FLAGLER BEACH, Fla. (September 14, 2023) – Having a beachside restaurant with an unmatched view has long been a dream of global traveler Patrick McKinney. When the spot on the corner of A1A and South 12th Street came open, he and business partner Linda MacDonald knew it was the perfect location.
“I know the restaurant business. This is my 20th restaurant, bar, nightclub, venture in the last 30 years. I know what it takes to make a restaurant work. Number one you’ve got to have good food, great service and be a part of the community,” said McKinney.
“I love this area. I’ve been loving this area for a long time,” he said. “I drove by saw this was vacant and said, one more time, I’ll do it.”
Bringing a fusion of California sushi and New Orleans Cajun to the Flagler Beach, the duo set about refurbishing the location and creating a chill, beach bar atmosphere with a touch class.
“Where I’m from it’s so meshed, so infused. People in the south, where I’m from they love seafood and they love southern cooking. They also got a taste of sushi 25 years ago. They love this and this, so there’s a lot of Cajun sushi in that whole region. I knew it would be something different here, and just brought it here,” said McKinney.
Travelers to resorts throughout the Caribbean will feel right at home in one of half a dozen private cabanas overlooking the Atlantic Ocean while dining.
“We wanted to bring something different. I go to Cancun, Jamaica, Costa Rica many times a year, so when I go to these beautiful tropical places, I always find these beautiful white cabanas. I thought, with this view we have now, you can transport someone to a beautiful place,” he said.
For McKinney it’s about creating an experience, and Cajun Beach Boil and Sushi does just that. Only open a few weeks, the restaurant is selling out of his family recipe gumbo, daily.
“This is the first time I’ve done something Cajun which is my family background, and use my family recipes. That’s how it came about,” shared McKinney. “We have Cajun and sushi, and the regular bar stuff but we want to do it bigger and better than a regular bar. Our burgers are all hand patties and hand crafted, our chicken tenders are soaked in buttermilk daily, it’s not frozen. It’s actual fresh food.”
Executive Chef Athena Reeves hit the east coast in 2022 and brings with her a professional culinary background and an appreciation for all things fresh.
“There’s Patrick’s specialties and then I do everything else. He has the Cajun sauce that is a number one hit. Everyone who has it, it’s going on our sushi, going on everything. I swear we go through 6 gallons a day, and that’s on soft opening. It’s some good sauce,” she said with appreciation.
Working with McKinney’s recipes and creating those of their own, diners don’t have to love raw fish to enjoy a savory sushi roll.
“It’s a fusion thing. Growing up in California my upbringing, I’ve been sushiing and enjoying it since the 1980s. It’s changed a lot over the last few decades and it’s interesting to see the progression and all the exciting fusion,” said Chef Athena.
Dishes include traditional favorites like the ‘California Roll’, ‘Tuna and Cucumber’, and ‘Avocado Roll’, but also include specialty rolls like the ‘Born on the Bayou’ featuring Cajun unagi catfish, crawfish, cream cheese, Jalapeno slices, carrot and unagi sauce or the Boss Ashton with Andouille sausage and unagi sauce.
Owner Linda MacDonald says customers enjoy the variety and their team treats everyone just like extended family, harkening back to the concept behind the restaurant’s founding.
“Through all the years I’ve been doing this, I think it takes a certain knack of someone being able to have that genuine conversation with people, a realness to what they’re saying. I’ve done that. It’s a natural thing for me. I’m Italian it’s allowed. I do enjoy making people happy.”
“It started off with Patrick’s recipes and his cooking. Honestly, the authentic and the generations that those came from, blew me away,” said MacDonald.
She too has earned her place in the hospitality industry over decades with service and management roles. McDonald knows talent when she sees it and how to set the standard for excellence.
“We would joke around saying we were going to open a restaurant, and then this property became available. We said, let’s just do it. We even had the same vision, and we got so fortunate with Chef Athena. It’s a step above,” she said.
During the grand opening festivities, guests enjoyed a weekend of Mardi Gras themed celebrations, starting with the official ribbon cutting on Thursday afternoon. Cajun Beach Boil and Sushi is located at 1112 S. Ocean Shore Blvd, Flagler Beach. Visit www.thecajunbeach.com for details.