Angel’s Diner (Palatka, FL)

Angel’s Diner (Palatka, FL)

The Ride

Technically,  a Saturday planning meeting for the summer Sturgis Trip was the only event for Moto17Jax this weekend.  However, Eddie decided to do a Sunday ride to Palatka for brunch at Angel’s Diner.  So, he invited group members to join him as a non-hosted ride.  Holiday plans and the cold weather kept the group small.  Very small.  Only myself and Bob joined Eddie for the trip.

The bike thermometer said it was 38.3°F when we met up at the gas station.  Since I’ve yet to get my heated gear wired into the new bike, the cooler temperatures gave me an excellent opportunity to test the heated grips and seat, and the superior wind protection of the RT.  On the V-Strom, when the temps dipped into the low 40’s, during my ride to Franklin, NC in Oct, I would have been hypothermic without my electric vest and gloves.  Today, in the upper 30s, I was completely comfortable with just my lined adventure gear.  I even had to turn the grips down to 40% or they would get too hot.  I never turned the seat heater on.  So, once again, the RT exceeded expectations.

From our meeting spot at the Shell station, it’s a straight shot down US-17 to Palatka and Angel’s Diner.  With only 3 of us on the ride, we made short work of the trip.  While the temperatures were cool, the sky was clear, the road was dry (we just had several days of rain), the sun was shining, traffic was light, and the pace was brisk.  A beautiful day for a ride with good friends.  When we arrived at Angel’s we sat down to an equally enjoyable meal.  Bob and I went the breakfast route, with omelettes, while Eddie went lunch, with a burger and fries.  Everything was delicious.

After brunch we parted company.  Eddie and Bob returned back up US-17, while I went northeast to St Augustine and then up to the Jacksonville beaches, and home.

I’m still getting familiar with the new bike so I’m not shooting video from it yet.  Eddie, on the other hand, has since become comfortable on his new bike and is once again shooting the rides.  Here is his video of the trip to Angel’s Diner.  (As you can see, when you get 3 people who know and trust each other the formation tightens up a bit)

Angel’s Diner

In operation in Palatka since 1932, Angel’s claims to be Florida’s oldest diner.  One frequent customer, who graduated from Palatka High in 1958 and still stops by to read the morning paper over breakfast at Angel’s, says the place has barely changed. “It was the place to gather,” he says. “We’d park cars outside and sit on our hoods.”  Angel’s still offers curb service today. “If you want to eat in your car,” said Melissa Streets, a waitress and manager, “just honk.”  However, if you’d prefer a table in the air-conditioned interior, step through one of the three stainless steel doors. This place is so informal that one of those doors will deliver you behind the counter; just keep walking to find a seat.

One of the reasons the Angel’s experience is unique is because the restaurant doesn’t try too hard to capitalize on its history. The jukebox isn’t devoted to ’50s tunes, but packed with records from throughout the decades. Singer Pat Boone reportedly used to eat at Angel’s while traveling through Florida, but waitresses can barely remember his name.  When Christian evangelist, Billy Graham, who was baptized in Palatka, traveled to Jacksonville for medical treatment a few years ago, he dispatched an assistant to Angel’s to pick up hamburgers. 

The restaurant has been in the hands of Palatka native John Browning and his ex-wife, Diane, of St. Petersburg, since 1980. The couple bought it together, then divorced – but still own Angel’s, together.  “Angel’s is not owned by us; we are the caretakers,” John Browning said. “Angel’s belongs to Palatka.”  Once known for logging and cattle ranching, Palatka is a popular stop en-route to the beaches of Jacksonville, St. Augustine or Daytona Beach.  “The weekends get really interesting,” John Browning said. “You meet all crosses of life. A lot of people come through on their way to somewhere and have been stopping at Angel’s since they were kids.”

Angel’s diner takes its name from its original owner, Porter Angel.  The Brownings purchased it following Porter’s death.  John Browning says he has a personal history with the place: His father once worked as a car hop at Angel’s.

The menu features down-home, difficult-to-find favorites. Besides the burgers – fried okra, fried green beans, frog legs and hand-breaded onion rings are among the signature dishes. And then there’s the “Black Bottom” – a mixture of scrambled eggs, bacon and ground beef, all served on a bun.

The next, and final, 2017 gathering of Moto17Jax will be next Sunday, December 17th, for the Toys-For-Tots ride.