State Road 16 has perennially been a hard sell for St. Augustine locals. Whether it’s meandering through downtown traffic for historic district-dwellers or simply having to put on a shirt for islanders, there are a number of roadblocks that frame the establishments on the busy thoroughfare as just out of the reach of those in the heart of the city.
A short time ago, SR-16 adjacent Draft Room was not likely to move locals out of their respective comfort zones. But with a new face behind the bar – that of new owner Rachel Locke – a reconfigured drink menu, and an updated, soul food-inspired menu The Draft Room is looking to appeal to customers beyond those enjoying a weekend at one of the many hotels that surround the Outlets. And there are early signs of success.
“At first it was mostly tourists from the hotels,” says Rachel, who only just took over the Draft Room in May. “But lately we’ve had a lot more people from downtown and Anastasia Island poke their heads in. When that door opens, you really never know who’s going come in. That’s what makes it exciting!”
Born and raised in Chicago, Rachel owned and operated a popular food truck in Austin, Texas before moving to Palm Coast. Rachel, whose 14-year old daughter is a promising young basketball prospect, says she wanted to find a place that would be conducive to her daughter’s ambitions as well as her own. “Texas is a football state and I couldn’t go back to Chicago,” she laughs. “I just don’t want to see anymore snow.”
Rachel had never visited The Draft Room prior to her inquiry into its purchase, but says the opportunity to own her own restaurant in a growing area like St. Augustine was too much to pass up. Since taking over she’s already added to the menu some of the more popular Soul Food items that she perfected in Austin like mac ’n’ cheese, fried corn nuggets that she describes as “little bites of heaven,” and a hearty burger topped with brisket and cheese.
Rest assured The Draft Room is still a bar and Rachel has done well to bring in popular local brews like Ancient City’s Orange Amber and Funky Buddha’s Hopgun. Rachel’s kept the popular Wednesday Bike Night on the calendar and added a Tuesday lady’s night, offering half-off of all wine.
Any night of the week, however, you’re likely to see Rachel behind the bar. Like any new business owner she’s working her tail off. “I don’t mind it,” she says of the long hours. “This was a golden opportunity and I’m doing what I love.”