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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

ORAL HISTORY

Lawrence "Lonnie" Pomar


O'Steen's Restaurant

Lawrence “Lonnie” Pomar was twelve years old when he road his bike across town to ask Robert and Virginia O’Steen for work. They obliged, and assigned him a sink of plates stacked to the ceiling to hand wash. Lonnie nearly walked out that first day.

O’Steens opened in 1964 or 1965—no one can quite remember when—after a 1963 Florida East Coast Railway strike. Robert left the FEC to start a restaurant with his wife. The thirty-five-seat eatery served meat-and-three specials like liver and onions and fried chicken, as well as regional favorites like pilau and Minorcan clam chowder. Over the years, the cracker-meal fried shrimp garnered a loyal following: crowds of locals and tourists are known to wait three hours for a table.

Lonnie assumed the O’Steen’s helm in 1982. He manages the restaurant and his wife, Barbara, keeps the books. This St. Augustine institution hasn’t changed much over fifty years because, Lonnie says, quality and consistency are all part of O’Steen’s charm—and the secret to its longevity.

Date of interview:
2015-01-09

Interviewer:
Anna Hamilton

Photographer:
Anna Hamilton

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