"Lamb chops. $1.95!" A retired police officer waited in the lobby of Tropical Acres this afternoon, reading the framed copy of the restaurant's first menu from 1949.
"Oh, Lord!" he said. "French onion soup, 40 cents! Shrimp cocktail, half a buck!" he laughed. "Can you imagine?"
The police officer and the woman with him were two of a dozen people here to see the restaurant on the afternoon before it reopens after a fire shuttered the landmark in August.
His excuse to visit early: He's booking a dinner for his golfing buddies and their wives.
From the dining room, a trio of men came to the waiting area. "You from Customs?" they asked me. They wore collared shirts with government emblems and name tags penned in Sharpie.
"What gave me away?" I said. The group was sitting in the giant room alone, the first slated to dine in the restaurant after the reopening.
A petite woman in a gray wrap dress peeked from the kitchen while talking on the phone. She signaled to the building contractor, who paced the restaurant, rolled blueprints tucked under his arm, his rat-tail cinched in yellow and red elastic bands. "She'll be right with you," he said to me.
The former cop and the woman in the lobby perused memorabilia in the lobby like it was a museum.
"We didn't come up often enough, and we should have," she said. "Yep," he agreed. "We never had a bad meal."
Dressed in a pink velour tracksuit, the woman plopped herself down on the couch as she waited.
"You know they kept their staff from before the fire?" said the man.
"It's pretty much how I remember it," she said. "I like that they didn't change a thing. I wouldn't like if it were modern and froufrou. It wouldn't be the same place."
Tropical Acres reopens today at 4:30 for dinner.
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