By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PONCE INLET - Gentlemen, start your appetites. Racing's North Turn can easily make the emptiest stomach full.
The popular beach bar and restaurant on South Atlantic Avenue prides itself on having "something for everybody," including fresh seafood, pasta, steaks, and sandwiches - all generously portioned.
"The one thing we don't do is small portions," Lars Bienemann, general manager, said about the restaurant's selections. "We don't want to see people walk out hungry."
The restaurant has been a part of the area since the 1940s, when auto races took place on the beach. That was, until 1958 when NASCAR relocated them to Daytona International Speedway. But it wasn't always known as Racing's North Turn, Mr. Bienemann said. Under previous ownership, it took on a variety of names, including Sandpiper, Brewster's and Old Timers.
The current owners named the restaurant Racing's North Turn in 1998 to commemorate the location's place in racing history. It's an honor the owners take great pride in, with racing memorabilia displayed throughout the building, including photographs of racecar drivers, as well as helmets and racing suits worn by the drivers.
"A lot of these photographs were donated by the drivers of the families or the drivers themselves," Mr. Bienemann said, adding it helps the customers feel a "personal connection to the restaurant."
Upon entering Racing's North Turn, it didn't just feel like I stepped into a NASCAR museum - it also felt like I stepped into a haunted house. The restaurant was decorated elaborately for Halloween, with figures of skeletons and movie monsters throughout. A stage resembling a filling station was adorned in cobwebs with giant spiders hanging from the ceiling and a zombie placed in the center.
After taking my eye off the spooky theatrics, I decided to find a place to sit. Racing's North Turn has a bar area, indoor tables and outdoor tables on a deck that offers a spectacular view of the beach. It draws a large crowd for televised football games for their "football specials," including five-bottle buckets of beer for $12 and cocktails for $3. Since I visited during a football game, it took me a while to find an open table, but I found one, and got a great view of the ocean from where I was seated.
Mr. Bienemann and my server, Kristen Doel, both recommended I try the fish tacos ($9.49), a serving of three soft tacos filled with mahi-mahi, shredded lettuce, tomato, cilantro and tartar sauce. I raced through the first two tacos but couldn't make it past the finish line - I was not expecting there to be so much filling in the tacos! Most importantly, it tasted delicious. My past restaurant experiences taught me that if a person working at the restaurant I'm dining at highly recommends something, it has to be good, and the mahi-mahi tacos definitely did not disappoint.
But the huge portion sizes put a dent in my appetite. When Mr. Bienemann brought out the shrimp and grits ($18.99), sautéed shrimp cooked in a butter-bacon and garlic marinade and served with grits; and the pan-seared scallops with bacon-cabbage hash ($21.99), I could barely touch them because I was so full. I put a small bit of each on my plate to sample - both were tasty - before waving the checkered flag and ending my culinary race.
Racing's North Turn's other specialties include the "Russ Truelove" prime rib sandwich, named after one of the drivers who raced on the beach; "Seafood Diablo," a trio of shrimp, mussels and clams tossed in linguini; and "The Extravaganza", a dinner for two that includes broiled fish, steamed mussels, clams, oysters, crab legs, and steamed shrimp.
Just recently, Racing's North Turn began trying out a breakfast menu, offered on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Mr. Bienemann said customers have given the breakfast "some great reviews," with one of the top sellers being French toast encrusted with Frosted Flakes cereal.
Racing's North Turn is at 4511 S. Atlantic Ave. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call (386) 322-3258 or visit www.racingsnorthturn.com.