Having tested the waters on Delray’s Atlantic Avenue with his Pop-Up in August, Glen Manfra set up the follow-up SpoonFed permanent spot and has rolled out the all-day restaurant.
We caught up with him to ferret out his take on breakfast, working across the street from a restaurant he helped create, and kinks in new restaurants.
Jan Norris: SpoonFed will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What’s it like doing an all-day restaurant?
Glen Manfra: It’s definitely a challenge – this is the first time ever I’ve done a breakfast (service). But I love breakfast – it’s my favorite meal.
Sometimes it’s nicer to go out for breakfast than for dinner – you leave full at night and stuffed late at night. It’s bad for you – better to eat a big meal at breakfast and work it off as the day goes by. I love John G’s breakfasts – they’re definitely my favorite breakfast place. I’m learning from them.
JN: Do you think a breakfast can be successful, businesswise?
Manfra: I think so – people already are coming in, in their workout clothes even – that’s fine with me. The only thing they have to compare me with in the immediate area is the Green Owl, and we’re told we’re doing a much nicer breakfast for the same price. We’re doing all our own baked goods and getting good products, but not such high end that they’re not affordable. I didn’t realize there’s such a great profit in breakfasts. A wholesale egg costs 11 cents. I hope it pays a grocery bill or two.
JN: What’s popular off its menu so far?
Manfra: My croissant souffle is a winning hit. And my corned beef hash. It’s a combination of pastrami and corned beef. It makes a great flavor combination and people love it. I picked that up in California. All those those great little things like that I’ve had at restaurants all over, I’m trying to duplicate here. And blackened shrimp and grits I had in Boulder, Colo. I cook the stone ground grits in a combination of skim milk and water, then add some whipped cream to make them smooth. They’re fantastic.
JN: What’s for lunch?
Manfra: We have a lot of different salads, different sandwiches, and my soups change daily. I have a burger and a hot dog, of course – you have to have these. I grew up on Hebrew National chubby hot dogs, so that’s what we’re serving. I have two kinds of burgers – the typical basic big burger. But growing up on Long Island, I had a ‘burger special’ – it’s a thin patty, a slice of tomato with a little cole slaw on a potato roll. No, it’s not a slider, but more like an original McDonald’s hamburger.
JN: Are you staying Italian for dinner as the Pop-Up was?
Manfra: I purposefully didn’t put an Italian name on the restaurant, so now, I’m not locked into Italian, even though, of course, my background is Italian. But I’m trying to make myself different from (the restaurant) across the street – I don’t want to compete with myself. I’m happy it’s not Italian – I get to do and try other things. I’m still learning, trying to keep things fresh.
JN: You’re still working on the menu, but what are some dishes that you’ve developed?
Manfra: We’ve got fresh pastas, pizzas, veal, scallopinis. There are six fish on the menu nightly – maybe bringing in cobia, pompano when it’s available, wahoo, sole, seabass; but I only buy a few portions each to keep them fresh. When we run out, we run out. I hav a raw bar on the menu, but haven’t started to play with that yet. We’ll be doing middleneck clams, bluepoint oysters and maybe some kumomotos, the stone crabs are running now, but I’m going to wait a week or two before I launch it. And I’m doing things I know. A shortrib boil with cabbage and a side of horseradish – and the open-faced brisket – those are going well. I’m going to tap into the Caribbean a bit -mix in some of the things I was doing in Anguilla. It was simple there, though: get a lobster, put it on the grill, serve it with a little sauce and boom. So simple and delicious. I’m playing with the octopus and we have a trio of ceviches that changes every day.
JN: A lot of your products are made in-house, right?
Manfra: All our bakery items are – I have bakers who’ve been with me since Amici and Bice (in Palm Beach). All kinds of breads and desserts. I bought a pasta machine and I’m making all the hole shapes – rigatoni, bucatini, penne – I won’t buy any commercial pasa. That’s what will set me apart.
JN: And you changed the decor a bit from the old Atlantic Ocean Club?
Manfra: We turned the whole interior into all wood. We changed the carpeting and took one of the bars out, changed the lighting. And when you first walk in, I have a whole bakery on one side where we display all the cookies, scones, breads and pastries we make here in-house. We’re doing everything from red velvet cakes to ciabatta. There are revolving refrigerator cases up front as you walk in – the eyes sell everything, right? The only thing I’m missing is the awning – it’s supposed to be here next week – you don’t know we’re here as it is. Right now, you only see the sign for Buddha Sky Bar (above us). We have 34 outside seats; 190 total. It’s bigger than it looks like from the street.
JN: You sound up to the challenge.
Manfra: After all these years, I should have it down by now, right? We’re already getting good feedback and I’m listening to the diners – I visit every table when possible to hear what they have to say. We had a few issues the first few days – we were overstaffed, but that will take care of itself as staff shakes out. Common with restaurant openings. But I’ll be fine – as soon as that awning gets here.
- 217 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach
- 561-450-7557; www.SpoonFedDelray.com
- Open daily at 7 a.m.; serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reservations accepted.