After a couple of weeks to get the doors open and work the kinks out, Historic City News met with Culver’s owners Garth and Lisa Darton of St. Augustine at their new location open from 10:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily at 3433 US-1 South. Monday January 18, 2021 was the official launch date for the St. Augustine “fast-casual” restaurant known for its Wisconsin-style Butter Burgers, cheese curds and frozen custard desserts.
Within the next year Darton has plans to launch a second local Culver’s franchise on SR-16, near the outlet malls. Another St Johns County location of the chain, owned by a different franchisee, is set to open on CR-210 this week. A Flagler County location on SR-100 near Belle Terre Parkway in Palm Coast is finishing construction at this time and should be ready in about two-weeks.
“People find our food comforting and warm, and our hospitality the same way,” Darton was quoted in an opening-week, sit-down interview published in The Record. “When will the hubbub calm down? Your’ guess is as good as mine, I don’t think it will end for quite a while.”
For Darton and his team of 78 local employees, when cars are backed up two lanes deep in a wait for drive-thru service for nearly an hour during the lunch and dinner rush, that “friendly Culver’s service” must be emphasized. They seem to be hitting the marks and seeing success with a lot of word-of-mouth.
Feedback from customers has been positive. Darton, who is originally from Wisconsin where the brand was founded in 1984, said some of the appeal is the novelty of a new eatery in town. However, Culver’s reputation for making items “fresh to order” and its unique Midwestern “homestyle menu” add the restaurant’s popularity. Darton has named Josh Kornatz as general manager for the St Augustine location.
Kornatz said the best-selling items so far are the fresh-dipped cod; custard (a richer, thicker form of ice cream) — especially the mint favor; and those Butter Burgers, which feature a classic beef burger on a toasted buttered bun with a variety of toppings.
The indoor seating area is open at just 50% capacity due to COVID-19. Additional umbrella-covered outdoor seating is available across a picnic-style porch. Servers locate and bring you your order and are easy to find for extra napkins, condiments, or free drink refills.
The store has access from two roads: US-1 South, where about 44,000 cars drive past every day, and Old Moultrie Road, with about 17,000 vehicles daily. According to Darton, they processed nearly 900 orders on the first day of business