You can always count on Waffle House.
It was standing-room only as customers packed the Jacksonville Waffle Houses on Roosevelt Boulevard and Baymeadows Road, lining the wall from one end of the restaurant to the other by 8:30 a.m. Sunday. Others in Jacksonville stayed busy as well.
“It’s the hurricane,” said one server as she delivered a plate of cheese and eggs with hash browns and sausage steamed fresh off the grill to a customer and then cashed out another couple at the Roosevelt location near Murray Hill. And she kept smiling.
Sunday mornings usually are busy, but the approach of Hurricane Irma sent a flood of travelers as well as local residents to the few restaurants that decided to stay open.
Kyle and Erica Symonds of Tampa and their 1-month-old son, Ethan, are staying with friends in Ortega.
“Everything is closed, but we knew Waffle House would be open,” Symonds said.
Also doing plenty of business Sunday morning was the Cool Moose Cafe in Riverside near Park and King streets. There was a line of about 20 people waiting outside about 10:30 a.m.
Photos: How Jacksonville spent the morning before Irma's arrival
Photos: Before Irma's arrival, Jacksonville readies, relaxes
Karina Del Cid, a Riverside resident, and her friend Joanne Sartain, visiting from Middleburg, waited patiently in line.
“We were going stir crazy,” Sartain said.
“We wanted to do something normal before hunkering down,” Del Cid said.
Laurie Jarvis, co-owner of the popular restaurant, described it as a “typical Sunday.”
But she said that surprised her. Noting the size of Irma, she said “we really thought no one would show up.”
Just down the street, Sorin Popa stood outside the Italian restaurant Primi Piatti where he works as a waiter. The front of the restaurant was covered in plywood, which Popa said he helped put up. The restaurant is closed Sundays, but now will be closed Monday.
Jarvis said Cool Moose also will be closed Monday. They didn’t have plywood, she said, but would be putting out sandbags after they closed.
In Five Points, where finding parking is usually a challenge on weekends, only a handful of businesses including Larry’s Giant Subs, the Sake House, China Joy, Rain Dogs and The Corner Taco were open.
On Oak Street, members who have keys could access Snap Fitness, but a sign on the door said the gym will remain unstaffed through Tuesday.
Hourglass Pub downtown stayed open during last year’s Hurricane Matthew and appeared to be committed to staying open during Irma.
With Dick’s Wings in Atlantic Beach planning to remain open until 4 p.m., people gathered there to watch the Jaguars play the Houston Texans on TV.
Also hosting a viewing party was the Players Grille in Lakewood. The turnout was so large that every parking space was taken shortly before 2 p.m.
Meanwhile the 7-Eleven at Atlantic Boulevard and Kernan Road was decorated with a plywood sign declaring it open 24 hours.
Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413
Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075