The 4th Streetfillin station remains open during the massive kitchen expansion
When Daniel Todd, Sarah Gottesfeld and their partners leased the old gas station at North Fourth Street and North Orlando Avenue in Cocoa Beach in 2018, their plan was to create a gas station with a beer bar and really good sandwiches.
As 4th Streetfillin’ Station approaches its fifth birthday, the restaurant and bar has transformed into much more. It’s the neighborhood’s backyard, a hangout for locals and tourists alike. So much so that the gastropub has outgrown its kitchen.
“We didn’t think it would be this crowded,” Gottsfeld said of the restaurant. “The kitchen was low-volume.”
Work began Oct. 2 on an expansion that will expand the 11-by-13 kitchen into a 40-by-40 kitchen. Todd hopes to have it finished by Jan. 21, in time for his birthday.
Meanwhile, despite construction work, Fourth Street was closed for only two weeks, having reopened following temporary measures to continue service. The noise of construction once fades into the indoor-outdoor dining area, where guests will find a shaded haven and a menu that hints at bigger things to come.
Currently, the food is prepared in three food trucks, each of which is larger and easier to operate than the original 4th Street kitchen.
There’s a 4th Street food truck, where much of the restaurant’s original menu — including tacos, bowls, and street corn — is made.
An Asian street food truck produces delicious and innovative crab rangoon nachos, and Chef and Kitchen Manager Will Byers is creating a traditional crab rangoon. The Asian-inspired menu also includes a selection of meat, seafood, vegetable skewers, and a Korean-style fried hot chicken sandwich.
Breakfast dishes are also prepared at this Asian street food truck.
All the smoky stuff comes from the third truck, including the juicy ribs topped with cherry wood flavour, baked beans and smoked fish sauce.
Byers is using the three mobile kitchens to experiment. His current favorite is the Smash Burger, which is gaining traction with customers. The new workspace will provide the opportunity for more new dishes.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Byers, who has been working on Fourth Street for three years. “We’ll be able to do some great things out of it.”
Fourth Street at the beginning
To understand how far Fourth Street has come, it’s helpful to look back at its beginning.
Todd, Gottsfeld and their partners rented the gas station and garage in April 2018. It was a work station, but they saw potential in the spacious, junk-filled backyard that included a towering oak tree.
Where it all started:4th Streetfillin’ Station Opens in Cocoa Beach: Fill your tank or belly here
In May 2018, they began selling gas and began renovations to turn the building into a restaurant. The garage bays became an outdoor dining room and bar with lighting fixtures made from tools and tables fashioned from what were once car elevators. They transformed the backyard into a shaded oasis with seating under the gorgeous oak tree and giant Jenga to entertain younger guests.
“It’s very kid-friendly,” Gottesfeld said. “We have children.”
The only parts of the business subject to air conditioning are the kitchen, small shop and renovated bathrooms.
When the restaurant opened in January 2019, food was prepared in a small kitchen and on a Big Green Egg charcoal grill in the back. The bar serves local beers, boutique wines and craft cocktails.
Fill with food, not gas
In December 2019, the partners purchased the property and in January 2020, the gas pumps were removed. 4th Street has become about filling bellies, not gas tanks.
Then came the pandemic.
Todd credits the dessert bar, set up in a former convenience store, with getting the restaurant through the pandemic. People from the neighborhood loved walking into the restaurant and ordering delicious ice cream drinks, including the adults-only shakes.
“COVID also pushed us into the food truck,” Todd said. Not knowing what the future held for sit-down restaurants, they bought the truck and rebuilt it.
4th Street’s open-air model has turned out to be a major asset as restaurants begin to reopen during the pandemic. People felt more comfortable dining in a space cooled by ocean breezes rather than recycled air.
“We had groups coming from all over the county,” Todd said. “One family moved out of Miami.”
Future plans for the former gas station
The new kitchen will allow the restaurant to serve real dinner entrees. This also means that the food will come out faster. For employees, it will provide better working conditions.
Once that work is completed, plans are in the works to repair the colorful canopy that once covered the gas pumps, Todd said. It broke off last year during Hurricane Nicole.
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The kitchen is the first phase of the expansion, Gottesfeld said.
“We can’t add more seats until we can produce more food,” she said.
The second phase will increase seating from 202 to more than 300, with additional seating under the canopy and a deck over the front of the dining area for private parties, Todd said.
“In an ideal world, we would be conducting phase two at this time next year,” he said.
The secret to 4th Street’s success
The place has come a long way since it opened as a gas station and beer bar with great sandwiches.
How do Todd and Gottesfeld explain its success?
“I think that’s what space is,” Todd said. That oak tree and backyard make it feel cozy and welcoming like a neighborhood party.
There is also plenty of space for large parties.
Then there is the food. Although it’s not a completely zero-scratch kitchen, most of the sauces are made from scratch, Gottesfeld said. Plus, the menu includes many vegetarian and vegan options, making it a great place for large groups with diverse tastes.
“Tourists love Fourth Street so much,” she said.
“But we have a large following of local residents. People have watched its construction.”
Susie Fleming Leonard He is a prominent journalist with more than three decades of experience. Accessed at email@example.com. Find her on Facebook: @Susie FlemingLeonard Or on Instagram: @SusieLeonard.