More restaurant news from around the area, a follow up on my recent post about openings and closings.
Lobster-stuffed red snapper at The Island /courtesy photo
The Island Restaurant & Lounge has opened in Lake Worth in the former Bizarre Avenue Cafe location on Lake Avenue.
With a Caribe flair, the restaurant offers dishes such as locally caught whole red snapper stuffed with lobster, stewed pork in ginger sauce, and fried Key West grouper. Curries, and tropical spices figure prominently in the foods.
Local and organic produce is the goal when possible, owners say. Tropical fruits are a mainstay, along with classic and reinvented rum cocktails.
The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m.. The upstairs lounge features live music nightly.
The Island Restaurant and Lounge, 921 Lake Ave., Lake Worth; 561-5884488; theislandlakeworth.com
The Chickpea features a hummus bar. /courtesy photo
Still fairly new, The Chickpea, a casual hummus bar and Mediterranean grill, opened on Clematis in downtown West Palm Beach in April. It gets top reviews from vegetarians and gluten-free diners as well as mainstream diners (there are beef and chicken offerings).
It’s a multiple-choice menu – choose a pita wrap, a bowl or platter, then start adding fillings (chicken, falafel, beef, hummus) and sauces. Add-ons include all the special hummus varieties, and spreads like guacamole made from chickpeas, m’hamara – walnuts and red peppers, baba ganoush. Side salads are quinoa, tabouleh or a chopped cucumber salad.
Chickpea is open from 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
The Chickpea, 400 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-755-5151; the-chickpea.com
Chef Scott Guli
Garden City Cafe is a new Italian opened last weekend in Palm Beach Gardens by a former Carmine’s chef, Scott Guli. He learned from his father’s restaurants in New York, and brought his skills to South Florida working at CG Burgers, Carmine’s Coal Fire Pizza, Noche nightclub and Carmine’s Ocean Grill.
Along with Italian trattoria classics – pizzas, calzones and rolls and a variety of pastas – a Chef’s specials list includes St. Louis ribs, Garden City “old school” fried chicken, and sliced sirloin steak chimichurri. Contemporary flatbreads include the Garden City – with goat cheese, caramelized onions, mushrooms, Kalamata olives, mozzarella and a crispy onion topping. The Brisket flatbread has caramelized onions and red cabbage slaw while the Bang Bang shrimp contains Stilton cheese.
Guli also has a “Good for you” menu featuring gluten-free and vegetarian offerings along with modern salads. Pizzas and pastas can be made gluten-free for a $3 upcharge.
It’s open for lunch and dinner daily. An early-bird menu is served 3-6 p.m.
Garden City Cafe in PGA Commons West, 5520 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens; 561-370-3436; gardencitycafepga.com
The original Mrs. Smokey’s Bar-B-Q in Lake Park. /courtesy photo
Mrs. Smokey’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q of Lake Park is planning to open its second location in Jupiter in the Abacoa Plaza. A September opening is the goal.
Rendering of EatScene, planned for downtown West Palm Beach.
Eat-Scene, based loosely on Eataly in New York and the original, Eatzi’s in Dallas, Texas, is a gourmet market/deli/bakery/cafe concept coming to downtown West Palm Beach. Owner Tony Solo is a West Palm Beach resident.
The hand-out statements project 20 independent vendors offering fresh produce, meats and seafoods, spices, teas, coffees, chocolates, baked goods and more. A deli and prepared food section will be indoors along with four “micro-eateries.” A traditional bier garden is shown outdoors in renderings.
The “mission” as stated is “to create a ‘market culture’ for wine and food enthusiasts.”
Eat-Scene will be at the corner of Quadrille and Fern Street – a block east of Publix at CityPlace. It’s planned to open in December.
California Pizza Kitchen’s harvest kale salad. /courtesy photo
California Pizza Kitchen, which has a flagship in Sawgrass Mills in South Florida, has changed up its menu with more sophisticated choices – and a few contemporary twists on old favorites.
At a media dinner in Boca Raton last week, samples of the new menu included a Bianco California flatbread – with whipped truffle cream layered on a flatbread crust with Gorgonzola and mozzarella cheeses, studded with a bit of garlic and sage leaves. It was a winner – even for the 8-year-olds I had in tow to try out the kids’ menu.
Another favorite was the Harvest kale salad. The kale paired nicely in this fresh mix of farro – a much underused grain – carrots, Napa cabbage, cranberries, grapes and goat cheese. A light vinaigrette let the flavors come through.
