The Green Owl, a Delray Beach Establishment for 30 Years
David Gensman, current owner of the Green Owl, perched on the counter.
Nestled on an unassuming corner, The Green Owl doesn't fit in with the other trendy cafes and pricey shops of Atlantic Avenue. A relic from another time, this diner is a longstanding Delray Beach establishment that proves you don't need to charge a small fortune to serve the best BLT on this side of the I-4 corridor.
Founded in 1981, the breakfast and lunch joint is the oldest continually-operated restaurant on the street. It's absurd that they close at noon on Sundays, but with prices that seem to come from their original menu, folks line up around the block for a table. Unlike the latest flavor-of-the-week restaurant, with its world-renown chef and quadruple dollar sign prices, the Green Owl does away with lap serviettes because they want you to lick your fingers. It's a bit like Cheers here, where servers and patrons alike know your name (and probably your kid's name too).
See also: South Florida's Ten Best Diners
David Gensman The Green Owl in 1983
Originally a spot called Natural Eats, Jim Nowlins purchased the restaurant in 1981 for his wife Flo, who dubbed it the Green Owl (green because they were Irish, and owl because the word was hidden in their last name). The diner was meant to be a hobby for Flo, but after two years running it became too daunting.
"The Nowlins felt the town needed a plain and simple coffee shop on Atlantic Avenue," current owner David Gensman explains. "And they were right, even to this day."
In 1983 it was David Gensman's mother, Carol Savage, who bought the restaurant from the the Nowlins after having relocated to South Florida from Pennsylvania six years prior. Her first restaurant venture, Savage had only waitressed before, working in Pennsylvania and then in Delray Beach at Bagel Break and the Howard Johnson. David and his brother Mike used to work at the diner after school; thirty years later, they still work here.
"In 1987, 67% of Atlantic Avenue was vacant, dead at night," Gensman remembers. "The rent was only $650 a month, but trust me it was the kind of place you didn't want to be anywhere near once the sun set."
Gensman took it especially hard when his mother sold the restaurant in 1990 because she felt he wasn't ready to run it in on his own yet but she was ready to retire, to pursue a career working with the national parks so she could travel. Gensman was 25 when Savage sold it to a couple, Peter and Sam Warren.
David Gensman Carol Savage at the Green Owl in 1983
"Even though they owned it, they kept everything the same: same staff, same menu," Gensman explains. "And for the most part, I was practically running the whole thing."
Five years later, Gensman had the experience and felt ready to take off his training wheels, purchasing back their precious family heirloom in 1995. He still runs it today.