The Pelican, Clearwater Beach 1960s
When the first frost comes to North America, it’s time for lucky snowbirds to escape the big freeze and pack their bags for Florida. And at the end of a long journey by air, it’s nice to sit down in a restaurant and have something good to eat … cooked by a pelican?
This comically elegant big bird chef with its snowy white feathers, oversized bill and sinuous neck (smartly dressed in a toque and apron) greeted diners on the front cover of the Pelican Restaurant in Clearwater Beach, Florida, in the 1950s.
The Pelican, which opened in 1938, was a landmark restaurant in what would have been a popular and growing Florida tourist resort at the time and its owner Henry Henriquez was ‘a pioneer purveyor of piscatorial palate pleasures.’ That’s someone who served good fresh seafood, to you and me.
We like to think this pelican chef served not only tourists but the white pelicans who migrated to Clearwater every winter. Maybe on his day off, this guy showed his cousins the best places to catch a fishy dinner.
Shy in nature and with an impressive nine-foot wingspan, thousands of white pelicans migrate from lakes in North America to winter in Florida every year to congregate on saline lakes, estuaries and mangrove islands.
Unlike brown pelicans who are resident all year long, white pelicans do not dive for food but catch their prey while swimming. Each bird eats more than four pounds of food per day. They stay in Florida until March or April when the warming northern lakes welcome them back.
The Pelican Restaurant stayed in business for a remarkable 67 years before being sold in 2005. We hope this pelican chef is having a well-deserved retirement.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.