,” said co-owner Andy Zarka.

IMG_1783.jpg
Credit European Street via Facebook
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Flood waters swamped San Marco Boulevard on Sept. 11, 2017.

He said the restaurant, which sits a block from the St. Johns River, took on 2 feet of water inside when Irma blew through town on Sept. 11 of last year. He had to replace everything — tables, drywall, chairs, windows, and all of the wood paneling that had been there for years from when the place was Worman’s Deli.

This “E Street” location has been operating since 1996, he said. With the renovation comes updated décor. Gone are the vinyl tablecloths, baskets of silk flowers and burgundy walls. Except for a mural of European street scenes that was partially salvaged, all the walls now feature new paint jobs in bright purple with pops of yellow.

“All the tables will have laminated maps of European countries,” Zarka said. “The bar top is something that I’m really excited about.”  

The new bar is decked out in tiles with the crests of European cities, a nod to the table tops at European Street’s predecessor inside the Regency Square Mall, the Zarka family’s Mr. Dunderbak’s restaurant, which they bought in 1980.

Another new change, he said, is the addition of two long, “community-style” tables that are medium height between regular tables and high-tops.

When the San Marco European Street reopens, Zarka said, it’ll be business as usual — unless you’re a customer with a certain name.

“If you’re named Irma and you come in, we’ll buy you a sandwich and a beer,” he said. “But I might sweep your legs.”  

Zarka said flood insurance covered most of the damage, and he saw big upticks in business at two other European Street locations while San Marco was being rehabbed. 

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP