2 popular San Marco restaurants reopen months after Hurricane Irma

Storm damaged European Street, Bistro Aix in September

By Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Just in time for the weekend and Valentine's Day, two longtime San Marco restaurants reopened after months of repairs. 

European Street  Cafe and Bistro Aix along San Marco Boulevard have come a long way since Hurricane Irma. For the last five months, they've had to rebuild and repair all the damage from flooding inside their businesses.

At European Street on Thursday, the doors were unlocked, the mats were unrolled and it was back to business for the San Marco staple.

The road to recovery for businesses in San Marco has finally come to an end and people are excited.

"It's been a long time and I think it's good for this part of the city," said Kim Holms, a customer at European Street.

For European Street Cafe owner Andy Zarka, the opening means he's finally getting some shut-eye. He said the reopening is not only exciting, but a huge relief. 

"It doesn't look exactly like all the other European Street Cafes and I hope that the people that live in the neighborhood that come in still feel like it's home to them," Zarka said. "It's hard to believe that it was that bad and it's hard to believe that we've come this far and it's exciting."

Zarka said there are three big changes that loyal customers will notice immediately.

"There are no more vinyl tableclothes, hanging baskets and no more fake potted plants," he said.

The menu hasn't changed, and neither has the tempting display of desserts that customers see the second they walk in.

A room inside the restaurant that once featured an iconic mural has has been transformed into a community room that can seat up to eight people.

The bar top is custom-made with tiles and coats of arms of different European cities.

At the bar, customers will find a selection of 20 beers on tap and new draft wine. New TVs have also been installed.

And the European Street Cafe in San Marco also has a special deal for anyone named Irma.

"If you are named Irma, and you come in, we will buy you a sandwich, and a beer," Zarka said. "But I get to kick you in the shins."

Just down the road, Bistro Aix is bouncing back with a newer and more modern look. The restaurant was overwhelmed with the storm and went through months of restoration.

Both restaurants were back open Thursday -- San Marco strong and ready for business to return.

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