Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Barry’s Do Me a Flavor ‘is a part of people’s lives’

Anyone who’s never been to Barry’s Do Me a Flavor might think it’s just an ice cream parlor. But the Beach Haven establishment, now in its 30th season, has expanded through the years to include a wide variety of flavorful food choices to suit everybody in the family, from a reasonably priced kids menu offering items such as grilled cheese ($4.99) and chicken fingers ($5.99) to salads, wraps, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta and more.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Customers line up to place their orders.
The local restaurant, which thrives on repeat customers who can’t wait to come back every summer, is known for its Philly-style beef and chicken cheesesteaks. This summer, however, the fish tacos with beer-battered cod, grilled mahi-mahi or Baja shrimp have taken over as the most popular choice. The tacos were added to the menu seasons ago at the request of co-owner Nicole Baxter, proprietor Barry Baxter’s wife, who joined the business more than 10 years ago.
Though over the years Barry’s became known as an Island staple and a long-standing tradition for customers who are excited to catch a glimpse of Baxter in the restaurant or through a window in the kitchen, his interest in the business began to wane after 20 seasons, he said. He credits his wife’s keen awareness of current food trends and enthusiasm for trying new things for keeping him in business this long.
“When Nicole came along full time, she reinvigorated and re-inspired my interest in the restaurant,” Baxter said. “I probably would have been long gone by now if she hadn’t.”
Baxter was fortunate to have family who helped him invest in the restaurant as a way for him to “get started” in life. His parents, Barry and Pat, had recently retired from Snuggery Dock, a former local marina they had owned for many years where Baxter worked as a kid, when they bought the business as equal partners in 1987.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
A server brings out an order of the
restaurant's popular cheesesteaks.
Baxter remembers coming to the building as a kid with his grandmother, when it operated as a yarn shop. It was originally built as a garage with an apartment above in 1929 and later became a public service garage followed by a dry cleaner’s and then an eatery.
When the family bought the restaurant in the ’80s, Do Me a Flavor, which it had already been named a few years before, was mainly an ice cream shop with a limited menu of food. Baxter set out to revamp the establishment by adding “Barry’s” to the name and incorporating some of his mother’s homemade recipes, some of which are still included on the menu. The menu is now about 20 percent ice cream and 80 percent food.
Wait service doesn’t exist at Barry’s, but staff serves up fresh, made-to-order food fast. Because of its counter ordering and self-seating services, wait times are usually minimal despite the often-packed inside and outside eating areas.
Though breakfast isn’t on the menu, boat orders, which normally include such foods as pork roll and sausage sandwiches, are popular among people going out on water trips.
Another draw of the restaurant is its many employees who have worked there for years. Customers get excited to see the familiar faces, and the Baxters are happy to have devoted workers, the owners said.
“We work side by side with these kids all day, every day,” said Nicole Baxter. “We couldn’t do it without them. They’re like family.”
The Baxters’ dedication to the restaurant means they’re there 24/7 throughout the season and often during the winter months. When the building took in 37 inches of water during Superstorm Sandy, they immediately set to work refurbishing the entire place despite not having flood insurance.
“A lot of people don’t make it in this business, and to still be growing after 30 years is amazing,” said Baxter. “This is a part of people’s lives.”
The couple lives above the restaurant with their 4½-year-old son, James, whom they’d like to eventually pass the business on to, if he’s interested.
“I hope that he chooses to be a doctor or a lawyer or a financier or whatever the case may be,” Barry Baxter said. “I hope he doesn’t choose this business, because it is hard. But if he should, hopefully that’ll be an option.”
For now, James, who affectionately says he “owns the place,” seems to be happy answering the phone and helping to pass out menus and drop off customers’ orders.
While many diners have already made up their minds about what they’re having before stepping into the restaurant, new food additions continue to be introduced through daily specials. The items tend to follow food market trends, to cater to people’s current interests. Anything with avocado is especially popular right now. Chloe’s soft serve, made with fruit, water and a touch of cane sugar, was added this year for people who’d like to enjoy a frozen dessert that’s dairy-, fat- and gluten-free. Tofutti dairy-free “ice cream” is also available.
The restaurant offers take-out service and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and even later for ice cream.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.