Elliot Harris and Bryan Tyrell of Pg-Sty BBQ. Photo courtesy of Pig-Stye BBQ.

Hurricanes, the Power of Food, and the People Behind It

Mixed in my hurricane memories of boarding up, and then cleaning up, are the food memories.

Like neighbors getting together the first few days after a big storm (think 2004) and preparing a “whatever’s melting in the freezer” dinner. We didn’t have electricity, but we had gas grills and gas stoves, so those dinners were smorgasbords of some odd ingredients. But they tasted great.

As we hunker down now with Hurricane Irma on the way, I’m trusting those who are remaining in the area with having squirreled away canned foods, pre-packaged cooked foods and a little bit of creativeness to make all of that taste good. It can be done.

Then there are the area chefs and everyone in the restaurant business who work quickly and efficiently to get their operations up and running again.

My 2004 storm season memories (we had two big storms in two weeks in Palm Beach County and were without electricity for a long time) includes City Pizza, still in CityPlace, which was the first area restaurant up and running after Hurricane Frances—and they had air-conditioning. The line to get in that first night was two blocks long, but we all squeezed in for pizzas and cold drinks. It felt and tasted terrific. It’s just good to be around others who are experiencing the same problems.

Then there was Rhythm Café in West Palm Beach, which is one of the longest-running restaurants on the Dixie Highway corridor. They called regular customers after the storm, as they emptied their big ice machines. Dozens of coolers were filled, providing folks with cold drinks, or keeping medications on ice for another two days. This gesture was typical of the Rhythm owners and they are still remembered fondly for doing that. Legal Seafood was in CityPlace that year, and before the server took your order, they asked if you had electricity at home. If you didn’t, they sent you home after dinner with the largest trash bag of ice available—so big it was a struggle to get it to the car.

It’s gestures like those that we treasure and hope continue after Hurricane Irma. Area restaurants are already gearing up to continue that tradition next week.

Elliot Harris and Bryan Tyrell of Pg-Sty BBQ. Photo courtesy of Pig-Stye BBQ.

Elliot Harris and Bryan Tyrell of Pig-Sty BBQ. Photo courtesy of Pig-Stye BBQ.

Pig-Sty BBQ in Boynton Beach is going to donate 5 percent of its sales to Operation BBQ Relief helping Hurricane Harvey victims. So Executive Chef/Co-owner Bryan Tyrell and his partner Elliot Harris are promising to open right after Hurricane Irma passes, even if they don’t have electricity. Operation BBQ Relief helps all affected by disasters across the country. Pig-Sty is at 706 W. Boynton Beach Blvd., Boynton Beach.

There are also some cancelled events, which can’t go on during the storm.

  • Brazilian Beat on Sept. 9, downtown Boca Raton.
  • Hurricane Harvey Fundraiser at Harvest Seasonal in Delray Beach on Sept. 9. will be rescheduled.
  • Collaborative dinner from Chef Eric Baker and Jason Lakow with Oceano Kitchen in West Palm Beach: Rescheduled for Oct. 1 at Oceano, 201 E. Ocean Ave., Lantana.

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Lynn Kalber wasn’t born in Boca Raton, but she attended elementary through high school there, so she might as well have been. She’s a graduate of the University of Florida and has been in journalism most of her life, including 26 years at The Palm Beach Post. She’s written feature and food stories, and edited food copy among other jobs, including blogging about wine (The Swirl Girls). Her husband is writer and author Scott Eyman. They live in West Palm Beach with an assortment of cats and dogs.