I eat at this restaurant all the time. Over the years I have learned more and more about the history of this site and beginnings of today’s NASCAR racing.
Before race cars negotiated the banks and bends of Daytona International Speedway, the need for speed was met on a mix of sand and asphalt along the Atlantic Coast. The roar of engines has been heard around this part of Volusia County since 1936. The Daytona Beach road course once stretched to Ponce Inlet.
Racing’s North Turn Beach Bar & Grille in Ponce Inlet is located at one of local racing history’s pivotal points. In 2007, the Ponce Inlet Historic & Archaeological Preservation Board recognized the site of the casual ocean-side restaurant as a historic landmark. From the north turn on the pavement of Atlantic Avenue, the path went south two miles on U.S. Highway A1A to the end of the road. There, drivers hit the beach to speed two miles north and catch another lap at the north turn, according to RacingsNorthTurn.com. These wild and woolly car races ran until 1958, according to local historians, when they were relocated to one of the world’s most famous tracks, Daytona International Speedway. Today, the aroma of sunscreen has replaced the smell of gas, oil and burning rubber. But Racing’s North is still making history.
Inside the restaurant, guests are greeted with cases of race-car memorabilia, including event photos and a gallery of drivers. The menu has a checkered flag theme with some sandwiches named for racing legends such as Russ Truelove, Vicki Wood and Ray Fox. There is an inside dining room– but really, you came to the beach to eat inside? … Take a table outside or eat at the bar. Service is time-trials quick, but you will want to linger with the ocean view. A wall of glass doors lines one side as wind protection, I suppose. But on most days they are open to a long deck set with Adirondack chairs.
We started our first lap with the fish dip ($8.99). It’s a very cream cheesy blend with minced vegetables and garlic and served with buttery crackers. It’s extremely light on the smoked flavor promised on the menu but it’s a nice spread nonetheless. The clam chowder is a favorite anytime of the year.
We also shared the fried coconut shrimp ($8.99). It’s large enough for a light entree, if that’s the route you are seeking.
The Cup Series Cuban ($9.25) landed at our pit stop barely fitting in the basket. Generously piled with meat, it’s not an authentic Cuban but it’s a darn good sandwich created in the Cuban style. All the fish sandwiches are loaded up with a huge filet spilling over the side. The snow crab legs are one of my favorite.
With no caution flags in sight, we barreled into lap three with the Crew Chief Chicken Sandwich ($9.25 plus 75 cents for bacon) and fries ($1.75). The pounded tender breast meat was nicely grilled and the salty bacon added a BLT punch. Also, we ordered the prime rib sandwich ($9.75) with a side car of slaw ($1.75). The beef was medium-rare as requested, and the horseradish kicked it into overdrive.
On the weekends they do breakfast and Bloody Mary’s in case you didn’t get your fill the night before. Drinks are reasonably priced and they offer several varieties of beer (available in ice filled buckets) for large parties. Racing’s North Turn has long been a local favorite for its sense of place, but it clearly stands on its own as a fun beach-side eatery as well. Walk across the parking lot to enjoy a piece of history, you won’t regret it.