There were no wedding bells or gift registry when Navy veteran Chris Straw opened the doors to The Hangar Bay Café and Gallery on Mayport Road back in 2016. But the honeymoon has been pretty good, so far; so delicious that Southern Living magazine named Hangar Bay’s fried chicken the best in the entire State of Florida in 2018. Coupled with a bowl of ramen, the meal is heavenly. Just don’t expect to be treated like an angel when you step up to the counter.
Straw is gregarious, but unpretentious with little patience for whimsicality and entitlement. His menu and his establishment follow suit. Let’s just say it’s best to look at the menu and be sure of what you want before stepping up to the register. Have a question about modifications to the menu? It’s better to keep those to yourself. A quick glance at Hangar Bay’s FAQ page on its website will quickly squash the hope of special requests.
Can you make my Hellfire Ramen/Spicy Po Boy/MK50 “medium” spice?
The game is on, can you change the channel on the TV so I can watch it?
“I could come up with some fancy answer for the ‘Why did you open Hangar Bay’ question that everyone asks,” says Straw of his popular, though somewhat off-the-beaten path restaurant. True to the form of his website’s terse FAQ page, his answer is similarly succinct. “The truth is there was no fried chicken or ramen on Mayport Road. It’s that simple,” says Straw.
His love for ramen was, in fact, sparked by deployments to Japan where Straw discovered Japanese cuisine and culture. His love (and recipe) for fried chicken are straight from his family. The far and near, exotic and homespun, living together so well under one roof. “I wasn’t some ramen groupie while I was in Japan, but I enjoyed the dish,” says Straw. “ As for the restaurant, this was never in the plan. Never. I simply followed an opportunity that was there.”
And there’s Hangar Bay in a nutshell. A chance meeting between ramen and fried chicken with little pretense. A coupling that has flourished since Straw decided the two should cohabitate in Mayport.
Marriage is complicated enough and for Straw success is keeping things simple and clear. “We’re making great comfort food here. This is a place where what you see is what you get. We’re a hole in the wall on Mayport Road between a tattoo parlor and a pawn shop,” Straw says. “That should tell you all you need to know.”
Here are a few of Hangar Bay’s fittingly unpretentious dishes we recommend (with equally curt descriptions):
2-piece White or Dark
Mark 50 Spicy Sausage
Spicy sausage, hellfire spicy ground pork, cheese sauce, scallions, garlic, dijon romulade, and deli sauce.
XXL Bowl with roast pork, spicy sausage, chicken strips, shrimp, double noodles, whole seasoned egg, scallions, fish cake, corn and bok choy.