GRAYTON BEACH — Handshakes are never good enough at the Hibiscus Café and Guest House.
Expect to be hugged.
The bed and breakfast transports patrons to a simpler era where the theme is all about loving one another. The courtyard sign reads “The Backyard of Love: Hug in … Hug out.” The titles of the vegetarian dishes served in the café each have a name ending with “made with love.”
“I tell everyone, ‘When you come here there are three certainties: It’s gonna be pretty, there’s gonna be good food and you’re gonna be loved,” said Cheri Peebles, innkeeper at the vegetarian bed and breakfast.
The room names each reflect the décor inside, from the Funky Bird that displays birds native to Florida to the Big Easy that showcases New Orleans in the ’60s. Each of the 12 rooms houses décor with Old Florida style flair, but each has its own personality.
A few years ago, the bed and breakfast expanded by adding an early 1900s home located down the street from the inn. Peebles said it took nearly a year to renovate the old home, but the result is worth it.
The rooms have the original wood flooring and the house’s exterior is almost identical to when it was built. There are also two newer rooms that have modern appliances but keep the old-time feel like the rest of the inn.
Fencing around the property overflows with ivy. Knickknacks are spread everywhere inside and out, and Hef the feral cat roams around like he owns the place.
“It’s like Grandma’s or Aunt Bee’s place,” Peebles said. “It sparks a memory. This place was started because it fills a niche in the community. It’s a healthy alternative and it’s a place to rest.”
At the popular vegetarian café, which is open for breakfast and brunch, the walls are covered with memorabilia owner Barbara Tape has collected over the years. Plates hang on every wall with variations of the state of Florida with one exception — a plate of Jesus’ face.
Salt and pepper shakers of all shapes and sizes line shelves and sit beside signs of encouragement, antique lights and items that appear as if they’ve been there since the inn opened in the early 1990s.
Danielle Cady discovered the café not long after she moved to Seagrove Beach. She said she comes at least three times a week, and no matter what she eats for breakfast she always finishes her meal with “The Big Cookie.”
The actual name for the massive dessert is the Wonder Cookie. In it are nuts, chocolate, oatmeal and more ingredients than Peebles said she can share.
“It’s the best cookie I’ve ever eaten,” Cady said one morning while she ate with her mother, Christine Scarcliff. “This place is wonderful. It’s laid back, very friendly, very Southern. It’s like family. Plus, I can eat two or three of those cookies in one sitting.”
The café’s signature dish is the Waffle Wonder, a multi-grain waffle with a variety of fruits, nuts and honey on top. When the dish is displayed the waffle merely peeks out from the pile of food sitting on top of it.
People eat breakfast inside and outside the café. Each person has a similar story: They came for the food, they stay for the love.
“I’ve only been coming a couple of weeks and I’m hooked,” Kathy Taylor of Grayton Beach said as she ate her breakfast outside. “One experience here and you want to come back. I love it.”
“We rope them in and they never leave,” Peebles said smiling as she walked up to a guest and gave them a hug. “This place has always been about the community. I feel like I’m home here and that’s how anyone who visits feels.”