Not Your Grandparents’ Palm Beach
It’s not Miami nor is it even Fort Lauderdale. Palm Beach — the county, not the exclusive itty-bitty island — boasts every chain store found in the southeastern United States and above-average beaches. It’s where your grandparents call home at least half the year and where I do year round.
When I moved here from New York City 4.5 years ago, I liked to say that all food and drink trends took three to five years to creep down the eastern seaboard from New York to Florida: think pork belly, speakeasies, deviled eggs and self-serve frozen yogurt.
Four-and-a-half years later, I’ve drifted into mostly blissful ignorance about what’s cool in New York. “The City” is its own daunting universe of bars and restaurants; the part of South Florida where your grandparents and I live is not.
It’s dotted with breweries, wine and dive bars, and one 24-hour taco truck, with 10 IHOPs and miles in between. Many of these businesses are content to remain under the tourist radar, and the few of us under age 50 who aren’t snowbirds, snowflakes or vacationers are lucky to find them, and rewarded to become regulars.
The next time you visit the Sunshine State, here are a few you should know about:
Sybarite Pig (West Boca Raton)
Fiercely loyal devotees head to this strip mall gastropub (although the owners might dismiss this categorization as pretentious) for hard to find draft beers and harder to find beers by the bottle, served with carnivorous eats — roasted bone marrow, duck fat burgers, bourbon BBQ pulled pork — topped with house-pickled everything. Finish with the owner’s wife’s home-baked cookies, heated to order.
3rd and 3rd (Delray Beach)
You only have to walk a few blocks north of the uninspiring and overpriced restaurants that line Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue to find the cozy and likely intentionally discreet 3rd and 3rd. Sip on wine, craft beer or seasonal cocktails from a small but thoughtful list. Order any of the addictive, savory “jars,” like bacon blue cheese fondue, all served with char-grilled bread. Live music from local bands and weird artwork seal the decidedly not-Palm Beach atmosphere.
Jerk Oceano (Lantana)
In a most un-Florida flourish, Jerk Oceano inserts “no phone” in the space on their website meant for their digits; there are no early bird specials to inquire about. Know that you will wait for a table to chow down on bold, locally-sourced (herbs grow on the patio) Caribbean-inspired fare, and that no one cares. If you get too hungry, though, head to the kitty-corner, hole-in-the-wall Victoria’s for a formidable Peruvian meal.
The Blind Monk (West Palm Beach)
Everyone loves this place, but that doesn’t make it boring. Old movies are projected onto a wall of the narrow, warmly-lit loft (and who cares if New York did that first?). It’s a foolproof date spot but not too romantic for a night out with friends. And no matter how busy it gets — and it always does — bartenders who really know their stuff will handhold till you choose a glass of wine, or debate the merits of different cheeses and in which order you should eat them. It is for West Palm what 3rd and 3rd is for Delray: a nearby and welcome retreat from the much less exciting main street.
Tacos Al Carbon (Lake Worth)
24-hour joints that aren’t Wal-Mart are not to be taken for granted in Palm Beach. Head to Tacos al Carbon for their dirt-cheap namesake and a tasty, enormous Michelada.
There are, fortunately, too many burgeoning breweries in Palm Beach to highlight each individually, but standouts include Saltwater in Delray Beach, Due South and Copperpoint in Boynton Beach, Barrel of Monks in Boca Raton and Twisted Trunk in Palm Beach Gardens.
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