Cedar plank-roasted halibut, a wood-fire grilled boneless ribeye (also Little Leaguers-approved), and a roasted garlic chicken with vegetables round out the entrees.
From the pizza and flatbreads menu, a new Lobster roll flatbread is just that – lobster roll mixture on a flatbread – makes a light lunch and is chunky with lobster meat.
The new cocktails on the bar list are standouts, too – the unique California Roots has a creamy froth thanks to avocado. It’s mixed with vodka, mint, agave sour and has a fennel salt rim.
The Boca store interior has been opened up to include more tables and fewer booths – with the view of the pizza chef, who was kind enough to toss some for the crowds, and with the kids.
California Pizza Kitchen has numerous locations in South Florida, including the Boca Town Center, 6000 Glades Road, Boca Raton; 561-368-2805; cpk.com
3rd and 3rd in Delray Beach is closed, management says for the summer (Sept. 1). A sign on the door indicates they’re renovating and making some changes while taking a break for the summer.
Bistro Gastronomie in Yamato Village Plaza in Boca Raton has closed. The well received restaurant said it’s closed for restructuring of management. They responded to an online note about it with their own note – in their words:
“We regret any inconvenience that has been caused due to the temporary closure of the restaurant while it undergoes a reformation of ownership. Bistro Gastronomie and it’s former staff genuinely appreciated the opportunity to serve all of our valued guests. We look forward to your valued patronage again very soon and with all of the excitement with a fresh start. Thank you for taking the time to write. Best Culinary wishes.”
In Lake Park, Out to Lunch, a breakfast, lunch and catering spot on U.S. 1, has closed.
Also in Lake Park, Philly’s Sub Joint on U.S. 1. has closed.
Tags: The Eat Beat: Restaurant News · Where to Eat in Palm Beach County
This article is reprinted from the Palm Beach Gardens edition of Florida Weekly newspaper, July 10, 2014.
By Jan Norris
Chicago diners and Palm Beach diners like the same foods, but the Chicago diners are “more laid back,” according to chef Michael McLaurin of Del Frisco’s Grille. “They play around more and are more relaxed.”
The executive chef at the grill says steaks are certainly a big seller here and in the Windy City, where he got his start. But dining habits and attitudes are different. “They go out to eat more than people in Chicago,” he said. “And here, they’re more serious about their food. And more demanding. They want what they want when they want it.”
He got his start in a pizzeria — first, as a dishwasher, and when pressed into service as a pizza maker, found a talent for working behind the stoves. He was playing football in high school and considered going pro.
But a love for cooking, starting when he was 6 or 7 years old, cooking grilled cheese and eggs for his family, overtook his football ambitions.
Michael McLaurin started cooking for his family when he was 6 or 7; he now is chef at Del Frisco’s Grille, which opened last year at Royal Poinciana Plaza in Palm Beach.
“I decided to skip (football) at the college level. I wanted to have a backup plan. I ended up going with the culinary side to the College of DuPage and later, the Washburne Culinary Institute in Chicago.”
It served him well. “Not a day goes by that I’m not doing something school taught me — I use (the lessons) every day.”
Chicago a teaching ground
Mr. McLaurin picked up his current grill lessons in restaurants in and around Chicago — Zed451 and Moxie, and traveling to kitchens with the Levy group. At one point, he owned his own catering company, MCM Catering.
Cooking for the VIP programs at the U.S. Open and Kentucky Derby were highlights of his travels, he said.
Del Frisco’s Grille, Palm Beach
He came to Del Frisco’s Grille via the Double Eagle Steak House in New York’s Times Square.
Working within the Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, he was promoted to sous chef and moved around to the different concepts they opened.
There are three concepts — the Double Eagle Steak House — it’s a typical steakhouse and there are 15 or 16 from Texas, Vegas,New York, Charlotte, N.C.,” he said. “Then Sullivan’s Steak House — it’s the same type of steakhouse but with a lower price point. There are 25 of those.
“And Del Frisco’s Grille — their latest — it’s a grill and more casual concept. It’s more fun. We get to play with the food a little more. Things like ahi tuna tacos, cheesecake egg rolls — it’s more of a family type of place.”
Broiling is a specialized technique
Along the way, he learned the ins and outs of proper broiling — the technique he most enjoys.
“It’s different from grilling. With grilling, the fire is on the bottom. But in broiler, you sear a piece of meat and you’re cooking it from the top to the bottom, so the juices can run down into it.
“It’s also cooking at a higher heat — almost in an enclosed space. Our broilers here are at about 1,800 degrees — at restaurants, that kicks up some really high heat.”
