"Where's the building?"

Bartender Valerie Grunde-Allen will watch as people wander toward the dock at Gardner's Basin where the Flying Cloud stood for decades.

"They just stare for a while. They want to find the building," Grunde-Allen said from behind the outdoor bar.

Reopened in 2011 as Scales Grill & Deck Bar, the restaurant garnered a good following until Hurricane Sandy struck, flooding the old building and requiring that it be demolished.

While funding questions - and post-Sandy building requirements - make it difficult to say when reconstruction could begin, owner Kyle Williams was determined to open for the summer. So, the food now comes from a truck, with a nearby trailer acting as the kitchen.

"This is hotter-than-hell's kitchen," Chef Dan McMorris joked, as he stood inside the trailer, which houses a stove, refrigeration unit, sink and - just recently - an air conditioner.

Despite that, the only time it's cool inside, he said, is when he first arrives in the morning - before anything gets turned on.

He gets orders and other supply requests via cell phone. Soon they will use walkie-talkies.

There are perks, McMorris said: The heat is melting off pounds and the new layout means more time outdoors, enjoying the view - which the storm didn't wash away.

"You can't beat the location," Grunde-Allen said.

Gary Murphy - the sous chef - knows this area well. He is a lifelong Atlantic City resident who was "born and bred right here," he said, pointing toward New Hampshire Avenue.

Inside the food truck, he and Kelly Marks serve the customers and put together things such as pulled pork quesadillas and Korean beef tacos.

"Look at that cheesesteak," Murphy says with a smile as he hands over two sandwiches to father and son John and Colin Norris, who are visiting from Connecticut.

The elder Norris said he knew there was something back here, but didn't remember the restaurant.

"I do," said 9-year-old Colin.

"It's quick, it's easy and it's good," McMorris says. "It's a gourmet food truck. How many food trucks have Dugeness crabs on them?"

Two other trailers sit on the property: one acting as an office and storage area, the other holding restrooms.

"You have to have somewhere for people to go," McMorris says with a smile.

"Despite the late start, I think things are going well," Williams said. "Really nothing's changed, just that there's no indoors."

And for those who want the indoors and - with this week's forecast heat wave - a little air conditioning, there is Back Bay Ale House, Williams' other Gardner's Basin business.

That one sits farther back and higher up, so it avoided damage from Sandy.

Meanwhile, the city has given a break on the rental for the Scales property since the building was demolished, Williams said. The land and buildings at Gardner's Basin are owned by the city, and the tenants manage the businesses.

Scales will close the food truck down as soon as rebuilding begins, according to the agreement. That is expected to happen in the fall, but there is no firm date.

"Certainly that facility is very, very popular and an important part of the Basin, but we do not have the funding," said Jack Keith, executive director of the nonprofit foundation that administers the area.

He estimates it would cost about $2 million to rebuild.

"The foundation would definitely be looking for grant funds to do that reconstruction," Keith said. "The city is as well."

"The sooner the better for us," Williams said.

Until then, Grunde-Allen said people still enjoy the atmosphere on the deck, where they drink and watch the sunset.

"It's like its own island," she said. "People enjoy it."

Contact Lynda Cohen:

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