Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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EatBeat: Chefs Allen Susser and Mark Militello Coming to Delray

November 5th, 2009 · No Comments

Editor’s note: Information in this post has been corrected for factual errors, and to add comments from chef Mark Militello. David Manero, owner of Vic and Angelo’s and the restaurateur partnering with Militello for The Office gastropub coming to Delray Beach, had sold restaurants Sopra, Shore and Gotham before they closed.

Well, well. Delray Beach is set to have another culinary revival, helped by two old toques on the SoFla dining scene — Allen Susser and Mark Militello — both of whom helped put the word Floribbean on menus around the globe.

Susser to open Taste gastropub

Chef Allen Susser

Susser

Chef Allen Susser told me he’s partnering with area developer Robert Workman, a virgin in the restaurant biz, to open Taste, a gastropub  in Pineapple Grove. It will be the chef’s first foray into Palm Beach County. Workman approached Susser, the chef said, and he thought it was winning idea in a great spot.

“A gastropub is a great spot in the neighborhood to eat,” Susser explains. “I love Delray – it’s a quiet little community on the ocean, with nice energy and it has a real sense of that community,” he said. “I like that. That’s the more important thing about opening a new restaurant to me – it will be a part of a real community instead of a restaurant coming in and saying ‘let’s see how much money we can make.”’

American food with So.Fla. flair

The menu will feature a good number of American “pub” fare foods — sliders, sandwiches, et al, “with a little South Florida flavor – of course,” the chef said. He’s still working on it, however.

Susser is known for his affinity to Florida foods — he’s written The Great Mango Book: A Guide with Recipes and is a champion of local fisherman, farmers and other food producers. He’s a James Beard award winner and has had numerous “best chef” titles bestowed on him over the years. Expect some popping seafood and unique tropical treatments given to familiar American foods on his menu.

Small plates, fun cocktails

He’s not afraid of competition in the ever-growing downtown Delray food arena. “Competition is good — it means more for everyone, and anything that brings people out — I’m all for it,” he said. “At the end of the day, it will all come down to quality and value – and people will come back for that.

“I think with small plates and the fun cocktails and wine list, we’ll have a home run.”

Taste will serve both lunch and dinner. It’s expected to open early 2010.

Militello pairs up with Manero

Another gastropub (get used to hearing of these – even more are planned for the area) called The Office is slated to open by the end of the year in the old Louie Louie Too spot on Atlantic.

Militello

Militello

Mark Militello will be behind the menu and stoves. He’s another boldface chef name in the area — a long-timer with many credits.

His most recent gig was cheffing at 1 Bleu at The Regent Bal Harbour in Miami (now One Ocean Resort and Spa) where he had been since December.

Before that, he was a chef/owner of Mark’s CityPlace and Mark’s Mizner Park, both which had successful runs in Palm Beach County, along with Mark’s Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale and Mark’s South Beach. By 2008, however, he had closed all of his namesake eateries.

First to make the Floribbean Mark

Militello is recognized as one of the so-called Mango Gang — a group of Miami chefs who, in the late  ’80s, dragged South Florida menus out of the dark “continental” ages by cooking with all fresh local foods, applying both modern and classic cooking techniques and creating a unique cuisine that is still copied today.

The flavor-forward foodstyle hit like a hurricane. Menus changed daily and their writers scrambled to learn to spell the names of tropical fruits, vegetables and seafoods. Habanero became a household word thanks to these guys, along with the many varieties of mangos, citrus, snappers of all stripes, and uncommon-to-restaurants fish like wahoo and pompano.

A Dennis Max spin-off

Militello started as one of Dennis Max’s chefs in the mid-’80s, and like a few others in the Max chef stable of wonders, bought out Max  in 1988 to open the ultra-successful Mark’s Place in North Miami.

He then branched out, evolving and adopting new concepts, adding Mediterranean touches, and at CityPlace, sushi to the palette of Florida foods he had established, earning him a James Beard Award and accolades from his peers and critics alike over the years.

At The Office, he’s expected to be hands-on in control of the cuisine – modern American casual fare with style.

“I’m still working on the menu, but it will be eclectic American. Upscale, gastropub, with an emphasis on local products and growers, fresh seafoods,” he said. A selection of 35 to 40 beers is planned.

Manero no stranger to Delray

David Manero has new roots on the Avenue  — he was partners in the stylish and oh-so-trendsetting Sopra, and down by the sea, Shore. Out west, it was Gotham. He sold those restaurants and they changed hands multiple times before closing.

His recent venture, Vic and Angelo’s, with signature coal fired pizza  is successful in several locales.

Lynn Manero to design

You can expect a beautiful and possibly “green space” interior at The Office: Lynn Manero, David’s partner, is behind the design.

Sopra attracted the beautiful people, and it had more to do with the luxe, modern setting than the food, critics hinted.

Tags: The Eat Beat: Restaurant News · Uncategorized

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