Meats cook quickly and must be watched carefully, but the result is a steak with a light char that remains moist and tender, he said.
“It’s one of our signature dishes — we want to be known for our steaks. They’re all Prime USDA grade. But other standouts are the veal meatloaf — it’s a comfort food people love. And the beef shortribs stroganoff that’s amazing.”
As executive chef, he says, “It’s my kitchen. It’s my responsibility — from bringing the food in to putting it on the plate. I have to make sure everybody knows what they need to do for perfection.”
Loyal staff counts
He has a dedicated staff, and praises them equally, though he says the hardest part of a job as chef is motivating everyone. “I have to be sure they’re doing the right things. Other than that, we have a lot of fun in the kitchen. They’re the staff I started with — they’re here all year. The staff inNew York was a great staff as well — you can take the ones from Palm Beach and they’d be just as comfortable in New York — they are similar diners.”
A demand from one of his pickier diners is no problem, he said. “If we have it in house, we’ll do it. I have no problem making anything for anyone.” Serving the guest and giving them a good experience is paramount, he said.
“You’ve got to deliver, or they won’t come back.”
When it’s busy and the kitchen is slammed, working on a time limit, it can be stressful, he said, but, “Other than that, we have a lot of fun in the kitchen.
“When everything comes out fine and good, it’s a great place to work.”
On his off time, he relaxes with his wife and 4-year-old daughter at the pool, or beach, saying he loves South Florida and especially the weather.
It’s a struggle with a chef’s schedule to have a family life, and young children, he said, but civil hours at Del Frisco’s help.
“I try my best, and now I get to put her to bed every day, and tell her a bedtime story. I’m still trying to find that balance.”
Q&A in the chef’s words
Name: Michael McLaurin
Restaurant: Del Frisco’s Grille, 340 Royal Poinciana Way, Palm Beach; 557- 2552; delfriscosgrille.com
Original hometown: University Park, Ill., about 10 minutes south of Chicago.
Mission as a chef: “To ‘FEED’ guests, by bringing in the freshest and the best product possible. FEED means Far Exceeding Expectations Daily.”
Cuisine style: “Grilling.”
Training for your job: “Washburne Culinary Institute, Chicago.”
What’s your footwear of choice in the kitchen? “Mozos.”
What’s your guilty food pleasure? “Chocolate-covered strawberries.”
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a restaurateur or chef? “Have a short memory, because you are only as good as your last meal you put out.”
Tags: Chefs of Note
Chef Adam Brown oversees charcuterie bar at The Cooper in Palm Beach Gardens. /photo by Libby Volgyes
A sign that maybe the economy is building here: Several new restaurants are opening and giving it a go in Palm Beach County.
The Cooper Opens in PGA Commons
The Cooper Kitchen and Bar, from the Max Restaurant Group of Massachusetts (no relation to local restaurateur Dennis Max) – opened last month. In The Commons on PGA Boulevard in the former location of Spoto’s Water Bar, it brings the farm-to-table concept to Palm Beach Gardens.
A communal plank table and modern booths juxtapose at The Cooper. /photo by Libby Volgyes
Palm Beach Gardens resident and owner Richard Rosenthal says the food is, “well prepared, not too fussy and centered on ingredients from local farms when possible.”
Items change frequently, based on what’s in season. Chef Adam Brown explains that Florida farms are slow now, so they must source elsewhere, but still look for quality.
There’s a mix of small sharing plates like stuffed peppadew peppers, cheese and salumi plates, queso fundido with chorizo, and beer-braised mussels.
A popular menu item is the charcuterie plate – salumi and cheeses with olives, etc. Beer-braised mussels, steak tartare, a watermelon salad, daily soups and several steaks and chops are on the limited menu. It’s a tight menu to control quality, Rosenthal said, but with enough to please groups who come in and want different items around the table.
The Farmer’s Market Vegetable Palette features a mix of fresh, seasonal vegetables in a “stack,” and an ancient grains veggie burger with farro, quinoa and vegetables are aimed at vegetarians. Another dish that’s become a house specialty is Jerry’s Meatloaf – bacon wrapped meatloaf with cheddar-mashed potatoes, served with ancho chile barbecue sauce. It’s from a recipe devised by Rosenthal’s father-in-law.
Fresh Florida snapper, porcini-dusted diver scallops, cioppino, a double-cut pork chop, and chicken paillard give meat and fish lovers other options.
The new restaurant’s design features an open kitchen, with indoor and outdoor bars, with lounge areas outdoors along with tables. The restaurant just added a lunch service; it’s now open daily for lunch and dinner.
The Cooper, 4160 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens; 561-622-0032; thecooperrestaurant.com
Pulled smoked chicken is among popular sandwiches at M.E.A.T. The on-site smoker is used for sausages, beef and pork here. /photo by Jim Furci
M.E.A.T. Boca Comes up from the Keys
Chef George Patti brings his successful M.E.A.T. (Meat Eatery and Taproom) from Islamorada to Boca Raton with an expanded menu.
Chef George Patti
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner in an office building south of Glades Road on U.S. 1. – tricky to find, but easy to enter from the back parking lot. If you smell smoke, it’s the wood smoker not far from the door.
Despite its name and reputation for serious burgers, pulled chicken, braised pork belly, housemade sausages (brats, the day we were there), cured and smoked meats, vegetarian foods are on the menu. Salads, sides and wraps that are meatless are served and can be created – just ask.
Chef-made hummus, pickles, condiments (mustard made with carraway seeds and beer, e.g.), pate, slaws and salads are paired with an array of craft beers and small-batch sodas. Twists on the standards – hand-crafted milkshakes (the Nutella is most popular) and housemade pork rinds at and duck-fat fries that are standard elevate this from being just another burger joint.
Patti, a native of New Rochelle, N.Y., worked part time in his dad’s deli – it’s where he got his start making sausages, brining and smoking briskets and making porchetta. He says he’ll put those skills to use making pastrami here as he has in the first M.E.A.T. – at mile marker 88 in the Keys.
Farther south in Islamorada, at mile marker 82.7 is SALT Fusion Cuisine – Patti’s modern restaurant and upstairs bar with Cana lounge in the old Bentley’s space. “They were ready to get out,” he says of the former owners.
He’s partnered in Boca once more with Tom Smith, sommelier, who also is involved in the Keys’ restaurants. The two were partnered in the acclaimed Tasters Grill, also in Islamorada, before selling last year.
M.E.A.T. Boca, 980 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton (in the rear lobby); 561-419-2600; meateateryboca.com
Beer Trade Co. is part bottle store, part pub. Now open for weekend brunch, picutred here. /photo provided
Gene Playter returns with Beer Trade Co. in Delray
Gene Playter, co-owner of the former Gratify gastropub in downtown West Palm Beach, has created a new concept in Delray Beach after efforts to relocate Gratify failed. The Beer Trade Co. Cafe and Beer Lounge went into the Crepes by the Sea location in downtown Delray Beach.
“It’s considered the culinary capital of Palm Beach County,” Playter said. “I’m a fan of the city and used to live there.”
To put together the beer-centric bottle store with food, he traveled to Seattle, Louisiana, Maryland, Chicago and North Carolina. It was in North Carolina he came across the bottle stores.
“I liked the vibe – they are a very cool, neat concept; a community thing that was going on. But their model wouldn’t work in Florida – they’re too close to what the convenience store is. You walk in and help yourself to what you want. We’d have to tweak it for here. I wanted it to have some concept with food. But not make it a high-end feel, and appeal to the Florida market,” he said.
Beer Trade Co. has a full menu and a carryout license. There are several around – including in Miami. His is different – especially the foods, he said, with many of the small-plate recipes brought from Gratify. “It’s a mixed bag – mac ‘n’ cheese, tacos, hummus with toppings – all made from scratch. We have a market-price (daily) grilled cheese. Chicken fingers with smoked bacon and cheddar sauce. Foods that are beer-friendly.”
Prices are reasonable. “People aren’t going to pay what they do at a restaurant,” he said. “But we don’t have bartenders, or full service servers. Without that cost, I can pass savings to the customer.”
The 30-seat spot operates on an honor system. “The customers who haven’t been before are caught off guard. They come in and grab their own beer – and we trust them to come on up and pay.”
It’s a non-judgmental beer store, he said. “One thing I hear from every single person who walks in: they like it that there’s no pressure. You go to a beer-focused place and expect to be pressured. Here, if you want a Porter by Stone, I’m cool with that.” A selection of beers and wines by the glass or bottle changes and is aimed to please all tastes. “We have way more strange stuff – more unique beers than the regular stuff. If a consumer or guest comes in more than twice a week, we have something different on hand. If not, we’re not doing our job. We don’t put beer suggestions on the menu, but it’s a very small staff – just me, my partner and the chef. The biggest part of our role is interaction with the guests. Our best question is ‘What kind of beer do you normally drink?’ We make suggestions – if asked – from there.”
Once up and running, Playter plans to open several more of these. They’re open Sunday through Saturdays, closed Mondays. Happy hours are 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 3-7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Beer Trade Co. Café & Beer Lounge, 145 N.E. Fourth Ave., Delray Beach; 561-808-7304, facebook.com/BeerTradeCo
Hog Snappers Opens in North Palm Beach
A long-time favorite in Tequesta, Hog Snappers Shack and Sushi has a second location in North Palm Beach on U.S. 1 in the former Mondo’s space. Owners Arthur Rivaldo and Melanie Vazquez also have plans for a third one in Stuart.
The seafood grill offers an extensive menu, including a broad sushi and sashimi list; fresh fish – including a signature whole fried snapper; and a wide variety of salads and unusual soups such as oxtail, stone crab chowder, and goat stew.
Burgers, tacos, sandwiches and wraps along with large-portion appetizers round out the menu.
The interior has been decorated with an indoor tiki hut motif, similar to the Tequesta location, with a full bar. It’s open for lunch and dinner, daily.
Hog Snappers, 713 N. U.S. 1, North Palm Beach; (800) 335-4647; hogsnappersshackandsushi.com
Suri Tapas Bar in Lake Worth.
Suri Tapas Bar brings small plates to Lake Worth
Replacing the former Fiorentina spot on Lake Avenue, Suri Tapas Bar moved into Lake Worth at the end of June bringing small plates and an eclectic lounge. They describe their menu as “Alternative American.”
House-designed cocktails and organic foods are on the lists – some from their rooftop herb garden.
The menu features a wide range of flavors and cuisine hits, including flatbreads, main-dish salads, ceviche, a chickpea and mushroom burger, Angus beef burger, chicken and a biscuit, stuffed squash blossoms, tacos, and sharing plates of lasagna, meatloaf, citron salmon and others from a variety of international cuisines.
Dishes are designed either for sharing or as small-plate individual meals.
The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday from 4 p.m.; reservations accepted.
Suri Tapas Bar, 707 Lake Ave., Lake Worth; 561-249-7436; facebook.com/surirestaurant.wordpress.com
U-Tiki Beach moves in next door to Jetty’s
U-Tiki Beach is the new family-oriented sister restaurant to Jim Taube’s Jetty’s restaurant on the Jupiter waterway.
Overlooking the inlet and lighthouse, the casual seafooder has a Key Westy, beachy atmosphere.
Lobster rolls, an oyster bar, cracked conch, shrimp, burgers, wings, Caribbean bowls and local fish are on the menu, along with the full bar.
Some will recognize these menu items from other restaurants owned by Taube, including Kee Grill and C’oolah Fish Bar.
Boat docks are available for those who come by the waterway. Open daily from 4 p.m.
U-Tiki Beach, 1095 Alt A1A, Jupiter; 561-406-2210; facebook.com/utikibeach
Coming or planned
Brass Tap to open in Boynton Beach.
The Brass Tap is scheduled to open next week at 950 N. Congress Avenue in Boynton Beach, in the former Shane’s Rib Shack. The rapidly expanding chain from Tampa features a 300-tap beer selection, food service and live music. (brasstap.com)
Chowder Heads, the second of Ed Well’s New England seafood restaurants featuring lobster rolls, clams, and chowders from the Northeast, will open in the next two weeks at 1900 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. (chowderheadsusa.com). His original location is in Jupiter on U.S. 1 in the Driftwood Plaza.
In the fall or early winter, the Okeechobee Steakhouse plans to open a seafood restaurant, reminiscent of New Orleans’ style restaurants, in a lot behind the current steakhouse in West Palm Beach on Okeechobee Boulevard.
Visitors said good-bye this weekend to the local landmark Tiki bar – formally, the Tiki Waterfront Grille in Riviera Beach.
The Tiki was a favorite of locals and tourists alike, with a view of the Riviera Beach Marina and Peanut Island beyond. Live music and Sunday brunches made it a popular spot for after-work and weekend gatherings.
The Tiki is being demolished, along with other buildings on the site to make way for the multi-million project to bring shops, restaurants and entertainment space to the waterfront.
Talk of reopening the Tiki as part of the extensive complex, planned in several phases, is speculative.
Bubba Gump Fish Co. in Jupiter has closed. The waterfront restaurant was part of the Landry chain of seafood concept restaurants based in Houston, Texas.
Bizarre Avenue Cafe in Lake Worth has closed.
Tags: Talking Tables · The Eat Beat: Restaurant News · What's Happening Here